Monday, January 14, 2019

Today's Letter to MP about Brexit

Today's letter to my MP about Brexit


John Penrose MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Many thanks for your very full and thoughtful letter of 7th January.

The Brexit decision is extremely difficult, but I hope we can agree on one point: a “No Deal” Brexit is clearly against the national interest. I hope you can commit unambiguously to speak against a No Deal at every opportunity. Also, the No Deal option should not appear on any “second” (actually, third) referendum.

You mention the “Neverendum” argument that is often rolled out in the media. This argument is hypothetical. If the result was indeed a narrow margin in the order of 52:48 for Remain, then, yes, uncertainty and division would continue, but after two years of incessant media information about the impact of leaving, with or without a deal, the present polls indicate that the result will be a more substantial decision in favour of remaining. As an aside, a better proposition would be Remain and Reform, because the EU does clearly need to undergo substantial changes.

In the absence of No Deal, the referendum can be binary, between the negotiated deal and remain and reform, so the problem you mention of the uncertainty implicit in a three-way decision disappears.

I note the practical difficulties connected with organising a referendum in good time, but we can be confident that a way can be found, especially if constitutionally things get increasingly chaotic in the coming days and weeks. Time is indeed short, but it is probable that Article 50 is going to be delayed whatever happens, so time is not an issue. The referendum campaign does not have to be as long as it was in 2016. We have been listening ad nauseam to arguments for and against Brexit for three years now. The last thing we need is more debate. One A4 sheet of concise summarisation of the points for and against is all we need, and say, a two week notice of when the election will be held.

I do not agree that the opinion polls on the People’s Vote intentions are flaky. If you look here you will see a remarkably consistent increase in the Remain majority since the 2016 referendum; as of 11 January 2019, it stands at Remain 53.6%, Leave 46.4%. We all know that polls can get it wrong, but this is a poll of polls, covering many thousands of responses.

If the People’s Vote did confirm that voters did wish to leave, even by the same tiny margin as in 2016, then we would all have to accept the decision and resign ourselves to our fate. On the other hand, we can be confident that the vote will show that a better informed electorate will vote to remain (and reform) by a margin substantially greater than 52/48.

You mention the oft-deployed media arguments about people resenting their decision being nobbled by metropolitan elites who think people have made the wrong decision and so forth. I do thank you for refraining from using the disgraceful argument that Mr Farage might be out on the streets with his rifle if he does not get his way (despite his having said that a 52/48 result would be “unfinished business”). This kind of pandering to the threat of violence is not worthy of our democracy. People speak often of the 17m who voted Leave, but never mention the 16m who voted remain. We are not violent, but if the result of Brexit is more austerity, you may see a great deal of non-violent direct action from frustrated young Remainers.

The fact is that, as Mrs May’s QC put it, the 2016 referendum was“blemished” by:

1. Lies on a Bus
2. A sustained imbalance of media coverage against the EU and commentary in favour of Leave (I will spare you the details of this, unless you request them)
3. Gross overspending by the Vote Leave campaign that was in breach of electoral law
4. Questionable £8.4m donation to Leave.EU by Arron Banks possibly originating in Russia
5. Theresa May blocking request by MI6 to investigate Arron Banks before referendum
6. Breach by Vote Leave and BeLeave of the 3-day suspension of campaigning after the politically motivated murder of your fellow MP, Jo Cox
7. A billion targeted and illegally financed Facebook Leave advertisements in the last few days of the campaign. (Facebook adverts were seen by 20 million people),
8. Millions of British expats were denied the vote.

The 2016 referendum was deeply flawed. This decision is going to affect the economic well-being, international standing and influence of our nation for many decades – maybe forever. Cabinet makers and tailors have an excellent maxim that is relevant to this situation. They say: “Measure twice, cut once”. It is very clear indeed that we should in this case measure twice before cutting.

We need a People’s Vote on the final deal.

Thank you.

Kind regards

Richard Lawson

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