Brexit is not the high point of democracy – it's the greatest fraud ever perpetrated in British politics

An irate local farmer told me he voted to leave as a protest against EU bureaucracy that delayed payments of his subsidies. He thought Defra was an EU department. He didn’t realise it was The Department for Rural Affairs and that the EU had fined our governmental department for its incompetent administration of subsidies

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The Independent Online

Brexit is the greatest fraud perpetrated on this country since Tony Blair’s Iraq dossier. It was predicated on presumptions – and on Wednesday night it was legitimised by deceit.

MPs who voted to remain in the EU in June queued up to give Theresa May carte blanche to trigger Article 50, which sets us on an irreversible course of self-destruction. The only honourable justification for MPs who hitherto vehemently believed remaining in the EU was in the country’s best interests not opposing Theresa May’s bill would be if they had been persuaded that the opposite is true. Instead they all hid behind the vapid Ukip mantra – the so called “will of the people”.

The idea of being driven to economic ruin (for which the poor will pay) for political expediency is, in my view, an act of constitutional vandalism. Worse still, it flies in the face of the emerging evidence indicating the "will of the people" has changed since June.

Professor Adrian Low of Staffordshire University has analysed the result of 13 polls since the Brexit vote in June, all of which ask variations on the question, “would you vote the same way again?" A staggering 11 of the 13 polls show that, were there to be a second vote, Remain would produce a decisive victory. While the Remain vote held firm statistically, a significant number of people who voted Leave would now change their vote.

In December, the West Midlands Express & Star newspaper published the following headline: "We DON’T want out anymore: shock poll reveals Express & Star readers have changed their minds". When asked before the referendum how they would vote, 80 per cent of readers voted Leave and 16 per cent Remain. When asked the same question in December, an incredible 62 per cent chose to remain with only 37 per cent saying they would now vote to leave.

The Express & Star said that it was the biggest survey the local paper had ever carried out, with 10,000 respondents.

John Bercow welcomes MP's baby into Commons for Brexit Bill vote

So, why have so many people changed their mind, and why was the Brexit vote so fraudulent? 

First, it traded in “alternative facts”, or lies. Most notably the promise of £350m a week to the NHS, which was rescinded as soon as the vote was in. Families in my community have fallen out because older members admitted they voted Leave believing the NHS would get the promised cash. The younger ones feel betrayed by their parents and grandparents and the parents and grandparents feel betrayed by the politicians who deceived them. 

Second, while the turnout for the election was 72 per cent of the electorate, with Leave winning by 51.9 per cent, this only equates to 37 per cent of the electorate when we include those who did not vote but were eligible to. This is not a representative or legitimate outcome. The referendum also did not require a supermajority (or two-thirds of the vote) which is the norm when the outcome involves major constitutional change.  

Furthermore, in the wake of the Brexit win, a significant number of those who voted Leave told the media they regretted it, or didn’t understand it, or thought it could be reversed at the next election, or that they did it as a protest against austerity and the Tories.

An irate local farmer told me he voted to leave as a protest against EU bureaucracy that delayed payments of his subsidies. When I pointed out that Defra was responsible for the delays, he said, “That’s right!”. He thought Defra was an EU department. He didn’t realise it was Britain’s Department for Rural Affairs and that the EU had fined our governmental department for its incompetent administration of subsidies. No matter, we got our country back, even if it means losing the subsidies and keeping the incompetence.

British farmers received £2.4bn last year in EU payments and the National Farrmers’ Union has already warned that many farms would fail without these handouts.

Importantly, EU membership already has built-in border controls under the “right to reside” test. This provides conditions to entry, such as having a job or being financially self-sufficient. There are no immediate, automatic entitlements to benefits, which require further conditions. Most other EU states impose these controls rigorously but the UK has been less assiduous in their implementation.

There was no mandate to leave the single market, sell off the NHS to US private health insurers or to turn the UK into a tax haven. Brexit has divided the nation. For Theresa May to unite the country she must heal wounds and take the public with her.

As Churchill said, “Never give in – never, never, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense”. Brexit is neither, so I shan't be giving in anytime soon.

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