An online petition calling to Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU has blown past 3,000,000 signatures in over 24 hours of going viral. The petition website crashed repeatedly as it received its fastest number of signatures since its inception, alongside the millions of signatories coming back to stare at the figures in disbelief.
The backlash from the No Deal agitators came quickly: pointing out a fraction (~1%) of the signatures were apparently signed abroad (possibly from the 3m British expats or those on holiday), sneering at the “liberal elite” “Remoaners” who were trying to “steal democracy” and the moderates who were “betraying Brexit”.
I support this petition wholeheartedly. Am I a liberal elite? Liberal, maybe, but “elite”? My dad immigrated here as a student in 1957 and my mum left school at 16. I grew up near Portsmouth. I went to state school, worked part-time stacking shelves and waiting tables through university to pay for medical school, and still left with £50,000 in loans to repay.
Contrast this to Nigel Farage for example, born in Kent to a London stockbroker, went to private school, then became a commodities broker and finally a professional politician, for the last 20 years as an MEP. Has he ever stacked the dairy aisle at Tescos? Has he ever been to Tescos? I doubt it. See also Boris, Gove, Redwood, Mogg. The pattern is serial.
Perhaps then I am a “Remoaner”? I’ll tell you a secret, in 2016 I was planning to vote Leave. As many of my colleagues the turbulence in the NHS got me interested in politics, and I was desperately afraid the Transatlantic Trade Partnership between the US-EU was going to see private companies suing the NHS for contracts. I bumped into a Leave campaigner outside Morrisons a few weeks in, who had never heard of it. I then realised that if Leave won the NHS would be even more vulnerable to private companies carving into it (which is exactly the situation now with Trump and co. proposing trade deals to include healthcare).
When the vote came in, I like many was shocked, and worried what it might mean for my mortgage, my colleagues at work, my daughter’s future, but to be honest I thought; let’s see what happens.
What happened is the calamity you see before you: on a very tightly split vote the government interpreted a mandate for a hard uncompromising Brexit, went to a general election to concrete that mandate, and lost their majority. Without pause to reflect they continued hammering the same stance, out of the customs union, out of the single market. The irony of a group constantly berating the “London Class” for forgetting the rest of the country, they forgot about Northern Ireland and became unstuck.
As the wheels came off and we all started paying much closer attention it seems clear the deal we have now is far better than anything offered. We have control of our borders, we can send back any EU immigrant without work after 3 months (we just never bothered before, as we have actual underemployment in this country), we are out of the €EURO, out of Schengen, we have frictionless trade with the largest trading bloc in the world and 66 free trade agreements with other major countries around the globe. We have freedom to travel, freedom to roam, and we have a veto on any new countries joining (e.g Turkey). We have voted in favour of 98% of the 4000+ laws that apply in the U.K. the 2% we voted against were mostly about product standards and money laundering for some reason. This “deal” is colloquially known as Germany Plus, or in other words “Remain”. I still have my doubts about the EU but better to make the rules and change them then flounce off and take them anyway.
Lastly, is Revoking Article 50 undemocratic? Does it “betray Brexit”?
The biggest issue with a binary referendum with no detail is that this country doesn’t actually have the democratic infrastructure to process it. 17 million voted for one thing, 16 million voted for the total opposite, three years ago.
We vote for MPs to be our representatives, to make complex informed decisions. We also re-elect our MPs periodically, and can vote someone else in if we don’t agree with them. A decision made in perpetuity and immune to reexamination or rechallenge is not democracy- that’s tyranny, and disenfranchises all those who disagree.
Is “Brexit being betrayed?” Yes, but not by those supporting this petition. Brexit was betrayed from the beginning, by its leaders that told it’s supporters “it would be the easiest deal in history”, there would be “£350m for the NHS”, and “Turkey is joining”. It was betrayed by illegal data-mining, and murky financing that robbed it’s legitimacy. And worst of all it was betrayed by its own leaders, who abdicated all responsibility for actually delivering their promises. Farage quit, to earn £750,000 as a Fox and LBC talking head, Johnson ducked the PM job then quit the cabinet, Gove ducked the PM job and then lurked around. Redwood told his investors to move abroad, and Mogg moved to Ireland, Davis quit, Raab quit and then Farage came back to another party, but then quit his own march when it didn’t look good on camera. Brexit continues to be betrayed by ideologues who are happy in risking the whole project as long as they can cling to this ridiculous narrative. Article 50 was triggered, we began the process to Leave, and not one proponent could offer a positive vision of Brexit to appeal beyond the 1/3 of the country that did vote Leave, hence the Parliamentary deadlock we have now.
Perhaps narrow-mindedly my views on Brexit have only ever been through the prism of the NHS and my work. Since the referendum EU application for nurses are down by 96%, a loss of 1000s of potential nurses a year. 1 in 10 EU doctors have made plans to leave, and at least two personal colleagues of mine have already left. Medicines, NHS funding, nuclear tests- all are put at risk, especially in the event of No Deal- and at the end of that chain are patients- sick and vulnerable people that could be you or I.
Revoking Article 50 is the only responsible decision left. Let’s start again with some form of consensus. If the country can agree then by all means let’s have a deal that doesn’t crash us out putting lives at risk. Or perhaps we take another democratic sounding of the country and vote again. It’s time to be the grown-ups in the room.
Sign this and make anyone you can sign it as well.
Come to the March tomorrow, and take back control. This is not the Britain I know and love, but could be again. Let’s do something about it.