If Marchers Get Their Way It Will Be a Catastrophe for Britain and Democracy

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), October 21, 2018 | Go to article overview

If Marchers Get Their Way It Will Be a Catastrophe for Britain and Democracy


Byline: TIM MONTGOMERIE leading conservative commentator

WAS I affected by the summer heat on that glad confident morning of June 24, 2016? Was it because I'd been up all night, relishing the outcome I had dreamed of but hadn't expected? Or had that big bottle of celebratory bubbly bought by a friend been, well, a bit too big? I was certainly drunk with excitement when I bumped into Peter Mandelson as he left a TV interview and I arrived for one.

Aware this former European Union commissioner would be as deflated by Brexit's victory as I was giddily delighted, I searched for something positive to say and made what now seems a crazy suggestion: 'I know the referendum has gone the wrong way for you but I hope you and other people who understand Brussels can help with the negotiations.' He raised his eyebrow, forced a smile and we parted company.

And, my goodness, millions of Leavers and Remainers didn't just part that day, we've stayed apart.

Even if the likes of Lord Mandelson, Nick Clegg and John Major had wished to help with the divorce, their knowledge was never sought.

Perhaps Theresa May already understood what I didn't grasp - that no die-hard believer in the EU project could stomach giving any support to a separation they hated so much.

I fear, however, that the primary explanation for Mrs May's lack of any interest in building a big Brexit tent was revealed recently.

She didn't even consult her own Brexit and Foreign Secretaries when she formulated her Chequers plan. There are many explanations for the tortuous nature of what we're all going through, but crippling dysfunction in Downing Street is certainly one of them.

I can well understand, therefore, what motivated the tens of thousands of people who marched through London yesterday - demanding another referendum and a chance to go back to what we had before our long and ugly national quarrel divided us.

But there is no way back. A reversal now would amount to a national humiliation. The world will have watched Britain's politicians and Government fail to grasp the chance to return to being what most other nations across the globe already are: self-governing.

The country that once ran the world's largest empire would have decided it couldn't even manage itself. And while Britain would be a shrunken shadow of its former self, you can imagine what Brussels would think of itself.

OVER many years the EU machine has repeatedly bulldozed over the democratic decisions of member states. Greece's referendum rejecting the eurozone's punitive austerity regime didn't change anything. Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands have each voted against various EU projects in referendums, but none of the votes caused the EU to alter its plans in any significant ways.

But forcing the world's oldest parliamentary democracy and fifthlargest economy to accept that it can't survive without Brussels? It would be the biggest ever victory for the belief that has driven the European project from its inception - the idea that nation states and national parliaments should do as Brussels says.

You don't need to be a Leaver to recognise how humiliating such a reversal would be - and Britain wouldn't be the only democracy that would find itself diminished. Every EU state would note that not-so-Great Britain couldn't win a negotiation against the Brussels machine. The we-know-best cockiness that led its unelected bureaucrats to create the ever-widening eurozone would be back, but on steroids.

An EU army? Continent-wide systems of taxation? The towering dreams of the EU's Babel builders would get renewed life.

Their first grab would be for the rebate, won by Mrs Thatcher, that Britain gets from its outsized contribution to the EU budget.

Rather than getting billions back for public services such as the NHS, we'd need to find at least PS5billion more for Brussels - on top of what we already give. …

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