Britain is heading for a ‘hard Brexit’. That’s because Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May, insists that’s what ‘the people’ want.
Of course, Mrs May isn’t correct in assuming what most people in Britain want. By a tiny margin, last year’s referendum returned a vote in favour of ‘Leaving’ the EU. But nobody knew then what Brexit meant.
In any event, those voting for Leave represented a minority of registered voters – just 37%. The majority of the electorate didn’t give their express consent for Brexit, whether they voted or not.
Some say that those who didn’t vote lost their right to have a say and now have no right to complain. But can anyone really blame the non-voters for being nonplussed about such a complicated issue as Britain’s continued membership of the EU?
The electorate was not sufficiently informed to give any meaningful response to whether Britain should remain in the EU. The referendum campaign did not give clear answers. The Leave campaign had to rely on colossal lies and despicable misinformation to present their case.
Who knew what to believe?
Maybe the non-voters were the most honest of all – they simply didn’t know the answer to ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’. In those circumstances, maybe it was the most honourable response not to tick either box on the referendum ballot paper.
But now it’s becoming clearer by the day what Brexit means. It means Britain, and Britons, being poorer and having fewer rights and protections than we have as a member nation of the EU.
If we knew then what we know now, would ‘Leave’ have won? It’s unlikely.
But neither the Tory government nor the Labour opposition are willing to give us, the people, a chance to reconsider Brexit, even though we’re now so much better informed.
It’s as if we agreed on one hot summer’s day to buy double-glazed windows, only to discover that we can’t change our minds, even though the contract hasn’t yet been signed, the windows haven’t yet been installed, and we now know that the glass is single and not double glazed.
Are we saying that Britain has been conned? Yes, we are.
Just look at all the benefits we’re destined to lose after we leave the EU in March 2019. How many Leave voters really knew or properly understood this on 23 June 2016?
• LOSS OF FREE TRADE
In the EU, the UK enjoys full free trading status with all the other EU member states – representing the world’s most lucrative market place, and by far our most important trading partner.
As such, almost half of our exports go to the EU, and over half of our imports come from the EU.
The EU has an iron tariff wall against non-members. Outside of the EU, we will be on the wrong side of that wall.
Even non-European countries that have negotiated ‘free trade’ agreements with the EU don’t enjoy full free trade access to Europe’s internal market, as Britain does as an EU member.
• LOSS OF OUR SAY IN EUROPE
As a leading member, Britain has a say – and a veto – in the EU. Britons also have a vote every five years to directly elect members of the European Parliament, which democratically passes the laws of the EU.
As an ex-EU member, Britain and Britons will lose the right to have any say or vote in the running or future direction of our continent.
• LOSS OF ‘FREE MOVEMENT’ ACROSS THE EU
Leaving the EU means we will lose the right to go and live, work, study or retire across all of the EU plus Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
And citizens from the rest of the EU will also lose the right to come here to live and work, making it much more difficult to fill key vacancies, both skilled and unskilled, for which Britain has a chronic shortage of workers.
• LOSS OF EU PROTECTION
EU laws protecting the rights of workers, consumers and travellers across our continent are probably among the most important EU membership benefits.
For example, 4-weeks paid holiday a year; the 48-hour working week; anti-discrimination law; guaranteed rights for agency workers; guaranteed worker consultation – all of these protections largely exist because of the EU.
No single national government can assure safety and protection across our continent. It needs the reach of a pan-European intergovernmental organisation to achieve that (albeit with the democratic consensus of member states).
When we lose the strong armour of EU employment law, workers’ rights will be at the mercy of a Conservative government. Anyone who believes they would then be in safe hands may be in for a rude shock after we leave the EU in March 2019.
• LOSS OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Britain enjoys cleaner beaches as a direct result of EU directives on protecting the environment.
In addition, the EU is leading the world in tackling climate change – something that individual countries alone simply can’t undertake.
When Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, we will lose the benefit of EU-wide legislation to protect the very air we breathe.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the British government must make plans to clean our air, in accordance with the EU air quality directive. The case only came about when an environmental pressure group took the government to court, because tens of thousands of British residents die every year as a result of our polluted air.
Would the government bother to act without the legal protection offered to us by the EU? It’s unlikely.
After Brexit, the government is proposing to take away the rights of British citizens to sue them over issues such as workers’ rights, environmental policy and business regulation. This right to sue our government is something we currently only enjoy under EU law.
• LOSS OF NEGOTIATING POWER
Because the EU is the world’s richest, biggest market-place, and the world’s biggest exporter and the world’s biggest importer, it can negotiate the best trade agreements with other countries.
It’s often said that when negotiating, you get better deals if you’re the same size or bigger than your opposite number.
As one of the world’s biggest economies, the EU has the muscle to negotiate extremely favourable trading terms with the world’s nations, and has done so with over 50 countries so far (including one recently with Canada).
Could Britain, being much smaller than the EU, achieve similarly good trade agreements with the world’s countries? It’s unlikely, but in any event, it will take many years to find out after we have left the EU in March 2019.
If you believe that Brexit is a mistake, it’s time to speak up, loudly and clearly, before we leave the EU in March 2019 and take a one-way ticket into the unknown.
If you’re one of the 17 million who voted for Brexit but have now changed your mind; if you’re one of the 16 million who voted against Brexit; if you’re one of more than 30 million who didn’t or couldn’t vote and are against Brexit: it’s time we let our political masters know what ‘the people’ really want.
• Words and graphic by journalist Jon Danzig (founder of Reasons2Remain)
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Jon Danzig is an award winning medical and investigative journalist, formerly at the BBC. He is currently running a grassroots Facebook campaign to keep Britain in the EU. Link: Reasons2Remain