“People’s Vote”

I wanted to make a bit of progress on my app today, but it is a Sunday and I also wanted to talk about this idea of a “people’s vote”.

I watched a political programme the other day, which had a politician claiming that we were all a lot better informed about the EU now than 2 years ago, so we should have another vote.

The politician in question is a former party leader – I’ve even voted for that party in previous elections. so I’d expect some synergy on many issues, but not unfortunately on this one.

Better informed? Well, I might be in a minority but if I felt ill-informed on an issue I might be reluctant to vote on it, or at least to gen up on the issue beforehand. It’s not as though we were taken by surprise. But people weren’t reluctant to vote – if you look at voter turnout, a higher proportion of us voted in this referendum, than have in any General Election post-2000! (You have to go back to the 1980s, I think, to go higher).

Better informed with a view to what? To changing our minds? Is that what happened to the politician, as they’ve become better informed? No, they called for Remain at the time of the referendum and have remained of that view ever since, just becomemore entrenched. So why do they assert that anybody else is different? I think that actually, they understand this completely, but they’d like to go against the referendum result, because they know better.

But does this politician know more than the rest of us? Very possibly, just by virtue of being an MP, but remember that they are calling for a fresh public vote, so, really, it’s the public’s level of knowledge which is the important metric here.  I’m afraid it smacks of pompousity to me – “I was sufficiently switched-on to think that the EU is a good thing, but you’re a bit dimmer, maybe it has taken you a couple more years to come to my conclusion?”

Or maybe we haven’t come to that conclusion?

I must admit that I like referendums, they are the public’s most direct way of implementing democracy, and I would be happy to express a view on the final deal or on the future relationship with the EU, but politicians are somewhat more vocal, and are saying that one of the options should be to make as though the 2016 vote never happened. What am I afraid of? I’m afraid that by then, we’re in a place in which politicians decide to adopt some referendum results but to ignore others.If they want us to have faith in the voting system, you have to keep faith with every vote.As I’ve already said, I once felt sufficiently sympathetic to this politician that I even joined the party they led for a time, but I fell out with them on this issue – just really because I believ in every vote counting equally.

To this point I have been quite defensive about my reasons for not having a second referendum, but, actually I feel it is appropriate to go on the offensive. I want to leave the EU because I think it is a flawed organisation – why don’t they see the same flaws that I see?

I see meetings happen, not just behind closed doors but unminuted, and have a problem that the general public isn’t represented transparently enough. Why don’t they have a problem with this? And don’t let’s get started on how an EU president gets elected. Actually, let’s. What constituency do they represent? Who stood against them for the role? How many votes did they all get? Or, maybe try another tack? Perhaps they could tell me why, in the European Parliament, Malta has more than 10x the number of MEPs, per capita, than France does? Why is this acceptable?

I mean, you might argue this one by saying that the role of the European Parliament is not the same as national parliaments, that it is more “committee-oriented”. Fair enough, but MEPs are the only people who are elected by the citizenry of Europe. You’re on dodgy ground altogether when you argue that MEPs  – the only elected officials – aren’t central to the EU’s process.

And,why is it acceptable that even people who are sufficiently senior nationally that they sit on the Council of Ministers, are not allowed to even enter proposals to be discussed by that Council of Ministers? Instead, resolutions must be proposed by the Commission, who are the civil servants of the EU and who are appointed, not elected. Can you imagine if officials in Downing Street determined Westminster’s agenda? What an uproar there’d be?

But I could go on to talk about e.g. the Eurogroup. I can maybe buy that an avid federalist might be happy that the EU – a bloc of soverign nations – even has it’s own economic policy, although I myself don’t. I can even buy the appropriateness of the name provided it did indeed represent those countries who have joined the Euro project. But somebody please explain why George Osborne was included, as the UK is not in the project. Why, also, does it meets in private, unminuted meetings? such that the citizenry have no idea what goes on? Where’s the transparency here?

In many ways I can feel quite close to a Remain/Reform agenda here, although my analysis is that the EU will not reform. Not in my timescales (a few years) at any rate. If I meet someone with a Remain/Reform view, I just say “fair enough”. They at least acknowledge that there are things wrong with the EU, even if I don’t share their optimism that change will happen.

But it does disappoint me that a lot of people wanting to remain in the EU don’t acknowledge its problems. And aside from all my criticisms of the EU, if people don’t respect the last vote, why on earth should people believe they’ll respect result of the next?

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