There is no debate that the outcome of the 2016 referendum has truly divided the nation, Parliament included. The slim majority outcome of the referendum portended the division that has allowed for political stagnation to claim the UK parliament. Since, Theresa May has repeatedly assured her dedication to ensuring the Conservative government delivers the promised exit from the European Union; the Prime Minister wishes to protect the so-called ‘People’s Choice’ arguing that “to deny its legitimacy or frustrate its result threatens public trust in our democracy.”
Yet, in one of the biggest exercises of ‘democracy’ the UK has ever seen, the entire referendum is shrouded in doubt. The government derives its mandate from a referendum that had a dubious campaign; it was characterised by the dissemination of misinformation, fear-mongering and questionable donations from wealthy individuals. That, coupled with the incredibly slim majority to leave, can only create questions over the legitimacy of the result and the government’s mandate -whilst simultaneously undermining the notion of a democratic vote. Yet, regardless, the Government seems determined to do the nation an egregious disservice in their pursuit of the ‘People’s choice’.
In the ardent pursuit of Brexit, the Government seems to have forgotten the principle of representative democracy that underpins the UK constitution. Ignoring the fact that posing a complex political question to the people- to solve parliamentary divisions- undermines the concept of representative democracy in itself, the government is not representing the people. The government of the day has shown themselves to be incapable of providing a Brexit deal that claims a government majority, let alone a majority amongst the people.
Brexit revolves around the concept of a democratic vote and the ‘People’s Choice’ to leave. However, ever since the referendum, there has been a tangible distance between the people and their representatives. MPs have voted against Theresa May’s Brexit deal in December and again in March, as well as voting against five of seven tabled amendments for the Brexit process. Throughout this time, there has been limited discussion regarding the actual desires of the people. Brexit was initially posed to the people because the political elite could not resolve the decision singularly. The referendum, evidently, has only increased and exacerbated these divides rather than solve them. Parliament has repeatedly failed to show unity or solidarity in such chaos; there is no decisive course of action despite 29 months of preparation time. May must seek the mandate that Parliament cannot grant her- the mandate of the popular vote.
The political elite have dominated the Brexit process for far too long; they have squandered the allocated time for negotiations and weakened the position of the UK internationally. The nation is in political upheaval. The Conservative Government has lost the faith of businesses, of its members and of its people. The only way to resolve political divisions is to gain a mandate for a single course of Brexit. Whether it is through polls, consultation or a series of referendums; the people have the power to restore the government’s mandate.
The people chose Brexit and the people should choose the Brexit outcome. Since 2016, the political elite have isolated the people from the process. Brexit needs to be the People’s Choice, and it needs to be their choice now.