Challenging Brexit isn't undemocratic, it's necessary

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Saturday 18 February 2017 18:57
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair during his speech on Brexit
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair during his speech on Brexit

The inherent hypocrisy in the Brexiteers’ reaction to anyone who wishes to challenge the referendum result is astounding. Ian Duncan Smith’s response to Tony Blair’s call to fight Brexit as undemocratic is, of course, nonsense. The referendum was just another vote, just like we have every general election.

If 52 per cent of the electorate had voted in a general election for Labour on a platform of nationalising the railways or the banks we would not hear the Tories saying the people have spoken, we must all get behind the Labour PM to ensure it is a success. The same would be true of Labour if a Conservative government was elected on a platform of privatising the NHS.

It is sad that MPs who vehemently opposed Brexit prefer to put their own parliamentary seats before their principles. If you think that Brexit would be a disaster for the UK then you must oppose it as Tony Blair proposes, although I don’t feel he is the ideal person to lead it.

During the run-up to the referendum we were treated to truths, half-truths and “alternative facts” by both sides. The Brexit camp’s claims seem to come from nowhere but at least they were able to boast they were not relying on the views of “experts”.

Since that time the vast majority of reasoned arguments seem to be predicting how bad a hard Brexit will be, whether they are views expressed by economists, European politicians, world leaders or business executives. All reflecting how bad it will be for the UK economically and morally when we leave the European Union. What seems to be missing are the counter-arguments of the Leave brigade who are unwilling or incapable of responding in a coherent fashion. All we hear are the repeated mantras of “take back control”, ban all immigration and the utterly meaningless “Brexit means Brexit”. Thankfully we have yet to hear “make Britain great again”

It seems likely we will end up with the worst possible economic deal which will negatively affect even those who voted to leave and are unlikely to have the sort of “control” envisaged by the Brexiteers, nor will we be likely to significantly reduce immigration.

What is difficult to comprehend is why MPs of all colours seem to be abandoning their own beliefs in favour of the idea of a “popular” vote which will help them hang on to their seats in the light of the Ukip threat, which is what got us into this mess in the first place.

Chris Elshaw
East Hampshire

Yes, as some of your correspondents have pointed out, Tony Blair is damaged goods. He ignored the million or two of us who marched against the Iraq war, and should possibly be tried as a war criminal. His pro-Remain intervention in the referendum may have persuaded some people to vote to leave the EU.

However, although we may not be impressed by the man himself, it must be conceded that in this case he has a point. Fewer than 38 per cent of the electorate voted for Brexit. Those who will be most affected, 16 to 18-year-olds, were given no voice.

David Cameron called the referendum for the improper reason of uniting and protecting his party from the threat of Ukip. He was so complacent about the result that he didn’t bother to set out the drawbacks of leaving the EU or to have a plan for our departure. For such a major change a minimum level of support, above 50 per cent, should have been specified. The whole thing was an exercise in political manoeuvring and incompetence.

It's only now, when Theresa May is rushing headlong towards triggering Article 50, that we are coming to realise all the implications and disadvantages of Brexit. I very rarely agree with Tony Blair but, on this, I think he’s absolutely right. We mustn’t let our views on the man blind us to the necessity of considering the message.

Susan Alexander
South Gloucestershire

I have just heard Boris Johnson say in response to Tony Blair’s speech that “we heard all these things last year and not a thing has changed”.

I would argue that quite a lot of what the electorate was promised has changed.

The large amounts of cash going directly to the NHS is no longer on the table, hard Brexit was not the only option discussed and we are now told that net migration will probably not fall significantly.

The electorate has been lied to by Ukip and the right-wing popular press and we now deserve an opportunity to reflect and reconsider.

Mary Burden

As a long-established democracy, we are accustomed to accepting “the will of the people”. Only this time many of us feel that the people were willfully misled, which wouldn’t matter so much if it could be altered at the next general election. (Trump has only four, or at most eight, years to wreak havoc.)

But this is permanent. It is wrong. We are breaking away from civilised, liberal democracies with whom we could be a force for good.

I’m backing Blair. I don’t suppose he’ll succeed, but he has my support.

Pam Smith

The Government needs to act to protect the environment

As usual, big business wins over the fragile environment. If the British Plastics Federation seriously believe the issue is the “inconsistent collection system of household waste” in the UK and genuinely care about reducing the impact on the environment, then they need to lobby government to improve collection systems, not reduce recycling targets.

Meanwhile the Government needs to move on from its backward attitude to environmental issues, encapsulated in David Cameron’s comment about “all that green crap”. Where are the Government’s strategies for complying with the Paris Agreement?

Lynda Newbery

Warm air blowing in from Florida

I love the news of the warm air coming over to our shores from Florida. Can I respectfully suggest that Trump stays put and we just have the hot air?

Maggie Dyer
London NW2

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