That the UK vote in favour of Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump are two outcomes I would guess not many sane elected representatives would have voted for. [What are you trying to say about the DUP? – Ed] Ssssh…
Indeed it looks like both campaigns used advanced machine learning techniques to edge out the metropolitan elites (a real thing, actually) in both jurisdictions. It may also edge out deliberation of the type offered by Ken Clarke in the House of Commons:
Constitutionally, when the Government tried to stop the House from having a vote, they did not go to the Supreme Court arguing that a referendum bound the House and that that was why we should not have a vote.
The referendum had always been described as advisory in everything that the Government put out. There is no constitutional standing for referendums in this country.
No sensible country has referendums—the United States and Germany do not have them in their political systems.
The Government went to the Supreme Court arguing for the archaic constitutional principle of the royal prerogative—that the Executive somehow had absolute power when it came to dealing with treaties. Not surprisingly, they lost.
Let me provide an analogy—a loose one but, I think, not totally loose—explaining the position of Members of Parliament after this referendum.
I have fought Lord knows how many elections over the past 50 years, and I have always advocated voting Conservative. The British public, in their wisdom, have occasionally failed to take my advice and have by a majority voted Labour.
I have thus found myself here facing a Labour Government, but I do not recall an occasion when I was told that it was my democratic duty to support Labour policies and the Labour Government on the other side of the House.
That proposition, if put to Mr Skinner in opposition or myself, would have been treated with ridicule and scorn.
Apparently, I am now being told that despite voting as I did in the referendum, I am somehow an enemy of the people for ignoring my instructions and for sticking to the opinions that I expressed rather strongly, at least in my meetings, when I urged people to vote the other way.
I have no intention of changing my opinion on the ground. Indeed, I am personally convinced that the hard-core Eurosceptics in my party, with whom I have enjoyed debating this issue for decades, would not have felt bound in the slightest by the outcome of the referendum to abandon their arguments—[Interruption.]
I do not say that as criticism; I am actually on good terms with the hard-line Eurosceptics because I respect their sincerity and the passionate nature of their beliefs.
If I ever live to see my hon. Friend Sir William Cash turn up here and vote in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union, I will retract what I say, but hot tongs would not make him vote for membership of the EU.
There are very serious issues that were not addressed in the referendum: the single market and the customs union. They must be properly debated.
It is absurd to say that every elector knew the difference between the customs union and the single market, and that they took a careful and studied view of the basis for our future trading relations with Europe.
I am told that that view is pessimistic, and that we are combining withdrawal from the single market and the customs union with a great new globalised future that offers tremendous opportunities for us.
Apparently, when we follow the rabbit down the hole, we will emerge in a wonderland where, suddenly, countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that we were never able to achieve as part of the European Union.
Nice men like President Trump and President Erdogan are impatient to abandon their normal protectionism and give us access. Let me not be too cynical; I hope that that is right. I do want the best outcome for the United Kingdom from this process.
No doubt somewhere a hatter is holding a tea party with a dormouse in the teapot.
We need success in these trade negotiations to recoup at least some of the losses that we will incur as a result of leaving the single market.
If all is lost on the main principle, that is the big principle that the House must get control of and address seriously, in proper debates and votes, from now on.
Most Members, I trust, are familiar with Burke’s address to the electors of Bristol. I have always firmly believed that every MP should vote on an issue of this importance according to their view of the best national interest.
I never quote Burke, but I shall paraphrase him. He said to his constituents, “If I no longer give you the benefit of my judgment and simply follow your orders, I am not serving you; I am betraying you.”
I personally shall be voting with my conscience content, and when we see what unfolds hereafter as we leave the European Union, I hope that the consciences of other Members of Parliament will remain equally content.
“Men it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds, and only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”
– Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, 1841.