Here is the text of an open letter sent by myself (by email) on June 30, 2016 to a large group of senior and influential MP’s from all political parties in the UK parliament, urging them to come together as a cross party coalition of moderates specifically to fight the coming general Election on the basis of a promise to hold a second EU referendum if elected. If you agree with this strategy, which aims to increase the decisive democratic input into this once in a lifetime decision, then please write to your own MP accordingly and refer them to this blog.
INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR PEACE STUDIES AND GLOBAL PHILOSOPHY
Director, Dr. Thomas Daffern B.A. (Hons) D.Sc. (Hon) Ph.D. Treasurer: Jenny Wheatcroft (B.A.)
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June 30, 2016
If like me you are devastated at the negative impact that the recent EU referendum is having on our global economy, and on our society, I am writing, to you as a philosopher who thought long and hard before deciding to vote Remain on very deeply thought-out grounds.
1. I felt it was more likely to keep the UK together (and conversely a Brexit vote would lead to the break up of the UK, with Scotland, perhaps Northern Ireland and perhaps Wales) all organising for an exit from the UK. We could even end up with England entirely on its own, which is frankly daft.
2. I decided that although much in the EU needs reforming, we are more likely to achieve that from within than from without.
3. I suspected that the UK economy would be negatively impacted by leaving the EU, as witness the fall of the pound relative to other countries in recent days, and the collapse of share values etc.
4. I came to my conclusion based on a whole raft of other issues, some of which are recorded here on my audio blog: https://thomascloughdaffern.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/thoughts-on-the-eu-referendum-some-philosophical-observations/
The situation is not however irrevocably decided. Although a small majority of votes cast (in England and Wales) were in favour of Brexit as opposed to Remain, the fact that many people did not vote, or voted Remain in other regions, means this is hardly truly indicative of the true will of the entire British people. A vote not cast is in effect a vote for the status quo, which is therefore a vote to remain in the EU. Here are the figures:
Of all registered voters only 72% actually voted, 28% didn’t vote at all for whatever reason (an abstention is actually a vote for the status quo, which is to remain in the EU), of those who did vote, 35% voted to remain, 36% voted to leave. This means that 64% of the total voters did not vote to leave the EU
What it means, is that if we are to leave the EU, 34% of the voters will have imposed their will over 64% of the rest. This is hardly a ringing mandate for such a massive change affecting the nation for years to come, and indeed, affecting the entire history of Europe.
Or to put this another way, the combined number of voters who voted to leave the EU was 17,410,742. The combined total of those voters who either voted to remain in the EU or who voted to keep the status quo by not voting at all, was 29,089,259. which is 64% of the total.
My suggestion is therefore the following, and the reason I am writing to you as MP’s is that it is my belief that a national coalition of parties should come together at a future General Election (to be held as soon as possible), with the manifesto promise to hold a second referendum. This coalition would present this position before the British people and allow them to decide democratically if they want a second referendum or not.
Such a coalition would consist of moderate Conservatives (either under David Cameron or possibly under Teresa May, who would first have to win the Conservative Party leadership election), moderate Labour (whether or not under Jeremy Corbyn), Liberal Democrats, Greens, SNP, Northern Ireland Parties who supported Remain, and Welsh parties eg Plaid Cymru) who voted to Remain. If such a coalition won a General Election they would then hold a second, binding referendum, only this time, by law, every registered voter would BE OBLIGED TO VOTE as in Australian elections (of course they can spoil their ballots if they really insist). I also think the voting age for the 2nd referendum should include 16 and 17 year old voters, as it is they who will have to live with the consequences for the rest of their lives. We would then get a real and serious sense of whether or not it is truly the majority of the people of the UK who want to leave the EU or not, or to remain. As it is, it is unclear.
The group who would oppose this coalition would of course consist of UKIP, perhaps some right wing or leave supporting conservatives (perhaps under Boris Johnson), perhaps some far left parties, perhaps a break away faction of far left Labour MP’s, some anti EU Greens (under Jenny Jones presumably), Northern Ireland parties who supported leave and so on. I do not think that at present, speaking as a political philosopher, there is any real democratic mandate to take the UK out of the EU. Indeed, it is obvious that 64% of the voters are opposed to this.
Herodotus reports of the ancient Persians that when they had to make a really important decision, they took a first decision when sober, then they took a second decision when intoxicated, and then finally a third decision when sober again, and only if they all tallied, did they do the thing under consideration. I would say that a decision of this magnitude should not be decided against the will of 64% of the voting public. Wisdom should guide the political will of democratic decision making, not short-term rhetoric, based on misinformation and confusion. As someone who loves Scotland and lives here, and who also loves the UK as a whole, and also Europe, I also note that a large majority of Scots voted to remain in the EU.
The advantage of my proposed 2nd EU referendum strategy could take place before any future referendum on Scottish independence might become appropriate – and hopefully postpone it for a long time to come. The hidden question we would therefore face at a second referendum on the EU would really be “Do you dislike the EU so much that you want to leave it even though it would almost certainly lead to the break up of the UK ?” Personally speaking I believe it would be in the long term interests of the UK and its constituent member nations, and for the EU, that the UK as a whole should remain together inside the EU and fight to change the things that need changing from within.
I would also like to see a more proactive peace policy towards conflict resolution to be adopted by the EU ,for example. But we cannot campaign for this if we are outside the EU altogether. At the moment the UK is still inside the EU. Therefore, this is such a critical choice that I think we should reflect on it, and adopt the strategy as outlined above. Otherwise the UK faces the prospect that its national direction of travel has been hijacked by a minority (36%) against the wishes of the majority (64%) with the result that the UK will break up and we will leave the EU, which itself might also begin to break up.. rather than reform.. not a wise choice, surely. A broken UK ? A broken EU ? Is this what we want ? Is this what wise statesmen would ask for ?
I hope sincerely that you will give careful thought to this proposal from a concerned citizen, one of the 64% of British voters who either voted remain or at least voted for the status quo indirectly by abstaining (my postal vote was returned to me by the post unopened, so not counted). I think that unless we do this, the media and extremist anti-EU politicians are going to lead us blindly into a nightmare of both economic meltdown and the break up of the UK, with Scotland and probably Northern Ireland leaving the UK, perhaps even Wales. My strategy, which is a straightforward one, is a formula to keep the UK together inside the EU. I am writing as a philosopher, academic and teacher, not in any way as a “political activist” and indeed, I belong to no political party save that “party” of good people who wish to see the best for our country and for our European neighbours, both now and for generations to come. The death of Jo Cox MP shows what can happen when extremist politics enters the UK body politic. I was very moved to hear so many MP’s paying tribute to her legacy and values. It is in that spirit, a kindred spirit, that I am also writing to you this letter. I am sure she would have approved of this letter and this proposed strategy to enable the British people to come together and have a second chance to truly reflect on the deeper implications of our decision whether or not to stay in the EU and to more properly and comprehensively express our democratic will.
Yours in peace and service,
Dr. Thomas Clough Daffern