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I seek a software or sporting metaphor to explain why a second referendum would be wrong

When discussing Brexit I am often asked, not always disingenuously, “What is so wrong with having another referendum? Is not another vote more democratic by definition? Now that we know more, isn’t a good idea to check if people really do want to leave the European Union?”

I have been trying to think of a metaphor to explain what my objection to a second referendum is. The non-metaphorical explanation is that the government solemnly promised in the pamphlet sent to every household that whatever people voted for in the referendum of 23rd June 2016, “the government will implement what you decide”. A so-called democracy that will not allow certain results is a sham democracy.

(“Buuut,” comes the cry, “we aren’t disallowing any results. We’re just checking.”)

It was the European Union’s habit of ignoring or repeating referendums that gave the “wrong answer” which more than anything else turned me against it. I can truly say that even when it was in its infancy I foresaw that the trick of making a few cosmetic changes then running the referendum again would work devilishly well because it is difficult to describe in one sentence what is wrong with it. One can point out that it only ever seems to work one way: results of which the EU approves never seem to need to be confirmed. But to do that requires that you recite a whole chunk of history about Denmark and Ireland and the difference (clue: there wasn’t one) between the European Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty. If your interlocutor is young, as a lot of Europhiles are, then this is a lot to take in and a lot to take on trust.

I wish there were a quick, engaging story I could tell to show what I mean. Two possible types of anecdote occur to me, one from the world of sport and one from the world of computers. Being ignorant of both fields, I would like to ask readers if they know of anecdotes or examples from sporting history or computery stuff which would fit the bill.

Computers first: it infuriates me when the efforts of Microsoft or Samsung to get me to adopt their proprietary software seem almost to amount to harassment. I have a Samsung phone. One day this crappy thing called “Samsung internet” appeared on the front screen or whatever it’s called. I don’t recall that I ever asked for it but I cannot make it go away. To be honest I probably did ask for it in the sense that I once, once, failed to reject it on some occasion when some damn prompt asking me to take it popped up and I had to get rid of the pop-up quickly in order to get on with whatever I wanted to do.

That anecdote is probably wrong in its terminology. I may have been overly harsh to Samsung or its internet. The point is that this type of situation, where the user has to keep rejecting something that the software company is pushing, and if they slip up just once they are deemed to have accepted it, is widely recognized to be a right pain. Can anyone give me the words to make this a metaphor for why “neverendums” are a bad thing?

Or what about an example from the history of sport? Little though I know about sports, even I can see that there can be few things more frustrating for an athlete than to run the race of your life – and then have it announced that, “Oh, sorry, old chap, that was a false start. We’ll have to run it again.” This would be even worse if it were suspected that the sporting authorities had applied the rules in a partial manner. For instance there may have been times when white athletics officials were more prone to declare that a re-run was necessary if a black athlete won than if a white athlete did.

I may have described a similar situation regarding football in an earlier post I cannot find now.

Has this scenario actually happened? Dates, names and places please!

And if you know as little as I do of those two fields, how do you make the argument against a second referendum?

Or, if you prefer, what stories, anecdotes or metaphors do you use to argue in favour of a second referendum?

“Added impotence …”

Tweet of the day. That’s what Julia Hartley-Brewer says. She’s Tweeting about this Tweet:

Theresa May’s spokesman says the local election results “have given added impotence… I mean impetus,” to Brexit talks with Labour.

My position on Brexit is: I want it. As in: national legislative independence, no customs union, etc. I want Brexit in the way that the Brexit Party wants Brexit. As smooth as it can be but as unsmooth as it has to be.

But, my position on a Corbyn government is: I don’t want it. The second sentiment may well trump the first, for me, come the next general election. I don’t believe I’m the only one thinking like this. How odd that Corbyn and his pals, who have always wanted Britain out of the EU, may be the ones who end up keeping us in.

My hope is, if the Conservatives do now – to coin a phrase – succeed in failing to deliver the Brexit that they promised, that the Brexit Party will actually be a better bet than the Conservatives, come the next general election, to stop a Corbyn government. This because so many disappointed Labour Brexiters will be voting for the Brexit Party along with most of the formerly Conservative vote. So: No Corbyn government, actual Brexit. Two for two. I can hope.

