Friday, 15 June 2018

Accepting democracy


Most remainers have accepted the result of the 2016 referendum. A smaller number are stuck in reinterpretative mode, finding ever more ingenious reasons to argue that the vote to ‘leave’ need not necessarily mean ‘leave’. Some are in a party-political opportunistic mode and a politically well-placed few are in an implacably-determined obstructive mode, discounting the danger to democracy this represents.

However, I think it’s unlikely they'll accept they made the wrong call on this question. Even years of successful trade outside the EU may not sway them.

I understand this since I should have been similarly appalled had the result of the Scottish referendum gone the other way. I should have conceded the right of the majority to take Scotland in the direction they chose. I should not have conceded their right to take me with them. I was born British and I shall die British. Although resident in Scotland, married to a Scot and possessed of a better knowledge of Scotland’s history and economy than most, I shall not give up British nationality and adopt Scottish. Nor can I be compelled to do so, even if my homeland is dragged out from under my feet and I unwillingly become a sojourner in a foreign country.

This implies no disrespect towards those of a contrary opinion. They have their view and I have mine. I trust they will respect my right to my judgement as I respect theirs. A minority won’t, of course. Fortunately, the Good Friday Agreement provides a precedent on the nationality issue.

I suspect many remainers feel similarly about the EU, though some, sadly, have shown disrespect towards Brexit voters they consider less wise than themselves. This is regrettable. Ordinary working people, the folk whence I came, are as competent as bankers and businessmen to judge the EU’s impact on their own lives.

In modern identity politics, fundamental principles of a democratic society such as freedom of speech are well on the way to being lost. We howl down opponents or endeavour to silence them with pejorative labels. We deny platforms to peaceful political nonconformists.

We should hardly be surprised therefore if some are unwilling to concede their fellow citizens the right to disagree on Brexit. From those who do accept that right, however, a little more overt respect for it would help towards the necessary national reconciliation.