A ‘People’s Vote’? Hold on, haven’t we already had it?

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As Britain edges ever closer to the precipice that is Brexit, calls for a so called ‘People’s Vote’ seem to be becoming increasingly loud, as expressed by the march through London on the 20th October 2018. However, I can’t help but feel that to support any such vote would be a dangerously myopic mistake.

Why should we conduct another vote when the British people have already spoken resoundingly? In June 2016, 33.6mn people turned out to vote, over 72% of the voting population. By contrast, the past five general elections in this country have only averaged a turnout of just 64%. The June referendum was not an unrepresentative minority. Rather, the people of Britain fully engaged in expressing their will with the highest turnout by both volume and percentage for any major voting issue in the past 25 years. Furthermore, the margin of victory at 52% to 48% was overwhelmingly clear by democratic standards. Consider this: America, arguably the most democratic country in the world, has elected its presidents by an average percentage split of 52% to 48% throughout the past 25 years. Consequently, the democratic value and decisive outcome of this referendum was clear and cannot easily be challenged.

I fervently believe that yet another vote would set Britain’s democracy on a dangerous path. An embittered second vote is likely to exacerbate current divisions within parliament and the UK. Another vote would erode the basis of democracy by suggesting a majority vote is insufficient to obtain democratic legitimacy, undermining the UK’s political decisions for the foreseeable future. Some argue that the people have a right to change their mind; however, would they be willing to have a third vote to verify the second, a fourth for the third? No – to hold another referendum would set a dangerous precedent, opening up a Pandora’s box of claim and counter-claim about the most valid result, paralysing Britain in confusion and disunity. I do not deny that untruths were spoken by both sides during the campaign and I admit that the current political chaos is undesirable. Nonetheless, I for one value Britain’s democratic ideals above all, and as a result, I cannot support a motion that would so clearly undermine them.

Beyond analysing the democratic flaws that such a ‘People’s Vote’ would pose, there are also a number of other complexities which must be considered. Perhaps the referendum itself was fundamentally flawed? If we learnt anything from either the Brexit and Scottish Independence Referendum, it is that complex issues cannot be condensed into a single simple multi-choice question. Therefore, given the clear democratic basis and outcome of the first referendum, why should we expect another vote to provide more clarity? Surely the lesson is this: referendums are not a good tool for deciding complex issues, and to foolishly entertain the concept of another referendum will only cause further disagreement and confusion rather than decisively settling the current debate. It is likely another referendum would only inflame existing passions further and stoke up yet more disunity. It is also possible that another referendum would see an increase in political extremism and the creation of a populist tsunami made of disillusioned voters, believing their vote is only valid when it matches the divisive doctrines of the political elite.

Instead of a second referendum, which arguably should not be discussed until those behind the ‘People’s Vote’ provide substance to their insubordination by detailing what would be on their voting slip, I would suggest a united pursuit in order to achieve the best possible outcome.  Although Theresa May’s Brexit plan is hardly perfect, it is a reasonable and tenable compromise that sets a platform to construct an enduring Brexit deal from.  However, recent conflict on the direction that Brexit should take has reduced the efficiency of Brexit talks with dissidents like Boris Johnson providing an irritating distraction for Theresa May. To simplify an ideal proposal, in his song ‘Legend’, Bob Marley wisely states ‘one love, one heart… let’s get together and feel alright’, explaining the healing effect of togetherness. Britain rejected the unity that the EU offered – it is time to look for a different unity.

It is difficult to see how there is light at the end of this one-way tunnel for Britain in the current situation. However, the question is do we pull together to ensure we make it to the other side? Or do we work against each other, floundering in the darkness, focusing on past mistakes that cannot be undone? Perhaps a ‘People’s Vote’ would allow us to avoid five years of tumult which will subsequently arise post-Brexit. Yet a ‘People’s Vote’ would also cause issues distinctly more deeply-seated than any problems Brexit could cause; problems that could cripple the country as it moves into a more dark and distant future.

Democracy, for better or worse, has spoken. The answer is unambiguous. To try and overturn this is not only undemocratic but also foolish to expect a second vote to settle the matter. Rather, I would advise wholeheartedly supporting the rightfully democratically elected Parliamentary government in their pursuit of a beneficial deal. Our strength lies in unity, not division.