Also: What if you are strongly pro-EU, but even more strongly anti-Corbyn. Might you also, in the circumstances just described, vote in a general election for the Brexit Party, if they looked like a better bet than the Conservatives to stop a Corbyn government? There presumably won’t be many such people, but maybe enough to make a difference.

Weird times.

A distant mirror

“Turkey officials order re-run of Istanbul election, voiding win for Erdogan opposition”, reports the Independent:

Turkish authorities on Monday ordered a redo of an election won by an opponent of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political party, snatching away a major victory from the country’s opposition.

Under heavy pressure by Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) Turkey’s High Election Commission (YSK), which is described as packed with the president’s loyalists, cancelled the results of 31 March Istanbul mayoral elections narrowly won by Ekrem Imamoglu, a rising star in the Turkish opposition.

The news was reported by Turkey’s state-run Anatolia News Agency. It sent the Turkish lira, already battered by inflation and high borrowing costs, tumbling.

Mr Imamoglu appearing before a crowd of supporters struck a defiant tone.
“We won this election by the hard work of millions of people; they attempted to steal our rightfully won elections,” he said. “We are thirsty for justice. The decision-makers in this country may be in a state unawareness, error or even treason, but we will never give up.”

The Times has also reported on this story: “Election chiefs order re-run of Istanbul poll Erdogan lost”.

Imamoglu, the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate who won the March 31 poll by 14,000 votes, of the office and duties that he had already assumed.

In a statement to crowds waving Turkish flags in the city’s Beylikduzu district hours after the announcement was made, Mr Imamoglu, 48, urged his supporters to “stand up against what you know to be immoral”.

Street protests broke out across the middle-class, secular neighbourhoods of Istanbul where support for Mr Imamoglu and his party runs highest.

The Guardian has followed Mr Imamoglu’s rise closely in recent months, not surprising given that Mr Imamoglu is a liberal secularist standing up for democracy against the Islamist demagagogue Erdoğan. For instance this admiring profile of Mr Imamoglu by Bethan McKernan appeared last month: “Ekrem İmamoğlu: a unifying political force to take on Erdoğan”. As it usually is, the Guardian‘s straight reporting of the story that the election is to be run again is fair enough: “Outcry as Turkey orders rerun of Istanbul mayoral election”. But something tells me that the newspaper’s liberal, secularist columnists may not leap with their customary vigour to defend Mr Imamoglu’s hard-won democratic victory against those in power who would use their control of procedure to make him fight it again. On the other hand, perhaps I am too pessimistic. They are all devotedly pro-EU, after all, and the left-wing MEP who might be thought of as the European Union’s spokesperson on Turkish affairs has spoken clearly and well:

Kati Piri, the European parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, said the decision “ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections” in the country.

Chinese tech, Five Eyes, and The British Establishment

The UK government led by Theresa May really is quite something, is it not?

Huawei is already embedded in Britain’s elite: in 2015 it appointed to head its UK board Lord Browne, the former chair of BP, who was ennobled by Tony Blair’s administration and served David Cameron too. At the same time, it appointed to its UK board as non-executive dierectors Dame Helen Alexander, formerly leader of the EU-loving Economist Group and Confederation of British Industry (now deceased), and Sir Andrew Cahn, a former civil servant who resigned from Cameron’s Trade and Investment Department in 2011 in order to chair Huawei’s new British advisory board.

May’s government is sacrificing national security, the special relationship, and Brexit in favour of Chinese money and EU integration.

The article is written by some chap called Bruce Newsome, and it makes a good deal of sense. Even if you are sceptical of some of his points about how accountable US intelligence operations are (not very, judging by what has been going on vis a vis Mr Trump) its contention that it makes more sense to trust the US rather than China seems correct to me. This current government is endangering the UK’s long-standing intelligence co-operation under the “Five Eyes” pact with the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. And it is being done by a government that failed to deliver on taking the UK out of the EU by 29 March, giving comfort to those who still dream of taking the UK more fully into a developing European state with its own military command structure, at odds, as it will inevitably be, with NATO.

The rollout of a 5-G network in the UK will, hopefully, bring major benefits to users, but you don’t need to watch a lot of scary thrillers to understand the risks in getting a firm involved that is so closely embedded with the Chinese state. (Sure, many Western firms are also embedded in their respective states, so it comes down to a judgement call on which states are less evil, and I think I know the answer to that).

