Sunday photoblogging: People’s Vote march

by Chris Bertram on March 24, 2019

People's Vote March 23 March 2019-10

A shot from yesterday’s People’s Vote march to stop Brexit. (There are some other pictures on my Flickrstream of the same event.) We’ve reached a crunch moment when those of us who want the UK to remain in the European Union could win or where we end up with a disorderly exit (followed by a humiliating agreement from a position of weakness).

{ 72 comments }

1

John Quiggin 03.24.19 at 10:39 am

A nice picture. Cheerier than the dismal photos I’ve seen of the March to Leave.

2

harry b 03.24.19 at 1:45 pm

The March to Leave does look like a slight miscalculation. Maybe they can all be given a March 29th commemorative 50p when they reach London. That’ll cost the government a few quid, and the coins’ll be worth twice as much in a few years!

The pictures I’ve seen of the March have been cheery, moving, and lovely. Wish I’d been there. My mum’s favourite placard was “Fromage not Farage”; Andrew Adonis’s was “Don’t blame the Bulgarians or the Romanians, blame the Etonians”. Its always easy to be clever after the fact, but “Don’t blame the Estonians, blame the Etonians” might have been even better, a kind of echoing retort to the Tory anti-semitism directed against Thatcher’s early cabinets.

What was it like being on a big march with no SWP placards? For the 1981 CND demo my main job was to get 25,000 placards made to crowd out whatever the SWP brought.

3

Dipper 03.24.19 at 2:09 pm

I’m glad the sun shone and you all had a nice day, but … aren’t any of you sufficiently self-aware to think twice before you post (not mainly here, mainly elsewhere) about how superior the people on your march are to the horrid people on the other march? Are we proposing replacing voting with a best-dressed march competition? I’m sure there was a previous European regime in the middle of last century that prided itself on the outstanding physiques and superior culture of its adherents over their opponents. Not a good precedent.

And us Leavers do know what you’re up to. Marches, petitions, it is all about signalling to each other that you are willing to overturn the vote and seize power. No Leaver ever said “I know there are 17 million of us, but perhaps we should make we for those one million on the march.” It isn’t us you are broadcasting your message to.

Did you ever think, when you embarked on your personal road to political left-wing nirvana, that you would end up here? Marching to overthrow the biggest vote in UK history and replace it with rule from foreign powers? That you would be agreeing with big business that a democratic vote should be overturned?

4

Chris Bertram 03.24.19 at 2:58 pm

Ah @Dipper, bless …. Nobody has, until this very moment, posted to say that the people were superior to the horrid ones, though the truth is that the superior were superior in numbers to the horrid by roughly 1,000,000 to 57. Did you ever think that your road to independence and control would put the UK in a position were “foreign powers” were able to dictate terms at will? (no need to answer)

5

nastywoman 03.24.19 at 3:04 pm

”I’m sure there was a previous European regime in the middle of last century that prided itself on the outstanding physiques and superior culture of its adherents over their opponents. Not a good precedent”.

That’s why it is so pleasant to see ALL of these different ”outstanding” individuals from ALL kind of cultures now in GREAT Britain -(especially in London) and about Marches, petitions, it is all about signalling to each other that you people are willing AND able to change their mind – you know – like in the seventies voting for the EU and then in this century NOT voting for the EU – and now there has come a time where people are willing and able to change their mind –
AGAIN!

That’s how democracy works!

6

Harry 03.24.19 at 5:48 pm

“It isn’t us you are broadcasting your message to”
No, its basically Jeremy Corbyn.

“the outstanding physiques and superior culture of its adherents”
Hmm, I wasn’t there, but watching the coverage, ‘outstanding physiques’ and ‘superior culture’ were not words that sprang to mind. And I tend to think I have low-ish standards.

I remember being on a march through a town center protesting against the Falklands War, and a couple of old ladies saying (about me) “well, at least that one’s clean” which, also, seemed to reveal unduly low expectations.

Still, they all seemed jolly nice. Don’t underestimate the value of that, or the costs of resentment-filled anger. If it does come to a vote beyond parliament, your side is going to have to seem to actually care about the people whose votes you’re trying to win, something that might be quite hard for the current layer of apparent leaders to manage. Maybe that’s why it seems to terrify them so much.

7

Murc 03.24.19 at 6:35 pm

I’m glad the sun shone and you all had a nice day, but … aren’t any of you sufficiently self-aware to think twice before you post (not mainly here, mainly elsewhere) about how superior the people on your march are to the horrid people on the other march?

Why should they? They are, in fact, superior to the terrible people in the other march. They should be openly proud about that.

Marches, petitions, it is all about signalling to each other that you are willing to overturn the vote and seize power.

Yup! That’s how it works in democracies. You can, in fact, invalidate previous votes via future votes. Happens all the time. Remain has been quite open about their desire to do this for like three years now.

Marching to overthrow the biggest vote in UK history and replace it with rule from foreign powers?

Nobody is marching to do the latter. This is a straight-up lie.

That you would be agreeing with big business that a democratic vote should be overturned?

Democratic votes are overturned all the time by future democratic votes. Had Remain won the referendum (the immensely idiotically designed referendum; single-stage, poorly-worded, high-impact, unclear-consequence referendums are usually a bad idea, full stop, before you even get into the ridiculous lies told to sell Brexit and the idiotic invocation of Article 50 without having any implementation plan in place) Leave would be planning on how to overturn that result by winning future votes.

8

Orange Watch 03.24.19 at 6:41 pm

Dipper@3:

Marches, petitions, it is all about signalling to each other that you are willing to overturn the vote and seize power.

The 2016 Referendum overturned the 1975 EC membership referendum, which was 17m to 8m in favor of membership (vs. the 2016 referendum, which was 17m vs. 16m against membership). If democracy means one referendum that cannot be overturned by future referendums, it’s pretty clear that Leavers overturned a vote to seize power and have very little respect for democratic votes.

That, or maybe – just maybe – there was no clause in the 2016 referendum stating that it could not be overturned by future referendums before it came to pass. If you wanted a referendum that was democratically binding against that, you’d’ve needed to specify that in the referendum – just like you’d’ve needed to specify what Brexit meant if you wanted a specific type of Brexit to have a democratic mandate. But you’ve made it very clear you’re all against specificity, as are most Leavers. Why is that? From across the pond, it looks an awful lot like it’s because you do not respect democratic participation in governance, so you want a vague mandate to be fleshed out by people who agree with you in particular rather than by people who interpreted it to mean something quite different. There will be grim irony if you get your Brexit but it ends as Brexit In Name Only where the UK most the regulation and red tape of EU membership, combined with no democratic input in what that regulation is. And by your standard you set here, you’ll have to sit down, shut up, and respect “the will of the people” if that’s what Brexit becomes – no protests, no petitions, no marches, no referendums. “Democracy for me but not for thee” is not, in fact, democracy. Do you really want to come down hard on the side of “Mummy May knows best, so sit down, eat what she cooked, and say thank you” before you know what the dinner menu is actually going to look like?

9

Dipper 03.24.19 at 8:39 pm

so … @ Murc, @ Orange Watch. Of course there can be other referenda. But first, implement the result of the previous referendum as promised. A general election delivers a government of five years max, possibly less, when there is another election, but the elected parliament actually gets to sit and pass legislation. A government that loses does not get the chance to insist on another election before it leaves office just in case people decide to change their minds.

” just like you’d’ve needed to specify what Brexit meant if you wanted a specific type of Brexit to have a democratic mandate “ that’s a fair point, and Andrew Lilico has proposed the all future referenda should be against a clear proposal backed by parliament versus the status quo. But parliament selected the question, and asked me. I didn’t get to choose the question. So for Parliament to then say that they don’t understand the answer to the question they chose to ask should pretty much disqualify most of them from ever appearing in public again. A largely Remain Parliament has been in control throughout, so we are hear entirely because father actions of Remain politicians. Whether it would have been different if, for example, Boris Johnson had been PM is not something we can ever know.

