Leaving the EU
Leaving the EU was an objective I have wanted, advocated, argued for and campaigned for since 1992. We will be leaving the political union and regaining our independence. I'm still trying to take that in. Until the last couple of weeks before the referendum I didn't think it would happen. But then the conversations I was having with many people started to change, prompting me to have a little wager with the bookies...
That was the campaign that was
Back to the referendum. More and more people had started to talk about self governance and Britain making its own decisions. Most people laughed off the hysterical predictions of the remain side. They were equally scathing of Vote Leave's ridiculous £350 million savings figure. Interestingly no one was talking about Nigel Farage, and when I mentioned him the responses were uniformly negative. Some did mention their wish to have limits on immigration so only people with jobs to go to could come here. Many who were previously undecided started coming off the fence for Brexit. As the referendum drew near, people had started to think about what it meant and how they should vote. That was their driver.
To claim, as many on the remain side do, that people didn't know what they were voting for is simply not true.
What really stood out what that the campaigns were not gaining any traction with the people I was talking with. Stronger In and Vote Leave were sideshows, playpens created by politicians for politicians who had to be the centre of attention, despite the whole point of the referendum being that the decision was too big and too important for politicians alone to make. Voters I spoke to up and down the country were making their own minds up about the future direction of this country, and were not being influenced by the point scoring, manoeuvring and oneupmanship of the political classes.
Anyway, it is done and dusted. By a clear majority of 1,269.501 votes (equal to 7.8% of the total remain vote), British voters decided that Britain should be run by British people. The decision represented the first steps on the long journey to overhauling democracy in our country so power rests with the people, not the political class. It is time for people to being the process of resuming the position of master and for politicians to get back to being our servants. Inside the EU that would never have been possible. Leaving was an absolute imperative.
What happens now is not in the control of the bloggers and commentariat. Instead the Brexit activity is taking on a life of its own, which was always going to happen at some point.
In the hands of the politicians
The two candidates vying for the Conservative leadership contest have clear and contrasting ideas about how to begin and conduct the Brexit process. I have no skin in that game and really don't care which of them wins. I left the Conservative party after it became clear to me David Cameron was dishonest and unreliable. I see nothing today that makes me want to rejoin the party, or join any other party for that matter.
Nothing I say, do or write is going to influence what Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom do next. I would just be repeating the things I've already written on this blog, my campaign blog and on Twitter. It will be down to the eventual winner, her new look cabinet and the civil service to agree a course of action to withdraw Britain from the EU with the best possible and least risky settlement possible. The next Prime Minister, her cabinet and the civil service have a shared duty to get the very best outcome for this country's people.
Once we have actually left the EU, the politicians and parties we elect will matter again. That will be the time to take a real interest, because they alone, not the EU, will be responsible for the direction the country takes. That is the time when holding their feet to the fire can really result in meaningful change. That is when the people can begin to wield real power.
The necessary journey - a process, not an event
I hope that common sense prevails and that upon Brexit this country joins EFTA - as most of the world's countries belong to a regional trading bloc - and also secures continued participation in the European Economic Area (EEA), until such time as leaving the EEA can be achieved with the fewest economic consequences. That outcome is not only realistic, but required.
EEA participation should only be a stepping stone that enables us to continue trade with EU member states as we do today (well, almost, given the issues with agriculture and fisheries in the EEA agreement).
We should only participate in the EEA until we have the unilateral capability and expertise (in trade, international relations, bilateral negotiations, and influential activity on global bodies) to make our own trade agreements and shape global rules and regulations. Only then would we have the strength, required knowledge and ability to continue our journey to full independence. The single market is not and must not be a permanent parking space.
A day absolutely must come when we remove the last vestiges of the EU's projected control by dispensing with the last 5,000 or so pieces of legislation that relate to the operation of the single market. But we should not do it immediately. You cannot unpick 43 years of integration in one big bang restructuring without significant pain, and leaving the EEA overnight will be hugely damaging to 40% of export market. We need to work up to it first. But we must do it eventually.
So that's where we are and what I believe we need to do. Once we have resolved the EU issue we need to turn our eyes towards an even longer, even more pressing, journey to securing a more democratic country. Just a few of the issues that need to be addressed are:
Written constitutionThere is so much that needs to be done for ordinary people to take power back from the politicians. We need a written constitution. The current unwritten constitution allows the political class to bend it completely out of shape to serve their own interests. We need to close the loopholes. We can draw from our own judiciary people who are suitable to sit and judge constitutional matters within our own Supreme Court.
British Bill of RightsRights are different from entitlements. Unlike entitlements, rights cannot be conferred on us by the political class, they are ours. But they need to be codified so people understand clearly what they are and can draw upon them as needed to ensure their rights are not infringed. We do not need the European Convention on Human Rights. We are mature and intelligent enough to sift rights from tainted and mischievous entitlements driven by political activism, and enshrine the rights in our own code to be upheld by our own courts.
House of LordsThere is something sensible in the concept of having a revising chamber in Parliament. But it is wrong for appointed, rather than elected, people to have the kind of role in the legislative process they currently enjoy in the House of Lords. Appointments to a revising chamber should be of people with knowledge and understanding of real world issues, who can then comment and give advice to the elected chamber about any shortcomings or unintended consequences of legislation. But nothing more. If the House of Commons fails to take heed of the advice, voters can remove MPs accordingly. If there is to be a legislative upper house, similar to a senate with certain non conflicing responsibilities, it must only contain people elected by this country's voters.
There are others, such as further limiting the powers of Royal Prerogative, removing Statutory Instruments and making the government seek voter approval the use of taxpayers' money. But addressing the ones above would be a good, if time consuming, start.
It may be general politics that sees me return to blogging in the future. But we'll see. In the meantime, thanks for reading my thoughts on my two blogs and my comments on Twitter. I hope you've found some of it interesting.
All the very best,