Even those of an anarchist/minarchist turn of mind when it comes to intra-government intelligence sharing processes ought to worry that the UK seems keener to do deals with Chinese state-backed tech firms than protect an alliance that helped to win the Cold War. Such matters should not be discussed behind closed doors of government, but be out in the open.

As far as Theresa May is concerned, my contempt for this individual has gone from gale warning to hurricane-force levels, with no signs of improvement soon.

A prominent Remainer from the media world gives of his wisdom

David Yelland is a public relations consultant and former editor of the Sun newspaper.

He blesses us with this tweet:

@davidyelland

So many, but not all, the leading Brexiters are unhealthy and don’t seem to care for themselves. So many, but not all, the leading Remainers are healthy in body, mind and soul. It applies right across the country. We smile, they are angry. #PeoplesVote

12:45 AM – 6 Apr 2019

Edit: And it’s gone. Because of Mr Yelland’s kindness:

Have deleted a Tweet earlier which was a tad unkind to some Brexiters. I do think there is a deep unhappiness in the country which fed the Leave campaign but there’s enough conflict out there without me adding to it.

Someone called “Techboy” ensured that Mr Yelland’s original words were preserved for posterity.

Some examples of promises that Remainer MPs made to get elected and then broke

At the height of the Watergate scandal Nixon’s press secretary was a man called Ronald L Zielgler. He became famous for declaring with a straight face that only his latest statement was “operative” and that all previous statements contradicting it were thus “inoperative”.

The following statements by prominent Remain-supporting MPs are all inoperative:

Heidi Allen

This is what the Right Honourable Heidi Allen MP promised to the voters of South Cambridgeshire to get them to adopt her as a candidate at her hustings in 2017:

This is democracy. We might not all like the result. I was a remainer, but the minute we start ignoring the democratic will of the people in this country we are slipping very quickly towards the sort of banana republic I don’t want to live in.

*

The referendum was a different kind of vote. It was a national question, it wasn’t a local one, and I know that probably the majority of people in this room tonight will think “well, we don’t want it”, but we can’t forget that this was a national vote. And I think it’s wrong for us as democratic leaders to be picking and choosing the results that we don’t like.

*

So quite frankly if I am re-elected as your MP, I am not going to waste time, precious time, resisting Brexit from happening. I’m going to grasp that opportunity, leverage that opportunity we have with every fibre of my being and make the best of it.

*

I think those that voted to Leave would think we were treating them as fools and that they were stupid and that we didn’t respect their views. So I think that a second referendum is not what we should be aiming for.

Heidi Allen is now the interim leader of the Change UK party, formerly known as The Independent Group and informally known as the Tiggers or CUKs, whose only significant policy is to force a second referendum.

I saw that speech on the video “Heidi Allen Hustings 2017 Best Bits” posted to YouTube by Tom Harwood. The video of Sarah Wollaston’s hustings linked to below was also posted by Mr Harwood. I thought it was very useful that he added subtitles to the videos, as that makes it easier to find and cite the most strikingly dishonest passages in the MPs’ speeches. By writing out the speeches and the contents of the election flyers and leaflets here in this Samizdata post I hope to make it still easier to spread the word of how these Remainer Members of Parliament are not to be trusted.

Nick Boles

This is what the Right Honourable Nick Boles MP said to the voters of Grantham and Stamford in an election leaflet:

60 SECOND Q&A
NICK BOLES

Q: How do we know you won’t betray us, if we elect you?

A: I will publish all my expense claims online and I will never claim for food or furniture or household goods. I think that MPs elected for one party should have to stand down and call a by-election if they defect to another party.

On 1st April 2019 Nick Boles resigned from the Conservative Party following the announcement of the results of the second round of indicative votes on exiting the European Union. He now describes himself as an Independent Progressive Conservative. His previous belief that defecting MPs should have to stand down fell by the wayside when the time came to apply it to himself.

That leaflet can be seen at the URL https://staging.electionleaflets.org/leaflets/full/58310/ uploaded to the site electionleaflets.org. The fact that by the standards he himself had proclaimed Boles had betrayed his constituents was highlighted by Guido Fawkes in this post. The post reminded me that when Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell left the Conservatives for UKIP they both voluntarily resigned their seats and stood for election again under their new colours. Both were re-elected to their old seats.

