To Bre-xit or Not to Bre-xit? : What is the question?
A lot of people are asking what question should be put in a People’s Vote? Whilst none of us can ultimately set the “exam question’, you can influence the debate by writing to your MP using this article as a basis for your letter. In this article I set out the rationale for a simple single stage question that can be justified in the face of fierce contention by various stakeholders. I have made the assumption that No Deal Brexit will have been taken off the table by the time a People’s Vote is considered, since it is political suicide for the Conservative and Labour Parties and economic suicide for the country.
Two concepts are of vital importance here: Fairness and Materiality.
Several permutations of the “exam question” have been put forward by academics and other stakeholders. Some involve multi-layered questions spread over weeks, Likert scales and other fancy survey techniques. One can imagine a tournament, voting between No Deal and May’s Deal one week, then playing the winner off against Remain in some bizarre version of “It’s a Brexit Knockout”. Or a Greek styled Delphi process of sampling views over months until a point of convergence is reached. However, we must be mindful of Brexit apathy and the maturity of the population in voting in referenda. Although it is true that our politicians reduced an impossibly complex issue to a binary choice, the UK is not Switzerland who are experienced in multi-staged referenda. We must therefore keep the question simple and also not pervert the question in order to further divide our divided nation.
In this context I humbly suggest that we must proceed with a simple binary choice again, along the same lines as those used in our 2016 referendum i.e. a simple majority, non-binding. I humbly suggest that a People’s Vote would in effect become a “blessing” of what Parliament decides in a free (un-whipped) vote. Reforming the medieval system in Westminster is a subject for another article or possibly “War and Peace”. I shall come to the actual question after we consider the question of materiality.
The Electoral Commission works to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity. Since 2016, our Brexit referendum has exposed a number of glaring omissions in the process for the conduct of elections. The concept of materiality is relevant here. In brief this means that anyone with a material interest in the outcome of a decision should play a part in that decision. If we apply this concept to a People’s Vote, it becomes clear that a number of groups need to be included in another vote:
- EU Citizens living and working in the UK.
- UK Ex Pats living in the EU.
- 16 – 18 year olds. Arguably it is important for even younger people to be included in some way, as they will inherit the consequences of any Brexit decision, but I will leave it at 16 in this article.
Somewhat more controversially and in deepest irony we could go so far to say that some groups should not be allowed to vote if we consider Jacob Rees-Mogg’s statement on materiality. Jacob declared that we will not experience any of the benefits of Brexit for 50 years. Jacob’s ladder of inference would mean logically that anyone over the current age of 50 should not be allowed to vote. Of course, we all know that this will not happen, and I am being deliberately provocative here, but if we were to follow Jacob’s ladder, this is where the argument ends up!
That said, it is true that there was an imbalance in the 2016 referendum with some older people voting selfishly for Brexit, whilst those about to enter the world of work were not allowed to have an opinion. A closer inspection of older voters’ reasons for doing so reveals that much of their voting decision was made up of feelings of being left behind rather than the actual question on the ballot paper. This points to the need for a much more disciplined approach to communications in a referendum, as was used in Ireland and not a shoddy leaflet. Again, I will leave that to another article to keep focus here.
To Bre-xit or Not to Bre-xit?
To quote a hackneyed phrase “we are where we are” and pragmatism dictates that the question should be simple, fair and binary:
Should the UK
Leave the European Union with Theresa May’s deal
Remain and Reform the European Union
This question can be justified on the following grounds:
- It does not divide the Leave vote into May’s Deal v No Deal.
- It respects the fact that we have had 3 years to develop a deal and we can now compare the deal on the table with Remaining in the EU.
- The EU has recognised the need for reform of a number of big issues facing the world and the term Remain and Reform should therefore also reflect the passage of time.
The question should, as in 2016, require a simple majority and be advisory in nature to avoid accusations of unfairness. Whilst the previous referendum should have been properly designed and if it was to be binding to require a 2/3 majority. But again “we are where we are” and to change the rules at this stage would attract criticisms on the grounds of fairness.
I will leave here, other questions of making sure that a referendum campaign is fought fairly on all sides and questions of using social media advertisments for another day …. Feel free to use or adapt this as the basis of a letter to your MP. Find out their address at write to your MP.
I have a small favour to ask …. This week we are attempting to chart a song to influence the debate on Brexit. TAKE BACK CONTROL is currently riding high at No 29 on Amazon, just below Ariana Grande and ahead of Pet Shop Boys and Busted.
We would like you to be part of a phenomenon to mainstream the issues of Vote Leave lies by Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees Mogg, Liam Fox, Theresa May and Michael Gove.
To do this we ask that you download, gift and share the song with tired Remainers and Leavers in regret – ALL downloads count towards charting the song, so a glass of wine gifts five copies, a cup of coffee three etc.
We only have one week to do this as we are not a mainstream music brand. Find all the links to download via TAKE BACK CONTROL. Finally, do enjoy our teaser trailer film below: