Thursday, 7 July 2016

#EUref - Lessons from the Lords Debate 6 July

The House of Lords debated the EU referendum and its consequences over a two day period. I was lucky to have attended the last couple of hours last night, up until the mace was carried out of the chamber.  I was by then the only member of the general public there.

I have four main observations from what I heard:


Whatever your views on the existence of the Lords and those who serve in it, it was very clear that there is enormous value in having a forum of the "old sages" (who they are in the main) to challenge the government.


Divorcing from the EU will be enormously difficult. Issues include:
  • The Northern Ireland border with Eire
  • Keeping Scotland within the Union
  • Maintaining grant applications for EU funds, to continue to get some of our money back
  • Replacing enormous sums of EU money that go to parts of the UK with UK money
  • Handling the economic issues, such as the sharp drop in value of the pound
  • Unravelling the swathes of laws and reulations that entangle the UK into the EU 
Personally I think this is an enormous waste of time, and a massive cash and opportunity cost we shouldn't be bearing.  Part of the reason I voted Remain, despite being eurosceptic.

The dominant mood, even amongst Remainers, was that the people had spoken definitively on 23rd June. This is despite enormous doubt about the conduct of the pre-23rd debate, such as the continued prominence of the £350m a week Leave claim after being proved an utter lie. Chances to have set a higher result threshold than 50% had not been taken when the legilation setting up the referendum had been debated.

However several people spoke about taking time to think, and potentially go back to the electorate with a second referendum. It would appear that the Article 50 "exit button" would not need a vote in the Commons, although this is open to legal challenge. The Prime Pinister apparently holds sufficient authority.

The referendum was "advisory" but politically far more than that. Nonetheless the government would be foolish to blindly march into Brexit without careful consideration of the consequences, especially economic.


There's also the matter of what the Lave vote actually meant, at an individual voter level, given the close 52:48 result.  No doubt there will be much research and analysis, but the initial impression is there were three main issues:

(a) Sovereignty - "We want our country back" struck a real chord with many voters.

(b) Immigration - It is clear there is a real concern about the high levels of immigration, especially when competitingfor jobs, housing and public services. There's a resentment that foreigners are apparently being prioritised

(c) Prospects - For those who have not reaped the rewards of economic growth, but the sorrows of austerity, this was in part a protest vote. Maybe they thought things would be better out of the EU, and  could hardly get any worse. (But oh yes they can get worse, as is already beign played out!)

Amazingly the areas that most benefit from EU funds appeared to be most against remaining in the EU.  Whether that is lack of voter understanding, I don't know:

So what was behind that protest?  Evidence suggests there is a sense that individual voters haven't been listened to. A disconnect betwen Westminster MPs and real people living real lives. Perception  rather than reality perhaps. But perception is reality to them. As a result, UKIP has risen in working class areas as much as for the right wing where it started, given that it is adresing people's concerns.

Turnout for the referendum was far higher than recent general elections.  People are prepared to be engaged with politics, but have been disillusioned with what has been offered at those general elections.

People are fed up with the old political order. They want something new. A party that speaks for them, that represents them.

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