Yvette Cooper

This is what the Right Honourable Yvette Cooper MP said on an election leaflet addressed to the voters of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford to solicit their support in 2017:

Yvette Cooper MP
– Securing the best Brexit deal for the Five Towns
– I voted to trigger Article 50 in Parliament
– I want to reform freedom of movement
– I will not vote to block Brexit
– I want to secure the best deal for the Five Towns not just the cities

I took the picture of the Yvette Cooper election leaflet from a tweet by Paul Embery of the Firefighters’ Union.

Sarah Wollaston

This is what the Right Honourable Sarah Wollaston MP promised to the voters of Totnes in order to solicit their support at her hustings in 2017:

It was extraordinarily divisive, the referendum, and we need to move on from that. But what we must do, in my view, is accept the result, but now make sure that just because we are leaving the European Union, we are not leaving Europe. Taking all of the people within this constituency into account, this constituency voted by 54% to Leave. I think this is one of the things that annoys people is telling them that they didn’t know what they were voting for. That was the purpose of the referendum; we accept the result; we move on and make it as constructive as possible. There are real problems with how the Common Agricultural Policy has worked, and we have an opportunity now to redesign something that does more to protect Devon’s farmers and to look at how we balance that with protecting our environment.

A second referendum to take us out of the European Union: it is a direct incentive for us to get the worst possible deal. We have to go into this absolutely understanding that the principle here is that we respect the outcome of the referendum and I think it would be a huge mistake to go into this promising that I’d be prepared to vote to actually overturn the deal and send us back into Europe. We shouldn’t be going back and saying that we don’t accept the result of the referendum, I’m afraid.

From the video “Sarah Wollaston’s 2017 Husting Highlights” posted to YouTube by Tom Harwood.

On 20 February Sarah Wollaston resigned from the Conservatives and joined The Independent Group / Change UK. Wollaston’s pledge to respect the referendum thus joined in the inoperative bin her belief that MPs who cross the floor ought to face a mandatory by-election. As the Wikipedia article on Sarah Wollaston says she actually supported a Private Members bill to make this the law:

Call for mandatory by-elections for MPs switching parties

In March 2019 it emerged that Wollaston had supported a 2011 bill which required MPs who switch parties to face an automatic by-election. Wollaston herself switched parties on 20 February 2019, yet refused to let voters have a say on her switch. Chair of the Labour Party in Totnes and South Devon, Lynn Alderson, said Ms Wollaston “made her views clear”. Wollaston acknowledged the likely calls for her to face a by-election but refused such a proposal, stating “neither this nor a general election would answer the fundamental question that is dividing us”.

Broken promise on respecting result of EU Referendum

During her election hustings when campaigning for re-election at the 2017 General Election, Wollaston promised her constituents she would “accept the result” of the EU Membership Referendum, noting that 54% of her constituents had voted Leave. She went on to state that “one of the things that annoys people is telling them that they didn’t know what they were voting for” and completely rejected the idea of holding a second referendum. Wollaston later switched to the Independent Group, all the member of which oppose to respecting the result of the EU Referendum and committed to holding a second Referendum, therefore meaning Wollaston had broken all her election promises on the issue.

Let’s get thrown out of the EU!

Jacob Rees-Mogg tweets,

If a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU we should be as difficult as possible We could veto any increase in the budget, obstruct the putative EU army and block Mr Macron’s integrationist schemes.

The Independent reports that the EU has slapped him down:

Brussels has slapped down Jacob-Rees Mogg after the leading Brexiteer suggested the UK should wilfully cause chaos at the EU institutions if Brexit was delayed.

Mr Rees-Mogg will be pleased his threat has got through to its intended audience.

A spokesperson for the European Commission suggested that the Tory MP was essentially irrelevant and not involved in negotiations.

No one said he was involved in negotiations. He is suggesting a course of action to be applied by newly elected Eurosceptic Conservative, UKIP or Brexit Party MEPs when and if they find themselves elected to the EU Parliament. Jacob Rees-Mogg is famously mild mannered. The type of candidates elected by a massive bloc of voters who have just had it demonstrated to them that voting does not work are likely to be less so.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, also piled in. Seizing on Mr Mogg’s comments, he said: “For those in the EU who may be tempted to further extend the Brexit saga, I can only say, be careful what you wish for.”