Meanwhile, slightly off-topic, there’s a parliamentary report into Islamophobia which makes interesting reading, and I generally think is a good thing. I have issues with the questionnaire on attitudes of Muslims in the UK given that there is no control group, so, eg, measures of alienation amongst Muslims in Bradford don’t signify much unless you also have a measure of alienation amongst non-muslims in Bradford. Anyone can decide to follow Islam, or stop following Islam, so it isn’t like being a member of a race, but that gives the report its strength in that it provides a set of standards against which public treatment of a group due to their beliefs can be measured. And against that standard, many on the Remain side are guilty of consistent extreme phobic behaviour. Certainly a document that deserves much consideration.

10

Orange Watch 03.25.19 at 4:11 am

Dipper@9:
But first, implement the result of the previous referendum as promised.

So… advise the Parliament that a narrow majority of referendum voters were in favor of leaving? That was done on 24 June 2016. Result implemented. Next.

Oh, and ya might not wanna start a new Parliament if you wanna argue that Parliament definitely, absolutely cannot do anything but obey the advisory referendum that the prior Parliament passed. Not that keeping the old one would have bound the Parliament to act on the (again, for the umpteenth time, advisory) referendum. As has also been discussed ad nauseum. If Parliament wants to hold a new referendum, or for that matter repeal Article 50, they’re free to. If you want them bound and forbidden not to obey The Democratic Will of the People, you need to elect better Leave MPs who can actually write a clear, unambiguous, and above all binding referendum. It’s on you – not pro-Remain people – for electing such shoddy Leave MPs.

11

Chris Bertram 03.25.19 at 8:27 am

So, to recap, Dipper has, in this thread, compared Remainers to the Nazis, taken seriously a proposal by Andrew Lillico, and hinted that he is a victim of “phobic behaviour” akin to that suffered by Muslims in the West.

12

Chris Bertram 03.25.19 at 8:30 am

[At this point my interest as a prudent moderator points to banning Dipper from our comment threads as a source of pernicious nonsense, while my curiosity as a human being holds me back as I wonder: “what on earth will he say next?”]

13

Barry 03.25.19 at 11:54 am

Chris, the only question is the exact shape and nature of the sh*t flung into the debate.

14

SusanC 03.25.19 at 1:14 pm

The geographic breakdown of the signatories to the petition “Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU” are pretty interesting. Zooming in on the red areas with high levels of petition signers, I see:

Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) 16.46% of constituents signing — she’s defected to the Tiggers
Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) 21.46% signing – he’s still in the Labour party, but well known for his pro-European views

meanwhile, on the other end of the scale, we have:
Ian Paisley (North Antrim) 3.71% signing. His politics, are, shall we say, well known.

It’s interesting (and mildly encouraging) that the public positions of the MPs on Brexit roughly correlate with the views of their constituents as measured by sign up rate to this petition.

(% sign up was correct when I wrote this. The petition is still open, so the numbers may change).

15

PeteW 03.25.19 at 1:57 pm

@ChrisB
I’ve ignored Dipper for some time ago as he is impossible to debate with sensibly, his comments a string of logical fallacies, arguments by assertion, un-evidenced claims, non sequiturs, zombie points and Gish gallops.
However since there are not really any good arguments for Brexit, but to have a decent comments thread you need to have someone to argue with, I’d say he’s worth keeping around just to keep an important topic alive.

16

mpowell 03.25.19 at 3:25 pm

Dipper’s arguments against a second referendum are comically terrible and wrong, but he is an honest participant in the conversation and making one of the most calm and respectable cases for Brexit that I can imagine. Internal to his case, his arguments are contradictory and dishonest, but that’s a normal part of having opinions. Banning him would be a shame.

17

Scott P. 03.25.19 at 4:37 pm

A general election delivers a government of five years max, possibly less, when there is another election, but the elected parliament actually gets to sit and pass legislation.

The Leavers have had two years to pass legislation, but don’t seem to have been up to actually doing so.

18

Collin Street 03.25.19 at 7:25 pm

hile my curiosity as a human being holds me back as I wonder: “what on earth will he say next?”

Eh: narcissism is pretty predictable, tbh.

19

J-D 03.25.19 at 8:28 pm

Dipper

Anyone can decide to follow Islam, or stop following Islam, so it isn’t like being a member of a race, but that gives the report its strength in that it provides a set of standards against which public treatment of a group due to their beliefs can be measured. And against that standard, many on the Remain side are guilty of consistent extreme phobic behaviour.

Pics or it didn’t happen.

20

Dipper 03.25.19 at 8:41 pm

@ Orange Watch. – Parliament promised to implement the result of the referendum, and I’m just expecting them to do that. Otherwise, there is literally no point in listening to anything politicians promise as they can just renege on their promises the moment they get elected.

@ Chris Bertram “hinted that he is a victim of “phobic behaviour” akin to that suffered by Muslims in the West.”. Yes. That old Brexit chestnut “I’m not saying all Leavers are racists, but all racists voted to Leave.”. If anyone said anything similar about muslims, tying belief in Islam to activities carried out by some extreme muslims, they would quite rightly be condemned for Islamophobia. Tying criminal behaviour of a few to a larger movement is designed to discredit the validity of that movement. It is bigoted, and in some cases, racist behaviour. I’ve no problem calling that out.

@ PeteW ” his comments a string of logical fallacies, arguments by assertion, un-evidenced claims, non sequiturs” I provide links to evidence and facts as often as I can. I give an alternative view. No-one makes you read it. If you want to ignore it, go ahead.

21

Steve 03.25.19 at 11:18 pm

So, I agree that Dipper is an idiot, and I disagree entirely with his views on Brexit (I was at the march, even) but I think he’s pointing at something worrying about this entire mess – there was a vote. Even if it was, officially, advisory everyone knew it was, de facto, binding. Now I find myself trying to stop that vote from being enacted. Also, as Dipper pointed out in one of his rare moments of sanity, the fact that ‘leave’ wasn’t specified is hardly the Brexiteers’ fault – it can’t justify ignoring the result. That all makes me, as someone officially committed to democratic political norms feel uneasy. The fact that Farage et al would be equally (probably far more) aggressive had the vote gone the other way doesn’t make my actions any more democratic. I know enough political philosophy to be able to provide clever arguments as to why my agitating got a second vote is genuinely democratic. But I’m also pretty certain that those arguments are in bad faith; really, I just think that leave shouldn’t happen, regardless of whether remaining would be in line with democratic principles. None of that means that I think I’m all-things-considered wrong to agitate for remain. There are other values at stake here, after all. And, as I said, I think that most Brexiteers’ appeals to democracy are also hypocritical. But I do think there are some difficult issues here. It’s just impossible to know how they can be honestly debated.

22

Orange Watch 03.25.19 at 11:44 pm

Dippers@20:

For the final time: they could have made the referendum binding. It would have been straightforward to do so. They did not. Given that the Brexit sold to voters cannot come to pass (because OF COURSE the UK is not bargaining from a position of strength), it is clear that many who voted Leave may no longer want to Leave. And as noted by others, the same Torys who promised to abide by the non-binding referendum they devised have for two years failed to pass a Brexit bill that satisfied enough of Parliament to survive. Between the unsurprisingly-changed circumstances and the failure of the Torys to come to an agreement over what Brexit means, it’s entirely reasonable to revisit whether the people still want Brexit – just as it is also entirely reasonable to hold in disdain the government and MPs who sold you a bill of sales they can’t or won’t deliver. But again, that’s between you and your shoddy Leave MPs. No one else is obliged to be upset by any hypothetical failure of your attempt to buy whatever moonshine your chosen grifters decided to sell you.

23

John Quiggin 03.26.19 at 1:25 am

To restate a point I’ve made before. A promise to the voters can reasonably be regarded as binding on those who made it. In this case, the promise was made by David Cameron, and the majority of the Parliament in which he was PM. Leavers are entitled to be upset that, rather than implementing the referendum result as he had promised, Cameron scarpered. They might also be upset that, rather than following through, May dissolved the Parliament, and a new one was elected.

But that’s where it stops. Cameron’s promise doesn’t bind (for example) Jeremy Corbyn, any more than, if Corbyn won an election promising socialism, his promise would bind his successors. And there’s nothing clearer in the British unwritten constitution than that each Parliament is supreme, and can override any decision of its predecessors.

The fact is that, after the referendum result, Cameron and then May had nearly a full term to deliver on the promise. They failed to do so, and that’s that.

