Last night democracy was defiled, downtrodden and defeated - a small group of people defied the desire of a majority and, for the second time, the Withdrawal Agreement governing the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU was voted down in the House of Commons. For it is there that this small group of people can be found.
Democracy works in a very simple and easy-to-understand way. I have said this before so do forgive the repetition but it works by the wishes of the majority becoming the order of the day. Democracy is found up and down the UK, in so many different areas of our lives it is sometime quite remarkable; your local interest society (whatever that interest may be) is run usually be a committee of some kind. The members of that committee are elected periodically. When somebody retires or feels that have done their stint, they stand down and a new person is elected. Very often, given that we are a rather lazy people, very broadly speaking of course, we tend to leave such things as being on a committee to those who are willing to do it. So the same faces are often re-elected without opposition. It is still a majority that elects them.
That applies to your local council as well. Many people have a slightly inaccurate view of local councils so let’s put it very simply; you, the ordinary person, elect councillors to employ people to run your town and serve your needs. As with the parish knitting club committee however, it is very often the same people who stand as councillors every time; too many of the rest of us are more concerned with our own lives – understandably it has to be said – so we end up with councillors who seem to be councillors for life. It can be and often is, a dead man’s shoes job. The only time a vacancy comes up is when somebody dies.
This principle of deciding something by a majority is an intrinsic part of our way of doing almost everything and it has been one of the most remarkable facets of life for most people. It has also worked quite well. At least until recently.
The most significant aspect to democracy is the majority winner. What that means is that who gets the most votes for something – whether it is for a position like Club Chairman or City Councillor or for not building a by-pass, the majority wins. The minority loses. That minority can sometimes be very large. In the case of an election, and again put very simply, 100 people are entitled to vote and all 100 do so. 51 vote for one candidate, 49 the other. The winner is the one with 51 votes.
That is of course blindingly obvious but it does leave the question of what to do with the 49. The answer is that the winner has to listen to them and take into account what they think as well as carrying out the wishes of those who cast their 51 votes. Only a fool would do anything else. The winner however, is still the winner and those who voted the other way have to grin and bear it. Whether they like it or not. That’s the thing right there; democracy means that somebody loses. Every time. Unfortunate I know but there it is. For every winner there is always a loser. Life is tough sometimes but that is the beauty as well as the beast of democracy. If you lose, live with it.
Democracy runs right through our lives, from that local interest group, through how we (supposedly) run our villages, towns and cities, right up to government and even beyond. How ‘even beyond’? Our government actually, if the truth be told, is not really elected. At least not by us directly, the ordinary voter. When we vote in a general election, we vote for a party. Again forgive me for stating the obvious but we elect the party to govern us by voting in our area for a candidate of the party of our choice to be a Member of Parliament, an MP. Whichever party gets the most votes and thus the most MPs, wins and forms a government from those MPs. But merely being an MP doesn’t mean being ‘in’ Government – that is the preserve of the party leader. Whoever is party leader chooses the MPs they want to join them in Government. In other words, the only MP who is guaranteed to be a member of the government, is the party leader, who becomes Prime Minister.
Once more my apologies for stating the obvious but what may be less obvious is that bit about ‘Even beyond’. So how, and where, does this get involved? For most people, life does indeed begin and end with whoever is running their country. Except…when that country is also a member of something else as well. Like the European Union. Or the World Trade Organisation, the WTO.
Both organisations have rules and those countries that have signed up to both, including the UK and regardless of who you voted for, has to follow those rules. Even if we disagree with them. The difference between the EU and the WTO however is that the WTO’s rules are agreed universally between all its members. It is, in other words, reasonably and relatively speaking, democratic. The EU is not The EU is not run by the EU Parliament, the members of which are elected by the people of the countries they come from. The EU is run by the European Commission. None of the Commission’s members are elected. By anybody. And that is one reason why a majority of people across the UK voted to leave.
