Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part piece by Robert Henderson. The first part can be found here.
The referendum was binding on the Government and Parliament
Remainers have also tried to pretend that the referendum was merely advisory. Amongst the many falsehoods and deceits attempted by Remainers, this is arguably the most shameless because the position is clear cut.
The fact that the referendum was intended to be binding on both Government and Parliament rather than merely advisory was repeatedly made unambiguously clear from well before the referendum. The Conservative General Election Manifesto of 2015 Page 72 said this about the referendum:
We believe in letting the people decide: so we will hold an in-out referendum on our membership of the EU before the end of 2017.
In opening the second reading debate on the European Union Referendum Bill on 9 June 2015, the then Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:
This is a simple, but vital, piece of legislation. It has one clear purpose: to deliver on our promise to give the British people the final say on our EU membership in an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.
Few subjects ignite as much passion in the House or indeed in the country as our membership of the European Union. The debate in the run-up to the referendum will be hard-fought on both sides of the argument. But whether we favour Britain being in or out, we surely should all be able to agree on the simple principle that the decision about our membership should be taken by the British people, not by Whitehall bureaucrats, certainly not by Brussels Eurocrats; not even by Government Ministers or parliamentarians in this Chamber. The decision must be for the common sense of the British people. That is what we pledged, and that is what we have a mandate to deliver.
For too long, the people of Britain have been denied their say. For too long, powers have been handed to Brussels over their heads. For too long, their voice on Europe has not been heard. This Bill puts that right. It delivers the simple in/out referendum that we promised, and I commend it to the House.
In the light of this, MPs cannot have believed that the referendum would not be binding from the very beginning. Moreover, at the third reading of the European Union Referendum Bill the Commons voted 316 for and 53 against with 52 of those against being SNP Members. Only one Labour MP voted against. It was an overwhelming acceptance, direct or tacit, by MPs of all parties barring the SNP, that the referendum was binding.
Finally, in the course of the referendum campaign the government spent £9.5million of taxpayers’ money on printing a leaflet and distributing it to all households in the United Kingdom. It included these words:
The referendum on Thursday 23rd June is your chance to decide if we should remain in the European Union. (Page 2)
And it went on to be even clearer and more emphatic:
This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide. (Page 14).
The problem with Brexit is Remainer politicians still holding the levers of power.
We have a Remainer PM, a Remainer-dominated Cabinet, a Remainer-dominated Government, a Remainer-dominated House of Commons (with Remainers dominant in the Tory, Labour, LibDems and the SNP parties) and a Remainer-dominated House of Lords.
A recent report by the Daily Telegraph found that the Cabinet is overwhelmingly Remainer. They asked all Cabinet members whether they would vote Leave if another referendum was held. The result was:
– 16 Cabinet members either refused to say whether they would vote Leave now or failed to respond to the question.
– Two Cabinet ministers who backed Remain, Elizabeth Truss, the Chief Secretary of the Treasury and Jeremy Hunt, the Health secretary, said they would now vote Leave.
– Five other Cabinet ministers who voted Leave – Priti Patel, David Davis, Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox and Michael Gove – said they would still vote to leave the EU.
– The PM Theresa May has repeatedly refused to say whether she would be a Leave voter if a second referendum was held.
The overwhelming Remainer sentiment of those occupying the leading roles in the Government automatically undermines the Brexit negotiations because the politicians of the other EU member states and the politicised EU bureaucracy will think that at best the UK Government will be happy to concede a great deal of ground to the EU and at worst will not push for a true Brexit because their hearts are simply not in it.
The only way to change matters is to have a committed Leaver as PM and a Cabinet comprised only of committed leavers. Anything less and serious Cabinet disunity will continue.
Such a Government should lay down the red lines listed above and commence immediately and with all speed the preparation to trade if necessary under WTO rules. That provides a ready-made template for our trade with the EU. More boldly we could walk away from the EU now by invoking the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which includes the provision to throw aside a treaty where the other parties to the treaty are acting in bad faith. The fact that Article 50 exists means that the other EU members have to act in good faith over a member state’s withdrawal. Patently they are not honouring that obligation. Bad faith is shown amply by both Eurocrats and EU political leaders since the referendum decision.
Remainers need to think about what is likely to happen if a true Brexit is denied by the multifarious machinations which Remainers have attempted. That would be saying to the British electorate it does not matter how you vote; the only thing you will ever get is what the ruling elite wants. At best British politics would be poisoned for a very long time and at worst political violence could result.
After more than half a century of internationalist politicians and their supporters in the media, universities and the civil service, the concept of treason is out of fashion in the UK. But treason is a crime like theft or murder, which always exists whether or not there is a law on the Statute Books, for it is the ultimate betrayal. If Brexit is thwarted, the cry of treason may be on people’s lips again in earnest.