24

faustusnotes 03.26.19 at 1:58 am

It’s worth remembering that the brexit leaders themselves said that they would consider a 52-48 loss for leave to be “unfinished business” and would keep pushing for brexit. There was a huge banner held up at the march quoting David Davis on this exact point.

So when leavers like Dipper claim to be appalled at the gall of these marchers wanting to undo the result, they’re posturing. We know that if it had gone the other way they’d have kept pushing until they won.

25

J-D 03.26.19 at 5:41 am

Dipper

Oh, wait, what? That’s what you meant? I have seen reports from the UK, since the referendum, of abusive harassment and threats of violence (all perpetrated, in all the reports I’ve seen, by supporters of Brexit), but that’s not the kind of thing you meant when you used the expression (and I quote your exact words) ‘consistent extreme phobic behaviour’ by ‘many on the Remain side ‘. No, all you meant by that was

That old Brexit chestnut “I’m not saying all Leavers are racists, but all racists voted to Leave.”. If anyone said anything similar about muslims, tying belief in Islam to activities carried out by some extreme muslims, they would quite rightly be condemned for Islamophobia. Tying criminal behaviour of a few to a larger movement is designed to discredit the validity of that movement. It is bigoted, and in some cases, racist behaviour. I’ve no problem calling that out.

You don’t know you’re born, do you?

26

Neville Morley 03.26.19 at 9:03 am

A few people, on the Twitter and in the press, have mentioned the example of the Mytilene Debate, in which the Athenians changed their mind about massacring the entire population of a rebellious ally, as precedent for democracies having legitimate second thoughts. I’m more struck by how far the arguments against any reconsideration of the 2016 referendum almost perfectly duplicate those offered by the notorious demagogue Cleon against reopening the Mytilene issue; in particular, praise for never changing decisions once taken, and denigration of the opposition as snooty experts wanting to be cleverer than ordinary citizens.

27

Dipper 03.26.19 at 10:10 am

@ John Quiggin “The fact is that, after the referendum result, Cameron and then May had nearly a full term to deliver on the promise. They failed to do so, and that’s that.” To repeat to the point of tedium, Parliament as a whole voted 6:1 to hold the referendum. Both, major parties were elected on manifestos that pledged to honour the result and take the UK out of the EU and out of a customs union. So to repeat a very basic point, this isn’t about this party or that party, this leader or that leader, it is about Parliament as a whole.

@ faustusnotes. Justifying your own behaviour on the grounds that others would have done the same is not a good look. Campaigning to re-enter the EU once we have left is a reasonable thing to do; conspiring to overthrow a democratic vote just because you don’t agree is not.

@ J-D “You don’t know you’re born, do you?”. All national politics is a family argument, and family arguments are generally impenetrable to outsiders and so it is with Brexit. People dredge up things that happened years ago. So here’s something I’m dredging up. In towns across the country it became apparent that there was “child grooming” occurring on an industrial scale; literally thousands of girls. This happened not out of sight but in clear view of police and social work departments who decided to give this criminality its own special name “child prostitution”, hence implicitly blaming the victims, and deciding that taking no action was the easiest path.

Most of these towns are also heavily Leave voting areas. So when well connected and privileged people start going on about how stupid people who voted Leave are, it carries a resonance that is perhaps not evident to people outside the country: That these people are poor because they are stupid, that they deserve their miserable fate, that we can just write off their opinions and their votes because we are so much smarter and better people.

It is possible if you follow a London/University town-based media and live exclusively in that circle that you can convince yourself that revoking A50 is a reasonable thing to do. But outside that bubble, it isn’t. The Daily Telegraph reports a majority believing Parliament is determined to thwart Brexit, and that “Remain-supporting MPs and other Establishment figures trying to stop Brexit had damaged the UK’s negotiating position with the EU”.

In certain quarters people are incandescent with rage about what is happening. This isn;’t clever politics. It isn’t good citizenship. It will have long term consequences, none of them good.

28

SusanC 03.26.19 at 11:07 am

Taking a further quick look at the petition demographics vs last night’s vote in Parliament, the main exception I can see to the hypothesis that Brexity MPs have Brexity constituents is:

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) – 19.56% petition signup, but the MP voted against last night’s amendment.

29

HcCarey 03.26.19 at 11:44 am

It’s remarkable to see the difference in energy and tone between the leave march and the don’t leave march. The petition is pretty remarkable too–5.7 million signatures as of this writing. oops–now over 5.7 million.

I can understand people who say “we voted to leave, why haven’t we left yet,” but it’s a lot like saying “we voted for flying cars, why aren’t there flying cars yet?”

It seems pretty clear that nobody give the irish border much thought, and there are very clear legal obligations there under the Easter accords that can’t just be hand waved away as if they never existed. And nobody gave much thought to the actual complications, like EU residents in England or English people abroad, or import/export difficulties, or non English companies leaving. It hasn’t magically happened for the same reason as flying cars.

If there should be a 2nd referendum, and it goes against leaving, as it almost surely would, then surely the “leave” constituency won’t go away, and it can continue to build a stable, realistic and workable political groundwork for leaving. Flying cars are getting closer to possible, it seems. There should be a way to manage an orderly brexit: start with finding a solution to the Irish border first before announcing a leave.

That seems reasonable. But these are not reasonable times

30

Z 03.26.19 at 1:48 pm

However since there are not really any good arguments for Brexit, but to have a decent comments thread you need to have someone to argue with, I’d say he’s worth keeping around just to keep an important topic alive.

I think that is important and correct. So I should come out and declare that I’m mildly pro-Brexit, in the sense that I believe that the UK should leave the EU. Why?

I think [Dipper]’s pointing at something worrying about this entire mess – there was a vote. Even if it was, officially, advisory everyone knew it was, de facto, binding. [T]he fact that ‘leave’ wasn’t specified is hardly the Brexiteers’ fault – it can’t justify ignoring the result. That all makes me, as someone officially committed to democratic political norms feel uneasy

I would go even further. The entirety of my philosophical understanding of political structures rests on the ideas that, ultimately, people should have the ability to have their voice be heard, and policies being devised based on what is expressed. And indeed, the British electorate was given a choice, in a way no worse and arguably some deal better than any other political choice given to people, and it did express a preference. I believe it is desirable that this choice be implemented, if only for people to experience what it means and be able to evaluate its consequences.

The idea that the representatives’s inability (think of the word representative) to decide on an actual implementation of a political choice that was expressed could invalidate this expressed preference sounds terrifyingly anti-democratic to me, and creates a terrible precedent which I expect will be used 99% of the time against policies that I myself support or even find indispensable (a general transformation of the society in order to grant an equalitarian living to everyone while preserving the ecosystem? Sure you voted for it, but it just happens that we representatives are unable to agree among ourselves how to do it, so let us just decide we continue business as usual).

Of course, it follows from that position that I believe that people can change their mind (indeed, it is precisely their ability to change their mind that underlies my whole approach) so if a political party were to explicitly campaign for a second referendum, were to gain a majority, then organized this referendum and if Remain were to win, I would be fully in favor of the UK remaining. But only under these circumstances, or something approaching them.

I’ll add that the discussion is not theoretical for me. France organized a referendum on the Constitutional treaty. People soundly rejected it. It was adopted nevertheless through the parliamentary procedure. I consider this a gross violation of democratic norms that left open wounds in the French society which are far from being healed (in fact, they have been especially apparent these last four months).

31

Barry 03.26.19 at 1:55 pm

Steve: “ Also, as Dipper pointed out in one of his rare moments of sanity, the fact that ‘leave’ wasn’t specified is hardly the Brexiteers’ fault – it can’t justify ignoring the result. ”

Actually, it can be, and in fact is the Brexiteers’ fault – if they had said ‘No Deal’ vs Stay, they’d have lost. Instead, they left that open and lied about what it meant,

Although this does open up a new opportunity – vote for the UK to leave the EU as a member state, converting itself to a colony of the EU, since the UK is clearly not ready for self-rule.

That would be an actual ‘Leave’.

