Shock wins in parliamentary by-elections lead to plenty of speculation. Richmond Park is no different, with pundits suggesting that this was in part, a vote against a hard Brexit, given the clear pro-Europe position of the winning Liberal Democrat. What’s more, it does widen the debate as to what sort of Brexit we actually want. Until now, it seemed that the winner-takes-all outcome was in the ascendency. But should that really be the case?
When the judges ruled in early November that Parliament, and not the Government, must trigger Article 50 there was uproar. The outrage expressed by the right wing press, and by the likes of Nigel Farage was frankly hysterical. Indeed, how dare these judges go against the “will of the people”?
But what exactly was the will of the people?
Yes, the country voted to leave the European Union; and whether that was because people were punishing the establishment or not, the people had spoken. Brexit would mean Brexit.
But some 48.1% of those voting chose remain. So in a random sample of 100 UK voters, almost as many wanted to remain in the EU as wanted to leave it.
(And if you want to split hairs, then add in the number of people who did not vote and you find less than half of eligible voters actually wanted to leave).
So is it right to say that a vote for Brexit is truly the will of the people? Surely a more accurate description would be that a very small majority of those voting were in favour of leaving the EU.
Now whatever has been said about our (mostly pro-remain) MPs, I can’t see Parliament putting a complete stop to Brexit, whatever the Daily Mail may think.
But as for the Brexit terms, then in the interests of everyone, not just the vote winners, surely Brexit should not mean Brexit at any cost. The vote outcome was too close for that. Brexit must surely be at a price that both leavers and remainers, to some extent, can accept. So some compromise will be necessary. Quite what that looks like I don’t know, but surely it is not the hard Brexit advocated by some from the leave camp. Indeed, to truly reflect the will of the people, the winners must not take it all.