Elections and referenda don't come with a two-week, open-box return policy. Maybe they should. Because as the results of the European Union referendum (which was technically an advisory non-binding referendum for MPs to consider) emerged early on Friday morning, Leave voters across the UK realised that they had opened a Pandora's Box of negative consequences. And worst of all, they quickly learned that they'd been repeatedly misled to by the Leave campaign.
Within hours of winning the vote, Nigel Farage admitted that Leave advocates had "made a mistake" when they said £350 million a week would be redirected to the NHS. People had also been told that leaving the EU would put the UK in full control of immigration. Evan Davis found out on Newsnight that this too was untrue.
And there's more. The Leave campaign had advised concerned citizens not to listen to the ‘experts’ and ‘the scaremongers’ and that the economy would be just fine. And yet, in the first day of trading following the result, two trillion US dollars were wiped off the world’s share prices. UK markets lost more money in one day than the country paid into the EU over 15 years (most of which came back in grants, anyway). These losses affect everyone's pensions, jobs, salaries, and government income, and they will push Britain towards a recession that will make it even more difficult to deliver essential public services.
The pound dropped to a 31-year low, with serious impact on British imports and people's holiday travel abroad. And the UK suffered the ignominy of having its credit outlook lowered to ‘negative’ by ratings agency Moody's on the expectation that Brexit would deliver a serious blow to the UK economy.
In the political sphere, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that a second Scottish independence referendum is highly likely, while Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland have called for a vote on Irish reunification. Some have even suggested for London to become an independent state so it can stay part of Europe (and possibly part of Scotland as well).
Meanwhile, the vast majority of young people, who voted overwhelmingly to remain, feel their own future has been taken out of their hands by an aging UK population that will not have to suffer the consequences of a lifetime out of Europe. As one woman said to me "up to yesterday I thought I had the choice of living and working in 28 European countries, now I'm restricted to one!"
The decision over the UK's future was based on false promises that pushed a minority of the UK's total voting population (17 million out of 46 million) to vote the way it did. Two years before Brexit will even become reality, according to EU rules, it is already having massive consequences on the UK economy, and on society. Brexit has fractured the country more than any other event in recent memory.
Based on the misrepresentation made by the Leave campaign, Parliament needs to take the petition of more than three million people to call for a new referendum seriously. The alternative is to watch a rapid decline of Britain's health and wellbeing.
When Nigel Farage was interviewed a few months ago he said that he would call for a second referendum if Remain won by a narrow margin. "In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way," he stated. He went on to say that Remain needed to win by two thirds to end it and avoid a second referendum. Mr. Farage and the Leave campaign should now accept that the reverse scenario also warrants a second look.
The vast majority of MPs voted in by the electorate want the UK to stay part of Europe. In light of the misrepresentations of the Leave campaign, Parliament should reject the results of this non-binding referendum as Nicola Sturgeon has announced she will do in Scotland’s Parliament. Before the UK government invokes Article 50 of the European Treaty and does irreversible damage to the United Kingdom, the people’s elected representatives must decide whether the facts that have emerged really warrant abandoning the EU and whether a second referendum will be needed.
If you agree that Parliament should take a second look at the EU referendum, please sign this petition.
It has been very interesting reading the extensive and varied feedback on the opinions I shared in this blog. What is coming through loud and clear is a great deal of passion from the British public and a desire for action. Great Britain and the world at large are going through a tumultuous time. The UK’s politicians – many of them with their own individual aspirations of power - need to behave in a statesmanlike manner more than ever. The Leave campaign accused the Remain campaign of scaremongering. The current situation illustrates clearly why they were not scaremongering, they were highlighting facts. The stock market and the pound are down and the world’s markets have continued to be hit. The business world hates uncertainty and without strong leadership, I worry that the UK’s economy will suffer long-term damage that is on the verge of going beyond repair. Bold, brave action is needed urgently.