32

Wats 03.26.19 at 2:01 pm

Steve worries that the standard political philosophy arguments (Wollheim, I suppose) as to why campaigning to overturn a democratic vote is acceptable democratic practice involve bad faith. I’m not sure why this should be so, although some people may be guilty of condemning such campaigns when they approve of the original result and approving them when they don’t. Whether or not such campaigns are undemocratic or not depends on what you view you take of the ‘binding’ quality of democratic votes – they certainly bind you to obey the law, but not, I think, to change your mind or to refrain from seeking to reverse the original decision by democratic means. There’s a lot of bad faith in evidence on the part of Leavers who want to see the 2016 vote ‘respected’ in these more expansive ways, even though it seeks to reverse an earlier referendum result. Had remain won, there would no doubt have been some of this (maybe a lot, who knows?) on the remain side too, but speaking for myself, my take on this was forged in response to a different set of referendums on a different issue a long time before Brexit reared its ugly head, so I think I’m immune to bad faith here (on this issue at least) and I think Steve should be able to campaign with a clear conscience on this score too (probably).

33

PeteW 03.26.19 at 5:49 pm

Steve@21

“Even if it was, officially, advisory everyone knew it was, de facto, binding. “

Inserting the adjectives “officially” and “de facto” don’t make this sentence any less contradictory I’m afraid. The referendum was advisory.

“Also, as Dipper pointed out in one of his rare moments of sanity, the fact that ‘leave’ wasn’t specified is hardly the Brexiteers’ fault – it can’t justify ignoring the result.”

The fact the leave wasn’t specified means that there isn’t a result – that’s the problem. A yes/no question for a multiple choice answer. Can’t work.

You shouldn’t feel uneasy about continuing to agitate for Remain unless you are advocating a military coup or some other usurpation of the democratic process. Please don’t fall for the Brexiters “but a new vote would be undemocratic” lie.

A rejection of Leave by Parliament or a new referendum are both perfectly legitimate. What is done democratically can be undone democratically.

34

Dipper 03.26.19 at 8:41 pm

… and right on cue here comes the EU legislating everything in sight. Vaping is a considerable health benefit over smoking according to the NHS , and here comes the EU deciding to impose restrictions on vaping over the heads of the UK government that will prevent the benefits from being realised. Then there’s the EU internet controls and the infamous Article 13 that makes the internet “a tool for control” and promises to make the EU internet a content-free space. We haven’t even got onto cars and automatic speed limiters yet.

A monolithic top-down technocratic organisation that makes laws for and on behalf of big businesses, that encourages monopolies, and delivers low growth and crushing economic conditions across much of its domain. This is literally what you were all marching for; for this lot to govern the UK instead of an elected government.

35

J-D 03.26.19 at 11:32 pm

Dipper

A monolithic top-down technocratic organisation that makes laws for and on behalf of big businesses, that encourages monopolies, and delivers low growth and crushing economic conditions across much of its domain.

The Conservative Party?

36

RobinM 03.27.19 at 12:12 am

My perhaps mistaken and perhaps even somewhat biassed observation is that this site is heavily weighted in favour of Remain and that it is not unknown for commentators to condescend or even insult their opponents, which no doubt leads some of these opponents to respond in kind. And vice versa, no doubt. So I’d second the positive parts of what PeteW @ 15 and mpowell @ 16 says about Dipper.

Wrt Barry @ 31, maybe I haven’t followed the several years long debates closely enough, but did anyone actually consider putting a “ ’No Deal vs Stay” question forward? Isn’t that a choice that originates only in hindsight?

And lastly, I’m glad Z @ 30 brought up the constitutional issue, by which I mean the EU constitutional system. Again, I may be mistaken, but it seems to me those arguing for Remain, while they do often spell out some of the EU’s undoubted benefits, they rarely discuss what kind of political system it is and how it operates. Dipper @ 34 states his concern rather vigorously, but it’s quite in line with Z’s closing observation on how the EU overcame the rejection of the constitution and, he might have added, with how it also overcame Ireland’s rejection of Lisbon, the constitution as rewritten to evade the block France in particular had imposed on it.

These are the sorts of things which trouble me. Would PeteW, who @ 15 asserts that “there are not any good arguments for Brexit,” dismiss such concerns, which I’ve certainly seen addressed elsewhere? Are policy outputs the only legitimate concern?

37

J-D 03.27.19 at 4:43 am

Z

I value democracy highly, but it’s not the only thing I value, and I don’t think anybody should value democracy alone and nothing else. It is unfeasible in principle to make the will of the majority the only evaluative standard: the only way to proceed from the situation where the will of the majority is unknown to the situation where it is known is to elicit from people judgements which must, necessarily, have been formed in ignorance of the majority judgement. A monstrous atrocity does not cease to be a monstrous atrocity solely because it has won majority endorsement. The Athenian Assembly was right to rescind its decision for the destruction of Mitylene; adhering to the decision on the second day would have received no justification from arguing that it was endorsed by the majority on the first day. There is a difference between the position that a democratic decision should not lightly be defied and the position that a democratic decision should never be defied.

The precedent a decision will create is also an important consideration, not lightly to be disregarded: but it also doesn’t always override every other consideration.

38

PeteW 03.27.19 at 7:38 am

RobinM@36

You say the EU ‘overcame the rejection’ of its constitution by the French, and of Lisbon by the Irish, implying I think that this was devious, undemocratic and wrong, and ask if I would dismiss such concerns.

My understanding of the French decision was that it was taken by the democratically elected French parliament, so if you wish to cast blame, there it lies. The EU often seems to be scapegoated by national politicians for decisions taken by … national politicians.

As for Ireland, the original Lisbon amendment was rejected in a referendum by a margin of 53.4% to 46.6%, with a turnout of 53.1%.

After negotiations to meet Irish concerns, it was then overwhelmingly approved by the same electorate by 67.1% to 32.9%, on a turnout of 59% – a vastly bigger margin on a higher turnout.

Does that really reflect badly on the EU?

39

SusanC 03.27.19 at 9:34 am

Although the referendum might have been advisory from the perspective of cnstitutional law, one of lessons of this whole mess is that, politically, it is a really bad idea to hold a referendum if you don’t have a plan for what to do after each of the two possible outcomes of the vote.

I’m in two minds about the proposal for a second referendum. Remainers are large agreed that Cameron was a total idiot for holding a referendum in the first time. Holding a second referendum seems to be repeating the same mistake.

(though the second time the leave option could be a concrete propsal that the government is really going to act on if it passes)

40

Z 03.27.19 at 10:32 am

J-D the only way to proceed from the situation where the will of the majority is unknown to the situation where it is known is to elicit from people judgements which must, necessarily, have been formed in ignorance of the majority judgement.

Well, yes. And a judgment has been elicited from the British public that it had a general preference for leaving the EU rather than remaining in it. Now other judgments must be elicited in how exactly this should happen. But the failure to do the second part should not in itself invalidate what we have learned in the first one, in my view.

A monstrous atrocity does not cease to be a monstrous atrocity solely because it has won majority endorsement

Sure, but that is way to general a statement to be of any use. In the case under discussion, it seems unreasonable to me to characterize Brexit as a monstrous atrocity. And even if you do believe that, the fact remains that many policies I support or even find indispensable are considered monstrous atrocities by powerful segments of the oligarchic elites or by sizable part of the electorate and that many policies comparable in their effect to Brexit are routinely adopted with far less consideration for the will of the electorate, so I see no good reason to single out this particular issue (I think that even rather dire estimates of a no-deal Brexit are within the range of a 5% recession, much less than what Greece experienced under the Troika, while a serious and rapid decarbonization of the economy could arguably lead to a comparable temporary or even permanent diminution of GDP – something I find desirable).

There is a difference between the position that a democratic decision should not lightly be defied and the position that a democratic decision should never be defied.

Again, I find this statement way too general to convey an actual meaning. The real question to me is not couched in absolute terms like “never”, it is simply what justifies going for the less democratic mean against the more democratic one when taking a collective decision, and my standards in that respect are quite high. In the particular case of Brexit, there are very clear and very easy way to go with the more democratic route (I outlined one above: exert political pressure in order for a majority in the Parliament to call for a second referendum, campaign so that Remain wins that one, others are easily imagined). I see no reason not to go the democratic way in that particular case. The idea, on the other hand, that the failure of representatives to implement a political preference should lead, in this particular case, to the discarding of the expression of this preference is for me the very negation of democracy.