Mr Verhofstadt is correct.

Edit: in the comments – OK, in the comment – Stonyground asks a very good question: “As I understand it, the EU parliament has very limited powers. How much trouble could the awkward squad realistically cause?”

Going by recent dramas in the Mother of Parliaments, quite a bit if they place their votes with ruthless indifference to the merits of the motion in whatever way will lead to stalemate.

There is also something to be said for complete randomness. And it’s “plobble”. (Slaps self round side of head.) What I meant was they could vote with the extreme Right on Monday, the Extreme Left on Tuesday and with an unconventional part of their anatomy on Wednesday.

A draft speech for Mrs May’s approval

After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the European Union and its Member States that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Political Declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors and which lies close to Our heart.

Indeed, We declared our intention to leave Europe’s Union out of Our sincere desire to ensure the United Kingdom’s self-preservation and the stabilization of Gibraltar, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the Brexit row has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone — the gallant fighting of the diplomatic forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our sixty million people — the Brexit situation has developed not necessarily to the United Kingdom’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel £39,000,000,000* divorce bill, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent businesses. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the British nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Political Declaration of the Powers.

The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.

* it could be a lot more.

Leaving the EU – a Jersey jaunt and a Guernsey gallivant

Rightly not trusting our leaders to deliver on their statements (there were, IFUC, no promises about leaving the EU from Mrs May), the Sage of Kettering and I have left the EU in that recently, we have visited our nearest escape hole, the Channel Islands. A fleeting visit, one day in each, but we have seen a future, and it works, more or less. For our more distant readers, Jersey and Guernsey are ‘Crown Dependencies’, historically part of the Duchy of Normandy, owing allegiance to the British Crown but not part of the UK. The UK government has arrogated to itself the overlordship of the islands, holding responsibility for foreign affairs and defence (well, sort of, as we shall see), but the two Bailiwicks are otherwise independent jurisdictions with autonomy in most areas, crucially taxation, and are outside of the European Union, albeit within EU Customs arrangements, allowing them to trade with the EU. Here, they say, the Queen is the Duke of Normandy, although monuments refer to ‘la Reine’. She is the only Duke I can think of married to a Duke. Whether or not they can simply declare independence is constitutionally unclear, but with Labour dangerously close to power, they might be advised to make some plans.

→ Continue reading: Leaving the EU – a Jersey jaunt and a Guernsey gallivant

Samizdata quote of the day

“The irony of Europhiles is that they replace one form of nationalism with another: “country first”, is out, but “Europe first” is in.”

Nathan Pinkoski. He analyses a recent speech by French president Emmanuel Macron that deserves far more scrutiny than it is getting.

The EU just destroyed the internet…

For your information…

The European Union has passed Articles 11 and 13 of the Copyright Directive. How can this be reversed?

The European Parliament has voted in favour of Article 13, reports Wired:

European politicians have voted to pass Article 13 and Article 11 as part of sweeping changes to regulation around online copyright. The European Parliament passed the legislation by 348 votes to 274.

As Guido put it, “348 MEPs you’ve never heard of overruled 278 MEPs you’ve also probably never heard of. So much for all that democratic accountability Remainers like to go on about…”

Previous relevant posts:

Anyone know how the new EU internet censorship & link tax law will affect the UK? June 13 2018

Two days before the EU (probably) votes to end the free internet. Should we care? June 20 2018

EU votes yes to copyright reform, also June 20 2018

Those MEPs, eh? September 14 2018

And just to show that Samizdata has been warning of this for a long time (hey, at least Cassandra had the satisfaction of being right), here is a post from 2002: The European Copyright Directive.

If I have missed any posts that should be in that list, let me know.

So how does one repeal a bad EU law? As the politicians say, I am glad you asked me that. Let me direct you to yet another past post in which a denizen of Reddit Europe called Ask_Me_Who explains:

MEP’s can not create, amend, or reject proposals. They can act as a method of slowing them, requesting changes or rethinks of proposed policies, but if the other (unelected) parts of the EU want to force through a proposal they can just keep pushing it until it gets through in the knowledge that elected MEP’s will not have the power to propose future updates, changes, or abolition of legislation.

The European Commission only has to win once and it can never be repealed without the European Commission wishing it so.