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Too close for comfort. March 13, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

In reference to the Brexit referendum I thought Andrew Rawnsley had a useful point well worth expanding on in the Observer a week or so back when he wrote:

Those who fondly imagined – yes, I am talking about you, David Cameron – that a referendum would settle the Europe argument and resolve decades of Tory civil war have been doubly disappointed. The narrowness of the 52/48 result in June 2016 guaranteed that. A big margin of victory for one side or the other might have put it to bed, though even then I am doubtful. The tightness of the verdict on a question that arouses such intense passions guaranteed that the referendum would have a long and bitter aftermath. That has been compounded by the fundamental design fault of trying to deal with such a complex issue by plebiscite: the result left entirely open what form of Brexit should be pursued. It gave an instruction without furnishing a mandate. This was bound to mean months – no, years – of ferocious dispute about how to interpret “the will” of an extremely divided people.

Of course it is not inevitable that closely fought and closely won referendums lead to sustained conflict. The 1990s divorce referendum in this state was even closer on 50.28% in favour and 49.72% against, but something had shifted and there was no appetite and no political momentum behind forces who disagreed with the outcome.

And that’s the key thing. In the UK the result was in some ways the worst of all worlds. Too close to allow space for victory to be uncontested, patchy and going different ways in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Driven by a party split between enthusiastic remainers and vocal and die-hard Leavers. And worse, and unlike the divorce referendum here, with a wording that allowed for multiple interpretations as to what constituted its essence. Rawnsley as can be seen above touches on that, but it really is the central problem. What did people in the UK vote for when they voted for leaving the EU. Because that lack of nuance has, at least so far, holed the concept of membership of EEA/EFTA, and/or the single market/customs union. It has been a gift for those wedded to the hardest exit and arguably to those who seek a remain.

And it points up that some issues may be irresolvable. At least in the short term.


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