41

PeteW 03.27.19 at 1:19 pm

Z

You say “The idea that the representatives’s inability … to decide on an actual implementation of a political choice that was expressed could invalidate this expressed preference sounds terrifyingly anti-democratic to me, and creates a terrible precedent …”

This does not deal with the central fact that the referendum did not express a political choice, only the appearance of one. I am mystified as to how few people remark on this, as it seems so obvious and to invalidate the referendum.

I heard this likened recently to the UK deciding to vote on its favourite day of the week, then posing the referendum question as:
(a) Saturday
(b) Any other day

Clearly this would not answer the question at issue [and incidentally would be unfairly weighted against (a)]. Yet that’s what the UK did.

Here’s a more detailed look at the flaws in the referendum (though some of the comments after are a bit depressing)

https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2017/05/17/the-brexit-referendum-question-was-flawed-in-its-design/

The question for me is what a country does if it has held a flawed referendum. A mature, smart democracy with responsible politicians would recognise it screwed up, admit fault, take responsibility and re-think/re-design the process. It would not plough on regardless with the attitude “well, maybe we screwed up, but we’ve done it now, let’s not go back”.

42

David 03.27.19 at 2:23 pm

Getting very bored of Adonis’s shtick about what is obviously – if you look across all the characters involved – an Oxford problem not an Eton problem.

43

Z 03.27.19 at 3:41 pm

PeteW This does not deal with the central fact that the referendum did not express a political choice, only the appearance of one. I am mystified as to how few people remark on this, as it seems so obvious and to invalidate the referendum.

Collective expression of political choices are always imperfect, if only as a matter of elementary properties of logic. So while I agree of course with the statement that the Brexit referendum expressed a very imperfect form of political choice, the point is that in relative term, it is equally true that the US electoral college giving the Presidency to Trump, or the two-round system of French elections giving an absolute majority to Macron, or the coalition system of Italy giving power to the Lega-M5S coalition were very imperfect expressions of political choices (usually far worse expressions than Brexit, which at least dealt with one single question). By your standards, all these should be invalidated, and indeed I don’t think many elections could escape invalidity.

And perhaps that is the appropriate relation we should have with elections as they are used in our contemporary so-called democracies, but then the correct course for action surely is to call for more genuine democracy, that is for more direct involvement of the public in public affairs, and certainly not for the overturning of the one particular issue in which your favored position happened to lose.

44

RobinM 03.27.19 at 3:48 pm

PeteW @38

Thanks for your response.

My understanding is that the proposed EU constitution required the unanimous approval of each member state according to the method required or chosen in each state. France and the Netherlands (I think it was) each rejected the proposed constitution within days of each other, blocking the whole process.

The case of Ireland becomes interesting when considering how the EU behaves only in light of the fact that, as I’ve read in several accounts, the Lisbon treaty was a version of that same defeated constitution rewritten in order to circumvent the approval process the constitutional process had mandated—i.e., the French government, for one, no longer had to give the French people the last word on it. But then the Irish people voted against, and so blocked, the Lisbon treaty. At which point, pressure and inducements led to a re-run of the referendum in Ireland.

My concern is not with the Irish case per se. What I find troubling is what seems to me to be a troubling pattern: If the EU—and I’d emphasise, too, the governments of its member states—can’t get public approval, where public approval is required or becomes possible, for what they want to do, they just come back again and again, one way or another, until they get what they want.

As I see it, at least some of the Brexit vote should be seen in light of that: the British public was, after several decades, finally given an opportunity to pass a democratic judgement on a seemingly inexorably unfolding process.

Neither, perhaps, is it just the publics that are to be pressed until they give the right answer. So, too, perhaps, are the several legislatures? That’s why, although it might not come up with a decision I particularly favour, I’m pleased to see the British Parliament at this moment of writing putting a little bit of life into Dunning’s motion.

45

RobinM 03.27.19 at 3:51 pm

PS. I meant to write France and the Netherlands (I think it was) each rejected the proposed constitution in a referendum

46

Dipper 03.27.19 at 6:16 pm

@ PeteW “The question for me is what a country does if it has held a flawed referendum”. Well, you take it to court and get a judge to decide.

What the judge found is that “there is simply no evidential basis for the proposition that the breaches, or any of them, are material in the sense that, had they not occurred, the result of the referendum would have been different”.

Those opposing the validity and scope of the referendum are digging themselves a very big hole. The idea that you can overturn this referendum with another, and for that referendum then to be determined to be fairly fought, is fanciful. And as for the SNP, it is now clear that if Indyref2 produces a vote for independence, the losing side can claim that misleading statements were made and get the referendum annulled, and the UK government could threaten all sorts of punitive arrangements and then call another referendum. People should be careful what they wish for.

47

J-D 03.27.19 at 9:01 pm

Z

My general point is this: ‘because it has majority support’ is an insufficient justification for an individual supporting any position. From that follows this specific point: ‘because it has majority support’ is an insufficient justification for an individual supporting Brexit.

48

J-D 03.28.19 at 4:40 am

Dipper

I understand that it can be difficult to remember the contents of past exchanges with other commenters, but I find myself having to repeat the substance of comments which I have made to you in the past (because your current comment disregards them), and I hope you will understand if I express a preference for not having to go over the same ground repeatedly if it can be avoided. Therefore I would appreciate it if you could please try to fix some of the following points (both new and repeated) in your mind.

Everybody has a limited perspective, and not everybody works equally hard at trying to overcome this limitation. Therefore it is to be expected that there are people who understand the world only from within a London-Oxbridge bubble, or a Home Counties bubble, or something similar, and who therefore largely fail to understand how different things seem in other parts of the UK. However, it’s unjust to draw attention to this as if it’s something that only affects people in some places: if there are people in London who fail to understand how the world appears to people in Lincolnshire, there are also people in Lincolnshire who fail to understand how the world appears to people in London.

When you’re addressing me in particular, I would take it kindly if you remembered that I am not inside a London bubble: I’m on the other side of the world, as I’ve mentioned before.

I am, of course, aware of what other commenters here have written about you and, more generally, of what some Remain supporters say and write about Leave supporters. It’s unjust to draw attention to insults as if they’re only used by Remain supporters about Leave supporters; you yourself, for example, have made similarly dismissive remarks in comments here. Personally I think that most of the contemptuous dismissals of the other side are neither accurate nor helpful; the reason I used the expression ‘you don’t know you’re born’ is that, problematic as the insults are, they pale in comparison with the violence, threats, and harassment which, as far as I know, have been directed not at Leave supporters but at Remain supporters and/or foreigners, or people perceived as such. Still, whatever other commenters here may think or have written, I would take it kindly if you remembered when addressing me in particular that I don’t think that Remain supporters in general, or you in particular, are stupid. What I do think is that you, and Remain supporters in general, have made a bad decision and have offered bad arguments in support of it. Making bad decisions, and offering bad arguments in support of them, is not exclusively a habit of stupid people: everybody does it sometimes; I’ve done it myself. When I argue that you’ve made a bad decision and are offering bad arguments in support of it, it’s not because I want to prove that you’re stupid or that I’m smarter than you. I think that skill in recognising flaws in reasoning is worth developing, for everybody.

You’ve complained more than once before about the way that the views of the population at large are disregarded by the holders of power, and I’ve responded previously that I think that, in a general way (although not necessarily in every specific instance), that kind of complaint is valid and justified. On the whole, people are compelled to live with the effects of decisions which they weren’t given a reasonable opportunity to participate in, and to a large extent they are justified in resenting this. However, I have also responded to you previously to point out that such complaints occur outside the EU just as they do within it. The problem is real, and important, but there is no good reason to think that leaving the EU will make things any better. I acknowledge that many Leave supporters are motivated in large part by this kind of justified resentment, but I think they’re misdirecting it. To me it seems that the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg are typical of the category of people against whom this resentment should more justifiably be directed, and therefore it seems to me natural to suspect that such people are deliberately misdirecting this resentment: in other words, as I’ve observed before, that people like that are playing Leave supporters like you for suckers.

I’ve had the experience of being played for a sucker myself. It’s not something that happens only to fools, but when you’re the one it’s happened to it’s natural to feel a bit of a fool. So if somebody tells you you’ve been played for a sucker, it can feel as if you’re being called a fool, and it’s natural to resent that. But you do yourself no favours if you refuse to consider the possibility that you could be–or could have been–played for a sucker. The impulse to refuse to consider that possibility is an impulse that grifters exploit.

