When in 2015 Cameron declared that we’d be able to vote as a nation on whether to remain a member of the EU, this initially felt to me like a reasonable idea, even though it was obvious that it was more about unifying the Tory party than about national interest. So the two sides – the media decided that there could only be two sides – gathered their forces (and funds) and began the process of firing cheap pot shots at each other. Lapped up by the media, their feeble arguments trivialised the whole process and ignored the complexities and indeed some major arguments about Europe.
Following the result, I felt for a long time that I couldn’t support a people’s (second) referendum. For me, the fledgling democratic process we have in this country was more precious than changing a really bad decision – the country had decided and that was final. The problem with this line of thought though (as has been illustrated time and again by recent events) was that the decision had no plan backing it.
Putting aside the feeble arguments of the Remain camp and the untraceable funding and dubious campaign methods of the Leave camp, the fact is that no side had a detailed plan for either remaining or exiting. And, yes, a plan for remain should have been at the heart of any argument to remain – here was an opportunity to reign in Europe’s excesses, lack of transparency and lack of democratic process; whereas the Leave campaign’s complete absence of any idea about the reality and complexity of leaving showed contempt for the people of the UK – especially those who supported leave in principle; they have been utterly betrayed.
Regardless of each individual’s belief about Europe, surely one thing that we can all agree on is that the entire process from start to the present day (March 2019 – PM May has just lost another vote with days to go until crashing out with no deal) has been completely mishandled. I think that it’s time to reload the entire process building upon what we as a nation have learned about Europe, about ourselves, but, more importantly, uniting around the idea of choosing our future relationship with Europe without this utterly mishandled and corrupted process.
Reloading Brexit would not mean a second vote that says “in” or “out” of Europe – this would be too simplistic – we know the issue is much more complex than that. Instead it would need to be a completely re-worked. Each campaign (and this definitely means more than two campaigns, in order to reflect and respect the complexity) would have to be based around a detailed plan. It would be these competing detailed plans that we ultimately have a vote on. Perhaps they could look something like this:
Greater autonomy from Europe; similar to a “Soft Brexit” but actually thought through
Complete exit from Europe; similar to “No Deal” except completely thought through both in respect of the details but also with a specific vision of how the UK would function outside of the EU.
Complete exit, as above but with a Green New Deal for Britain at its core, with renewable energy and environmental protection at its heart and a total rejection of the UK as a tax haven for the super rich and dirty money.
Remain exactly as we are; similar to the current remain campaign which has shown itself to have no intent on improving the EU.
Remain but with conditions and a determination to democratise the European Commission and the ECB.
Remain but with the above conditions and also tied to a Green New Deal for Britain at its core, with renewable energy and environmental protection at its heart and a total rejection of the UK as a tax haven for the super rich and dirty money.
The fact that the media won’t like trying to micro-manage six or more campaigns (for years their staple has been pick the blue team or the red team and let’s have a massive punch up in the pub car park refereed by the BBC or Sky News) should not prevent us from implementing the idea. No, reloaded also means forcing the press, by a new law if necessary, to report each campaign’s arguments in an equal and unbiased way. Learning from our experience of the past two to three years we could avoid many of the mistakes and provide greater protection from corruption by dirty money or other forms of deceit.
Each campaign must have a website and ensure absolute transparency in respect of supporters, especially high profile political or financial supporters, its funding and of course its aims. There should be a number of points that each campaign must address in addition to its own specific objectives both in concept and in the detail, for example:
Environmental protection and priorities
Energy production (i.e. each campaign must be specific on its support or otherwise for renewable energy)
Pollution (specific proposal for eliminating all forms of pollution with specific plans for aviation and shipping)
Specific proposals for how central banks should operate (including – if Remain – operation of ECB).
In addition to these specific points, each campaign needs to ensure that its integrity is protected from dark money, from civil servant interference, from foreign interference and from press bias.
If Europe allow an extension to Article 50, then it’s likely to be for a minimum of 21 months. This should be a reasonable time period for each campaign to mobilise, draw up their detailed plans and visions, then publish and promote them.
Finally there could be a totally new referendum in which we could vote on one of several detailed campaigns.