It has been said (frequently) that ‘Scotland voted to remain’. No it didn’t. Neither did Northern Ireland. The referendum was held across the UK – and it is that vote, held for ALL the people of the UK that decided the result. The UK is a union of four, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and across that union, 51% voted to leave, 49% voted to remain. 51 for, 49 against…
The majority wins.
This is where those who are supposed to represent us, our MPs, have stopped representing us. It is a fact that a majority of MPs want the UK to remain in the EU. A majority of the people do not. That it is a small majority is neither here nor there. It has also been said that the referendum was ‘advisory’. This is patent nonsense. Regardless of what the terms of reference for a referendum might be, there is no point in holding one if our representatives then refuse to carry out the wishes of the majority. The UK therefore must leave the EU. Whether that 49 like it or not, whether MPs like it or not.
That 49 however do have to be listened to. The answer to that is, once again and like most things really rather simple. It is not easy, but it is simple. Since a majority of those who voted decided to leave and since the EU and its member countries are friends and allies of the UK, it seems sensible to suggest that no artificial barriers needed between the two. What changes is that, having ceased to be a member of it, the UK does not have to follow the rules of the EU.
Unless of course, we choose to and do so of our own volition. Not because we have to but because we want to and we do that by listening to both those who voted to leave and those who voted to remain. So who makes the decision on what EU proposals to adopt and what not to? Our MPs do. That is what they are there for. To run our country on our behalf. Our representatives decide in Parliament what suggestions the EU makes to us that are worth our while to adopt. Put another way, the decision is arrived at through democracy, not imposition, which is what the European Commission does. That is the difference.
Let’s look at that even more simply. The word ‘Tariffs’ comes up almost every day. A tariff is a tax, nothing more. It is the tax a government puts on anything brought into a country from another country. There are no tariffs between EU countries. This is one of the benefits of being in the EU. But just because we are not a member of it, does not mean we, the UK, have to put a tax on anything the EU wants to sell to us. We can have a tariff-free arrangement and the EU does not have to put any tariffs on what we sell to them either.
Unless we ‘crash out with no deal’ and go to WTO terms – which does involve placing tariffs on things.
The Withdrawal Agreement would take care of that. Yes, it is a seriously flawed agreement and yes, it is biased in favour of the EU. It is so because the European Commission does not want the UK to leave – it wants our money. It wants our membership fee (one of the largest of all EU countries) to carry on funding the gravy train upon which it runs. That is another reason why 51% voted to leave. Yes, the agreement does commit the UK to paying a bit more money for a short while but that is not without end.
The crux of the matter is still the same – the Withdrawal Agreement, for all its undoubted drawbacks, including the backstop over the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, will be rendered irrelevant and obsolete…when a final trade deal between the UK and the EU is done. That is the deal that counts.
When people start screaming about ‘The Deal’ what is it that they mean? They mean of course, the Withdrawal Agreement. I say again – that is not the one that counts. It is not a trade deal. Just an agreement over the short-term arrangements for the UK’s departure from the EU. Nothing else. Leave without it and WTO terms mean taxes where none existed before. Trading with the EU using WTO terms is not the brilliant panacea that people think it is. The deal that will count is the one that follows the Withdrawal Agreement, the one that will supersede it. The one that we could have.
Nobody has talked about that yet – which is why our parliamentary representatives have stopped representing us.
By continually banging on about leaving without ‘a deal’, ruling out ‘no deal’ and yet voting against the Withdrawal Agreement as if it is the only ‘deal’ that will ever be, those MPs that did so are betraying not just the majority in the UK but they are also putting at risk thousands of jobs in the UK and the EU. That the EU, in the shape of its unelected commission and its appointed members, including the negotiators, have been intransigent and are undemocratic is without doubt. But the UK will not be better off without an agreement (however flawed) over the terms of our withdrawal.
Calls for a second referendum, the absurdly-named ‘people’s vote’ are spurious and insulting. The people already had a vote. The majority carried the day.
Our representatives must stop being unrepresentative. They have a legal and moral duty to see the UK out of the EU and then to ensure that the real deal is done and dusted, quickly, efficiently and to the benefit of both the UK and the EU.
© Kevan James 2018.
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