Another kind of exchange we’ve had previously is one in which you’ve indicated that you think your government and your Parliament have made a terrible mess of the process since the referendum. I agree with that and, as I’ve pointed out in previous exchanges, so do many Remain supporters (as well as many Leave supporters, I don’t dispute that), including commenters here. I think you’d be hard pressed to find many people who think the process has been handled well. However, you want to put all the blame for the mess that has been made on Remain supporters. That’s not justified. There’s not just one person who is responsible for the mess, but the one person who has the largest share of responsibility is Theresa May. It’s true that she supported Remain in the referendum, but in messing up the process she hasn’t been acting as a Remain supporter, or on behalf of Remain supporters, and there’s no justification for holding Remain supporters generally responsible for what she’s done. You’ve mentioned that there’s a House of Commons with a majority of Remain supporters; actually I don’t know for certain that this is true, but it seems likely enough that I’m prepared to accept that it’s so until it’s demonstrated otherwise. However, if it is true, the reason it’s true is that the people of the UK voted for a House of Commons with a majority of Remain supporters, and that vote is more recent than the referendum vote: do you have any justification for treating the people’s vote in the 2017 election with less respect than their vote in the 2016 referendum? In any case, the mess that has been made has not been made by Remain supporters in the House of Commons voting together as Remain supporters. Even majority belief that it’s so wouldn’t make it true.

49

PeteW 03.28.19 at 7:23 am

Z

Of course I agree that all political choices (and indeed systems and processes) are imperfect and we should always strive to improve them.

My point about the Brexit referendum is not that it was imperfect but that it was fundamentally unfit for purpose. The question posed could not deliver the outcome sought. This invalidates it.

This is encapsulated in the vapid slogan Leave Means Leave. It sounds like a tautology but is in fact untrue: Leave in practice does not mean leave: it means move. The UK cannot leave a relationship with the rest of the EU, or with all the other countries with which it currently has agreements via the EU, any more than it can uncouple from the planet and float into space: instead it must move from one relationship to another. But the question of where the UK moves to was neither asked nor answered. Hence the impasse.

50

PeteW 03.28.19 at 7:38 am

RobinM

I have re-read your comments and your concern seems to be that the EU pressures both voters and governments until they crack and give it what it wants, and that this is part of a ‘seemingly inexorably unfolding process’.

To take the first part first, the EU is a democratic institution and if its citizens dislike the way it acts they can do something about it at the ballot box, by lobbying or by other means.

Secondly, elected national politicians ‘giving in’ to the EU is generally not a good look for them and most of them resist it stoutly; indeed as noted above they are more likely to scapegoat the EU than kowtow to it. As for the ‘publics’, I have never known a single person change their vote on any issue because they felt pressure from the EU!

Thirdly, the EU can seem inexorable because it is constantly changing – because the world in which it exists is constantly changing.. It will never, can never, stand still. That is nothing sinister: it’s just life..

51

HcCarey 03.28.19 at 10:58 am

Here again while I can certainly understand the leave arguments, and agree that they aren’t necessarily or entirely racist or xenophobic, the idea that the referendum of two years ago is binding in perpetuity is manifestly absurd.

It expressed an aspiration, which government then attempted to bring about. Bringing it about has proven to be hard, which should surprise no one, and so back to the drawing board. Hold another referendum and ask the democracy which of these x options it prefers. We all know this won’t work well, because the democracy for the most part can’t be arsed to look closely at anything: that’s what elected officials are for. But at least you get some guidance.

You can’t have that, though, because the side that won two years ago knows they’ll lose ground or lose altogether this time, and all the high flown talk about the sacredness of democracy is only serving to conceal this fact. It’s a general rule: the more pious the rhetoric, the more lying is going on.

And this Irish American feels obliged to point out that despite the discoursing about democracy, almost the entirety of the brexit problem is Ireland, which English democracy rather typically took for granted and ignored. The border problem will not go away, and England is now having to confront consequences of undemocratic backyard colonialism.

So once again, the more pious the rhetoric about democracy becomes, the more sure one can be that something is being elided.

As an American, of course, I can’t claim any moral high ground here. But its a relief to turn away from our own dumpster fire and criticize somebody else

52

Dipper 03.28.19 at 3:46 pm

@ PeteW and HcCarey. Much there is reasonable. One thing this episode has shown is that exercising power and making choices is hard, being powerless and shrugging your shoulders is easy. To that extent Remain is an easy case to make. We are powerless, and can do no more. Look how all these people will gang up on us if we resist.

As for the democracy of the EU, it looks like this is going to become an issue shortly, particularly if 17 million Leavers get a vote in the EU elections. I look forward to a populist European Parliament sticking it to the Commission.

@ J-D. thanks for taking the time to write that.

I get that you are not in the London bubble. I do try and give non-UK readers a flavour of some of what is going on here. And nations are like families; every other family’s problems are simple and trivial, but your own family feuds are bitter and intractable.

I get that you are saying there were some charlatans on the Leave side, that you think the post-Brexit experience has demonstrated this, but I think you are missing something basic here. Believe it or not, I do spend quite a lot of time wondering if voting Leave was a mistake. Remain was a perfectly acceptable decision for individuals to make. I was fairly undecided when Cameron’s “renogotiations” started. But I keep coming back to the same things. Massive uncontrolled population growth, a low-growth over-regulated economic area, and a raison d’être of pacifying Germany that is not in the UK’s interests. And FOM may be an important argument for many on here, but round here we are living it daily in utter congestion, over-stretched public services, numerous inappropriate house-building developments occurring in every corner, and we haven’t even started on the new towns in this area yet. Everyone is absolutely sick of it. Including the Polish woman who runs our local protest group.

You are right about Theresa May taking most of the responsibility for this. But she was chosen by the Tories so they have to look at themselves. Again, all this talk of this being “just a small problem in the Tory party” was shown to be nonsense by the massive Leave vote. I hadn’t anticipated before the referendum what a problem it would be having a Remain Pro-EU political class and civil service, although back in Feb 2016 Peter Hitchens foresaw most of the problems, and said “If we voted to leave, who would implement the decision? “. It is true that this Remain Parliament was voted in by the people, but 85% of MPs were elected on manifestoes that promised to respect the referendum and leave the Customs Union. If we cannot trust MPs to honour their public promises, then the first issue for many electors at the next GE is not Tory/Labour but to look down the candidates list and choose Leave or Remain. I honestly have no idea what to expect from the next GE (which I expect to be this year), apart from a lot of strange and local voting behaviour.

The option of simply saying “we made a mistake” (and I don’t think we did) isn’t available. Again, you have to understand the various regional and class splits to understand how toxic this is. Verhofstadt spoke of Leave voters as stupid. He is calling openly for revolt in the UK. Tusk has said the EU should listen to the “million” marchers and the 6 million people on the ePetition, but not the 17 million people who voted to Leave. We do notice this kind of calculated insult. Open hostility to people you wish to rule is not normally associated with peace-loving democratic nations.

It is quite clear what the fate of the Leave voters and Leave voting areas is if Brexit is cancelled. There isn’t a deal of consideration in exchange for overturning the vote. There isn’t any recognition that things must change. Our fate is to become non-people. People who can be ignored and over-ruled. People who cannot be trusted to make decisions. People who can be gratuitously insulted as a mass by politicians inside and outside the country with no comeback. We will in effect have a Vichy government, governing the nation on behalf of foreign powers.

I’m not sure the EU, or at least many off the leading politics, have thought through where this goes in the long run. People talk about Ireland and the UK as if they were countries with equal rights, but one is many times the size of the other. It isn’t possible long term to make 65 million subordinate to 5 million. And those Leave voters everyone likes to ridicule, if they were a nation it would be the 8th biggest nation in the EU. No matter how bad things look now, they can get a lot worse.

53

RobinM 03.28.19 at 10:13 pm

I thought I’d said more than I presently wanted to say on the subject, but being old and retired with not much else to do with my time, I’d like to respond to the commendably civil comments of PeteW @ 50 and HcCarey @ 51.

