Seize the opportunity

We have a major opportunity. The referendum has shaken up everything so we have a chance to put things together differently, making the world a better place '“ for a time at least.

Wednesday, 15th March 2017, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:08 am

Details and references are available at length, but the argument is simple.

For decades, I believe the public has suffered distortion of the EU by the Press. At the same time politicians ducked the EU question and ignored the ‘left behind’ individuals, areas and industries. Wages stagnated and public services declined. Our local government was cut.

Then an advisory referendum was called. The campaigns mainly played on fear.

An angry public voted 37 per cent Leave, 35 per cent Remain, and 28 per cent Abstain. The 28 per cent were promptly ignored so the result is called 52 per cent/48 per cent instead. ‘The will of the people’ it is clearly not.

Some want to ‘get on with it’ – to minimise confusion, or for fear that the Leave process could yet be derailed? Similarly, some want to ‘take your time’ – to cope properly with major interlinked complexities, or to give time for a weak Leave case to unravel?

We are urged to unite patriotically, but around what? “Better Together”, as the Government argued in Scotland?

Perhaps only two things are generally accepted. First, neither side is particularly happy with the state of either the UK or the EU. Second, almost everything in our lives has been called into question and is in turmoil.

In that turmoil lies our opportunity, but unseized. Instead, one side concentrates on “a red, white and blue Brexit” and wants out with apparently “the best deal for Britain”, or perhaps “no deal at all”. The other side doesn’t want out at all, but dares not say so so blathers about a “Soft Brexit”.

Simple answer. Trigger Article 50, conditionally, and start negotiating to explore what Leave would cost so that we can accept or reject paying that price. Discuss progress in Parliament about every two months – progress on the Leave negotiations, but also on facing the other main issues thrown up by the referendum. These seem to be helping the EU back on track, controlling undue influence by big business, over-rewarding at the top and under-rewarding at the bottom, cleaner politics and media, and review how we govern ourselves.

Brexit itself won’t touch most of those issues. Sex it by taking the chance to address them and many of us could indeed rally round – a genuine Glorious Revolution without blood on the streets – a proper cause for pride.

Peter Watts

Scott’s Place