A “People’s Vote” would be a people’s hoax

A “People’s Vote” would be a people’s hoax

A “people’s vote” on the EU might sound like a brilliant idea. For Britain’s Europhile elite it looks democratic to allow the people to rectify their terrible mistake of voting to come out. It’s properly European to give electorates which have voted against the EU the chance to purge their sin by re-voting and for those for whom Europe is a matter of religion it provides a last chance to stay in the welcoming arms of a benign EU.

Yet there are difficulties. What would we be voting on? If it’s to reverse their vote to come out, the people might not like to stand on their heads. A vote on Theresa’s proposals would unite Brexiteers seeing the terms as too weak with rampant Remainers who’d go to any lengths to stay. Yet that would result in a festering grievance for one or the other – or both. The prospect of such a vote would weaken Britain’s negotiating strength and encourage the EU to be even tougher. It could also bring down the Government which has effectively thrown itself on the mercy of an intransigent EU, producing another election which could bring Jeremy Corbyn to power. Even the most Europhile Tories may be a bit cautious about that.

The alternative would be a vote on whatever agreement the EU condescends to give us. Yet that too has its problems. No one knows when, or even if, a settlement will come. Negotiations could be extended beyond March next year, although if the EU remains as obdurate as it’s been up to now, it could anger an electorate which doesn’t like being buggered about. Referendums should be used only by governments who know the answer, but who could predict that?

Then there’s the question of what we would be voting on. Justine Greening suggests a three-header; do we want whatever pathetic agreement the EU cares to give us? Do we want to give up and go back, or to accept a no-deal walkaway? The result would be difficult to interpret. Imagine if a quarter of the electorate voted for each proposal and another quarter didn’t vote at all. Make a decision based on that!

Yet a straightforward binary vote is no alternative. A vote against any settlement we get from an EU, determined to punish us for leaving, could be an instruction to negotiate a better deal. Yet that’s as likely to force the EU to improve as the Greek referendum opposing EU demands. It was just ignored. The EU isn’t about democracy.

On the other hand, what would a rejection mean? It could mean no payment and a walkaway. That would be workable because the Common External Tariff is low and can easily be overleaped by a pound which will have come down; but Project Fear would rise to a hysterical crescendo which so terrifies people and Theresa that no government would dare even think about it.

That leaves the only option to go back humiliated, weakened and vulnerable. That wouldn’t be a clear decision because it would probably result from a resigned abstention and a vote much lower than the 2016 referendum. We’d be going back to a protective bloc, falling behind the rest of the world and shaped by the needs of France and Germany. That would mean a continued drain and a growing trade deficit for a nation which will have wasted two years arguing with itself and end any chance of reforming the EU to make it suit our needs too.

Why would they bother to make concessions to such a pathetic weak jellyfish of a nation which is resigned to accepting vassal status, when they’ve got so many other problems? Indeed, they could demand the final insult and treat our return as a new member with an obligation to join the euro, though no entitlement to cohesion funding.

Think it through. Another vote may look like a convenient way out for those whose love of the EU eclipses their faith in Britain. Yet it’s also a vote for humiliation which would weaken our negotiating position and encourage the EU to punish us to discourage its other disgruntled members. It would do this at the cost of prostrating Britain, alienating a large section of the public, creating a long and bitter resistance movement from angry Brexiteers and demonstrating that the British people can be manipulated – and disregarded, because their government is incapable of either defending the national interest or fulfilling the wishes of its people.