First, I was pretty OK with what HcCarey said until I got to his assertion that “the more pious the rhetoric about democracy becomes, the more sure one can be that something is being elided.” Since he brings his identity as an Irish American into the mix, I hope he won’t mind this Scot with both Irish Catholic and Irish Protestant ancestors remarking that he has been concerned about Ireland AND democracy at least since the People’s Democracy march was so appallingly attacked at Burntollet Bridge (can it really be half a century since that occurred? my, how my time has flown). I hope he would agree that a concern for democracy in England, in the UK, in the Atlantic archipelago, in the EU—and in the USA—can actually be a legitimate concern and not just pious elision.

I apologise for having to respond at greater length to PeteW. I take the central part of his comment to be that “the EU is a democratic institution and if its citizens dislike the way it acts they can do something about it at the ballot box, by lobbying or by other means.” As

As the discussion on this and on related threads has, I think, made clear, a distinction has to be drawn between the way politics and government works in principle and the way it works in practise. I can’t imagine anyone would look, for example, at how the British system has engaged with Brexit and say that their civics lessons on how a bill becomes law provide much insight into the shenanigans of the last few wasted years. Similarly for the EU.

I have no wish to claim any great expertise on the matter (and I’m sure there are others who read and contribute to CrookedTimber who actually do have such expertise and can set me straight if they have a mind to), but I have to say that PeteW’s depiction of the way the EU functions (in the part I quoted above) doesn’t come close to being how it works in principle, much less in practise.

It’s all very complicated, and I’ll admit oversimplification by selective quotation is a danger, but I don’t see how Pete’s notion can be operable in light of the following descriptive passages from the “Treaty of Lisbon explained” —accessed at https://everything.explained.today/Treaty_of_Lisbon/

On the powers and functions of the European Parliament:

“The Parliament and Council have been compared to the two chambers of a bicameral legislature. However, there are some differences from national legislatures; for example, neither the Parliament nor the Council have the power of legislative initiative (except for the fact that the Council has the power in some intergovernmental matters). In Community matters, this is a power uniquely reserved for the European Commission (the executive). Therefore, while Parliament can amend and reject legislation, to make a proposal for legislation, it needs the Commission to draft a bill before anything can become law.”

As to the Council,
“[it] votes in one of three ways; unanimity, simple majority, or qualified majority. In most cases, the Council votes on issues by qualified majority voting, meaning that there must be a minimum of 55% of member states agreeing (at least 15) who together represent at least 65% of the EU population. A ‘blocking minority’ can only be formed by at least 4 member states representing at least 35% of the EU population.”

On the powers and functions of the European Commission:

“ Executive power: Before the Treaty of Lisbon came into force, the executive power of the EU was held by the Council: it conferred on the Commission such powers for it to exercise. However, the Council was allowed to withdraw these powers, exercise them directly, or impose conditions on their use. This aspect has been changed by the Treaty of Lisbon, after which the Commission exercises its powers just by virtue of the treaties. Powers are more restricted than most national executives, in part due to the Commission’s lack of power over areas like foreign policy – that power is held by the European Council, which some analysts have described as another executive.
“Considering that under the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council has become a formal institution with the power of appointing the Commission, it could be said that the two bodies hold the executive power of the EU (the European Council also holds individual national executive powers). However, it is the Commission that currently holds executive powers over the European Union. The governmental powers of the Commission have been such that some . . . have suggested changing its name to the “European Government”, calling the present name of the Commission “ridiculous”.
“Legislative initiative: The Commission differs from the other institutions in that it alone has legislative initiative in the EU. Only the Commission can make formal proposals for legislation: they cannot originate in the legislative branches. Under the Treaty of Lisbon, no legislative act is allowed in the field of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. In the other fields the Council and Parliament are able to request legislation; in most cases the Commission initiates the basis of these proposals. This monopoly is designed to ensure coordinated and coherent drafting of EU law . . . [T]he Council and Parliament may request the Commission to draft legislation, though the Commission does have the power to refuse to do so . . .”

Citizen access to policy making, both in terms of influencing its making and of being able to collectively criticise to some effect what is made, may not be all that great within the present British system, but I don’t see much scope for these within the present EU arrangements.

In closing, I’ll concede to Pete, that “the EU . . . is constantly changing,” and perhaps that is “because the world is constantly changing.” But surely what’s here being elided (to use that word again) is that change can go in various directions and that —as the present contest over Brexit within the UK makes clear—the direction it goes is determined to some degree by the struggle between social forces, including those embedded in existing constitutional arrangements.

54

Wats 03.29.19 at 9:55 am

Dipper’s last paragraph is an admirably clear example of the vein of imperial nostalgia that runs through so much Brexiter rhetoric: oh to return to a world where the small countries knew their place. This thought has also directly contributed to the way Westminster overlooked the problem of the Irish border at the outset, and then tried in vain to handle it as a bilateral issue between Ireland and the UK, rather than facing up to the fact that it is going to be a UK/EU border. Dipper has previously tried to push the line that this was a little local matter that should have been sorted out quietly between neighbours, but his concluding remarks here tell us all we need to know about how many Brexiters view their neighbours…

55

Neville Morley 03.29.19 at 11:58 am

Ah yes, the other bit of Thucydides that always gets quoted on such occasions: “Questions of justice (and treaty obligations) apply only between countries of equal power and population; otherwise the strong should be allowed to do whatever they like, and the weak suffer what they must.”

56

HcCarey 03.29.19 at 1:57 pm

RobinM Re: Burntollet: fair enough. You’ve got me there! Maybe I should say the more those in power are talking about democracy, the more you can assume something’s being elided.

It’s hard to avoid that fact that the majority in Northern Ireland voted to remain, primarily because the benefits of EU membership, in terms of the border and daily life, were so abundant. Or rather, it’s apparently NOT hard to ignore, because discussion of “democracy” in Brexit always ignores it. It’s difficult the imagine the rage that you must feel if you’re a dairy farmer on the border. Things were going really well. Now you’ll have to have a border apparatus nobody wants, in order to appease voters on the other island, a majority of whom apparently no longer want the thing the voted for, but which must be enacted even though it will likely bring disaster to you.

It seems to me, from far away, that it would be reasonable to extend Brexit, and examine the Irish border question, and when a reasonable solution is found (!) then begin Brexit anew. Because the Irish border is the entire problem, and within that, the stiff necks in the DUP. Like American southerners; they’d rather make themselves backward and miserable than cede any power to their perceived inferiors.

Sentimentally, I think of my ancestors and imagine a unified Ireland, but I’m not at all sure it’s something actual Irish people in the Republic really want.

57

Dipper 03.29.19 at 2:02 pm

@ Wats “Dipper’s last paragraph is an admirably clear example of the vein of imperial nostalgia that runs through so much Brexiter rhetoric” Nonsense. This is just lazy caricature to avoid discussing real issues. Classic Modern left wing “they say they are X, but really they are Y, and being Y is a bad thing so they are bad people” rubbish. If you want to find imperialists building empires, it is Macron and the EU

58

J-D 03.29.19 at 9:36 pm

Let’s play ‘Leaver or Remainer?’!

‘We could have two referendums. As it happens it might make more sense to have the second referendum after the renegotiation is completed.’ Who said that in the House of Commons on 24 October 2011? Leaver or Remainer?
‘The day after we vote for leave, we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.’ Who said that in a speech on 9 April 2016 (and where)? Leaver or Remainer?
‘Taking back control is a careful change, not a sudden step—we will negotiate the terms of a new deal before we start any legal process to leave.’ On which website did that appear on 13 April 2016? Leaver or Remainer?
‘In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way.’ Who said that in a newspaper interview on 16 May 2016? Leaver or Remainer?
‘I believe it is clearly in our national interest to remain a member of the European Union.’ Who said that in a speech on 25 May 2016? Leaver or Remainer?
‘Getting out of the EU can be quick and easy—the UK holds most of the cards in any negotiation.’ Who tweeted that on 17 July 2016? Leaver or Remainer?
‘There will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside.’ Who tweeted that on 10 October 2016? Leaver or Remainer?
‘There is no plan for no deal, because we’re going to get a great deal.’ Who said that in the House of Commons on 11 July 2017? Leaver or Remainer?
‘The Free Trade Agreement that we will do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history.’ Who said that on television on 20 July 2017? Leaver or Remainer?
‘Britain faces a simple and inescapable choice—stability and strong Government with me, or chaos with Ed Miliband.’ Who tweeted that on 3 May 2015? Leaver or Remainer?

