Support 4 the Family

Referendum campaign

FAB says Leave: street stall in Farnborough

EU Referendum 2016

Mike Gascoigne, 31 July 2016

The latest events for Support 4 the Family were our fringe meeting at the UKIP Llandudno Conference in February and our exhibition stand at the Thornbury Conference in March. After that we had local elections in May and some of us were standing as candidates, then we had the EU referendum which we all knew was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve the primary objective of UKIP, that we have always held from the beginning, which is to leave the European Union. So we made the decision to suspend our usual activities, including a weekly Skype conference, so we could each focus on the referendum campaign in our local area.

I was involved with a group in Farnborough, Aldershot and Blackwater called "FAB Says Leave" made up of UKIP members, Eurosceptic Conservatives and people with no specific political affiliation. We were supported by our local Conservative MP, Sir Gerald Howarth who has long been in favour of leaving the European Union. We all got on just fine and worked well together, leafleting, putting up posters and correx boards, doing street stalls and public meetings, and then on the day of the referendum we worked as tellers, polling agents and counting agents.

I was at the count at Hart District where they returned a result marginally in favour of Remain, and I phoned our Campaign Chairman who said the adjacent district of Rushmoor had voted decisively in favour of Leave. Then I went home and watched the results coming in on TV until about 5:30am when they announced that the UK as a whole had voted Leave. By that time I was exhausted, I went to bed and dropped off to sleep straight away, out like a light, then got up at lunchtime and turned on the TV and found that people were going crazy as if some kind of disaster had happened. Remainers were going around bewildered, wondering how it's possible for Britain to do anything so ridiculous as to leave the European Union. They denounced the Leave voters as stupid, ignorant and racist and it soon became obvious that Britain had become a divided nation with the Remainers (mostly young people) denouncing their own parents and grandparents.

During the next few days they became organised and thousands of Remainers turned out in London to demonstrate against the referendum, complaining that the Leave campaign had lied about a figure of £350m / week that we pay to the EU and we had apparently failed to mention some money we get back in rebates and subsidies. It's nonsense, the rebates and subsidies were explained during numerous TV debates. The £350m is a gross figure over which we have no control. The rebate is not automatic, we have to fight for it every year and there is no guarantee that it will continue in the future, and the subsidies are for specific projects, we have no control over how they are spent.

The Remainers soon became known as the Remoaners because they were bad losers. The referendum campaign had continued for 10 weeks, longer than the usual campaign period for an election, because of the importance of the issues, and if the Remoaners thought there was something wrong with the £350m or any other aspect of the Leave campaign, they had plenty of opportunity to tell us about it. Instead they went off to Glastonbury and found there was nowhere they could vote, they had to vote at home, or they had to get a postal vote and if they got one they hadn't sent it off in time, or they didn't realise that they couldn't vote online, or they were so convinced that Remain would win, they thought voting was unnecessary. And if they are so intelligent and we are so stupid, why can't they understand about voting and get themselves to the polling booth?

They started calling for a second referendum, hoping that it will give them the result they want, and if it doesn't, what will they do then? Will they call for a third referendum, and a fourth referendum, and make it into a neverendum? They also claimed that the referendum has no legal authority and it's just "advisory" and the question of leaving the EU or remaining has to be debated by Parliament, and if they like, they can ignore our "advice". Even in Parliament and the judiciary, there are people who support these claims. It's ridiculous, there are people in high postions of influence who don't believe in democracy.

Democracy on Trial

An event occurred on 19th July 2016 that has huge implications for democracy. The High Court agreed to hear arguments (sometime in October) that the Government requires the consent of Parliament before it can trigger Article 50 and start the process of exit from the European Union. The Government will argue that it can trigger Article 50 under Royal Prerogative, without asking for the consent of Parliament, on the grounds that it already has the consent of the people expressed in the referendum.

The events that occurred in the High Court are described here.

I have always believed that in a democracy, the will of the people, expressed at electoral events, has to be implemented. That’s what I was taught at school when we had a mock election and the returning officer from the local council came in and gave us a talk about how democracy works.

He said that the people have absolute authority to decide the affairs of the nation, but we don’t get involved directly in every decision, it would be too time-consuming, so we elect representatives to a place called Parliament, and they make decisions on our behalf. Parliament has no absolute authority, it only has delegated authority, given to them by the people. Every five years, or sooner if circumstances require it, Parliament hands back its delegated authority to the people and we elect new representatives to Parliament, able to act with their new delegated authority.

In each session of Parliament a Prime Minister is appointed, normally the leader of the party with a working majority, and he/she appoints other Ministers and they are collectively known as the “Government”. If there is no party with a working majority there can be a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister from different parties and they form a coalition government. On some occasions there are issues that are beyond the delegated authority of both Parliament and Government, and they have to go back to the people with a referendum to make a decision about something. That’s what I was taught and it’s what I have always believed.

A referendum is the same as any other electoral event in the sense that the people have absolute authority and whatever they decide has to be implemented. But now something new has happened, we have had a referendum where all parties involved understood that they were being asked to make a decision, but as soon as the result was out, the losing side claimed that it was just “advisory” and it needs to be debated in Parliament as if Parliament itself, and not the people, had absolute authority.

The idea of an “advisory referendum” is ludicrous. There is already a process for advising Parliament, it’s called “writing to your MP”. There is no point organising a referendum if all they want is advice, and very few people would turn out to vote if that was all they were being asked for.

I am not aware of any event in the history of Britain, since the time of Cromwell, when the democratic will of the people has been undermined in this way. The campaign to leave the European Union will have to respond to this. We are moving into new ground, it’s turning into a campaign for democracy itself.

Will the Remoaners succeed in downgrading the referendum to "advisory"? I don't think so. The Government made it abundantly clear, both to Parliament and the public at the beginning of this process, that the electorate was being asked to make a decision, and the decision would be final and would be implemented. For details of the legal arguments see Lawyers for Britain.

New Government for Brexit

The Referendum was Prime Minister David Cameron's biggest gamble. He had been to Brussels to negotiate a new deal for the UK's membership of the European Union, and he didn't get everything he wanted but he thought it was good enough. He was concerned about rising Euro-scepticism and was already committed to having a referendum by the end of 2017 because of the Referendum Act 2015, so he decided to go for it on 23 June 2016. He campaigned for the UK to Remain within the "reformed European Union" as he called it, and if the country voted to Leave, the Government would trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, and it would be done without delay.

His gamble was an embarrassing defeat. On the day that the result was announced, he resigned as Prime Minister and said he would hand over the task of triggering Article 50 to his successor. There was a leadership contest, but instead of appointing a Leave campaigner as the new Prime Minister, we got another Remainer, Theresa May, although unlike Cameron she had not been an active campaigner. On the day that she was appointed she made a speech outside 10 Downing Street and said "Brexit means Brexit" but didn't say what Brexit actually means and is in no hurry to trigger Article 50. She says it won't happen until at least January 2017 because apparently a lot of preparation is needed. Since then she has gone round visiting people in Europe and in the devolved regions of the UK, but so far she hasn't done anything that justifies delaying Article 50. What's going on, does she actually have a plan for Brexit, or is she just playing for time?

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Post-referendum campaign

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