(Much gratitude to ‘Led By Donkeys’: https://preview.tinyurl.com/y385n7gj)

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Wats 03.29.19 at 11:09 pm

@Dipper – the majority of people in Ireland (majorities both North and South) would rather take their chances with Macron et al. Having had the benefit of some historical experience of both imperial rule and European cooperation we’re a little clearer on the difference between them than some Brexiters appear to be. If Brexiters really thought they were tasked with escaping a burgeoning empire, perhaps they would have planned their exit strategy a little more carefully.

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Collin Street 03.30.19 at 11:57 am

they say they are X, but really they are Y, and being Y is a bad thing so they are bad people

But this isn’t actually fallacious reasoning, Dipper. It’s a well-formed syllogism; if there’s a problem with the conclusion there has to be a problem with the premises, and for you to believe in reasonable good faith that there’s an error in the conclusion you have believe that you’ve identified an error in the premises.

Which you would have mentioned if you had it, of course.

Dipper, watching you argue is like watching a six-year-old playing dress-up. You lack absolute foundation skills and you lack awareness that you lack those skills. How can you stand to humiliate yourself like this?

61

Orange Watch 03.30.19 at 9:19 pm

Dipper@52:

>Tusk has said the EU should listen to the “million” marchers and the 6 million people on the ePetition, but not the 17 million people who voted to Leave.
[…]
It isn’t possible long term to make 65 million subordinate to 5 million.

It’s rather… telling that when counting Leavers you return to the old 17mil referendum number, but when counting remainers you glom onto the new 6mil petition rather than the old 16mil referendum number. Not surprising, but telling.

Likewise, what does it say when 48mil are long-term made subordinate to 17mil?

You’re trying to portray this all as a matter of simple math and thus democracy, but there’s no basis for claiming that revising opinions is fundamentally undemocratic when circumstances do not meet prior expectations. To say nothing of the wisdom of refusing to allow the possibility of reconsidering a course of action when circumstances change…

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J-D 03.30.19 at 10:38 pm

Dipper

Political disempowerment is a real phenomenon, and the anger and resentment it causes are well-founded. However, the EU is not the cause of political disempowerment, leaving the EU will have no significant effect on it, and the direction of the anger and resentment it causes at the EU is a serious error with significant negative consequences. That is by far the most important point here: it will continue to be important regardless of how events develop from the current impasse.

I fully acknowledge that if the notice of withdrawal is revoked, there will be massive and fully understandable outrage, and I wouldn’t blame you and people like you for being outraged. However, there is no good path out of the current situation. If the UK leaves the EU with no withdrawal agreement, you and people like you should be pleased, but I hope you can understand why many other people will be massively outraged. I agree with you that the Conservative Party is primarily to blame for the current impasse (although that’s easy for me to say, having never liked the Conservative Party), but deciding who’s to blame for a situation never helps decide how to get out of it.

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John Quiggin 03.30.19 at 11:39 pm

A more fundamental problem with Dipper’s math is that he appears to count, among those will be outraged by a new vote, those who previously voted Leave and have now changed their minds. Only if such people are numerous* will a second referendum yield a different result. But presumably they will not be upset at being given a chance to express their change of mind.

* You could get also a change from
(a) the fact that the electorate has changed, due to young people reaching adulthood, old voters dying and migration. This is clearly a case where the option to change a past decision is an essential feature of democracy
(b) changes in turnout reflecting more enthusiasm among Remainers and less among Leavers. This doesn’t appear to help Dipper’s case eithre.

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J-D 03.31.19 at 1:09 am

Here are the answers to ‘Leaver or Remainer?’, in the same order as the questions:
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leaver
Michael Gove, at Vote Leave HQ, so obviously Leaver
Vote Leave, so again obviously Leaver
Nigel Farage, Leaver
Theresa May, Remainer
John Redwood, Leaver
David Davis, Leaver
Boris Johnson, Leaver
Liam Fox, Leaver
David Cameron, Remainer

65

JanieM 03.31.19 at 1:23 am

When some Irish officials a few weeks ago predicted that reinstating a hard border would trigger a return to violence, Dipper, among others with louder mics, went into a frenzy of accusation, calling those predictions a “threat.” But of course it’s okay (sort of like IOKIYAR) when Dipper makes a threat — No matter how bad things look now, they can get a lot worse — on the basis of the familiar old notion that might (in the form of superior numbers) makes right.

If one side in this mess is “subordinate” to the other on the basis of population, it’s not Ireland’s five million on the one side, but the population of the entire EU standing with Ireland. I don’t think it’s Eire that’s going to get the hardest lesson in how size matters.

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JanieM 03.31.19 at 2:00 am

Oops, that second paragraph came out confusingly, though hopefully it’s obvious what I meant: if population matters, Ireland isn’t the country that’s standing alone, and outnumbered.

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Dipper 03.31.19 at 6:41 am

@ wats – “the majority of people in Ireland” The people of Ireland are entitled to form whatever conclusion they want. But what is right for Ireland has no bearing on what is right for the UK.

@Collin Street – you are just inventing reasons why you can ignore anything anyone says and simply come up with your own description that suits you, and inventing reasons why you unreliable thought processes are always correct. I came across lots of people with your thinking apparatus whilst working in Financial Markets. Their unjustified hubris and self-confidence was a constant source of large amounts of profit. For us, not them.

@ Orange Watch – I was quoting Tusk’s own words. I am well aware 16 million people voted to Remain, but Tusk referred to the march and the petition specifically. “there’s no basis for claiming that revising opinions is fundamentally undemocratic when circumstances do not meet prior expectations” there is a clear moral hazard here that a government that loses a referendum can then act against the interests of the majority and force a second referendum. Expect to hear this argument again in any further Scottish referendum debate.

@J-D. I don’t like the EU but I don’t hold it responsible for where we are. That is entirely down to the UK.

@J-D. Yes I’m well aware of those comments. Political and economic shocks have a habit of making lots of people look stupid. I’m still waiting for that recession and mass unemployment I was promised by so many Remainers the moment we voted Leave.We can – and will – play this game all day long

The major shock post-referendum has not been the economy it has been the political establishment. They have clearly lost any ability to understand the UK’s political interests in any independent sense, and large parts of the senior civil service and political class can only conceive of a UK as part of the EU. They then pretend we are “influencing” the EU, but it became clear in Cameron’s “renegotiation” that we have no influence in our own interest.

@ John Quiggin. I look forward to you advancing similar arguments in other elections round the world to explain why the side that lost really won.

68

Dipper 03.31.19 at 6:57 am

if you’re fed up with my views on Brexit this from an ex-Brexit minister is a very reasonable summary of why we are where we are.

69

Dipper 03.31.19 at 5:24 pm

@ JanieM

I wasn’t threatening violence, just pointing out that politically things can get a lot worse from here. Funnily enough just discussing this with Dipper Jnr and we don’t think there will be politically significant violence. It isn’t in our bones, so to speak, to resort to political violence. We aren’t France. Instead, we will get Corbyn. But this whole episode demonstrates that making political predictions is generally futile.

70

Layman 03.31.19 at 5:34 pm

Who believes that, had Leave narrowly lost in the referendum, the adherents of
Brexit would have said ‘All right then’, given up on the idea and become happy Remainers? Who, on the other hand, believes that they would have decried the result, rededicated themselves to campaigning for Brexit, demanded another referendum, and even demanded that Parliament themselves take the matter into their own hands?

I think the question answers itself. But I do wonder what Dipper makes of it, and whether – having considered it – he might reflect on his view of the rightness of post-referendum Remain campaigners? Or does that question also answer itself?

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Wats 03.31.19 at 10:12 pm

@Dipper I think the views of the people in that part of Ireland which is part of the UK may have some bearing on this matter, but it’s abundantly clear that Brexiters (including the DUP, who have persistently thumbed their noses at the majority of voters in NI) don’t share this view.

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Hidari 04.01.19 at 9:33 am

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