“For the first time, I’m starting to believe that Brexit will not happen.”
These are the words of Joseph Muscat, the Maltese Prime Minister whose comments were recorded in the Guardian newspaper after the latest round of Brexit talks. Malta, not known as a typical powerhouse of European political policy, holds an inside view of the latest talks, with the EU presidency currently residing with the country.
Muscat went on, “The referendum was democratic, but has resulted in a situation in which everyone loses. Doubt is creeping in. It would be good if a political leader in the UK stands up and is courageous enough to address this new situation. Someone who says: let’s put the Brexit end-deal to a popular vote.”
Nearly 52% of the British electorate voted for Brexit last June. A clear result was produced, the majority were in favour of Brexit. Both major parties stood for the recent 2017 General Election with Brexit platforms, an historic vote, an historic result, and one that they pledged would be honoured. Such a move understandably takes time and it is common knowledge that the triggering of Article 50 is a two year process. We are set to leave in 2019, the writing is very much on the wall for our EU membership.
Brexit supporters celebrate their June 2016 win
Whether or not you are a Leave or Remain voter, if you are a citizen of the United Kingdom, you are part of our democracy, and that democracy chose to leave the EU. Such a result must be honoured, because that is the way our democracy works, the winner, well, wins. Brexit won, so let’s get on with it.
But Muscat speaks of “doubt” creeping in, and he’s not wrong. Conservative Chancellor Philip Hammond has been the subject of intense scrutiny recently with his comments on transitional periods, “painful” consequences, and an eventual deadline of 2022. Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour cronies have stumbled around the issue of Britain’s membership of the free market for the past week, and the Lib Dems continue to advocate for a second referendum. It’s no wonder that Europe is starting to question our commitment to leaving the EU. When each major party is seemingly incapable of delivering a coherent and continued message of a plan for Brexit, faith in our leadership is naturally going to start to crumble.
Muscat is a European leader, and as such will defend the EU whilst disparaging British efforts to leave. His comments, however, reveal the telling signs that the mess of British politics dragging our country towards Brexit is doing so in an incoherent and unstable manner. The European Union has taken note, and they are starting to hope that Brexit is on the ropes. Redemption is surely possible, no doubt at a cost for Britain. The Union would be strengthened, if Britain is unable to leave, surely no one else would try. A failed Brexit would only be beneficial at this stage to the EU, and unfortunately, not to the UK.
Rather alarmingly, Muscat is quoted as saying brazenly that “the will of the people can have disastrous consequences, history teaches us. I could name some examples, but they’re so horrendous they’d raise the wrath of my British friends.” Wisely he avoided naming examples, but his very comments cut against democracy, the will of the people, in his eyes, is misguided, and even criminal. Britain, a democratic nation, proud of that label, and competent in exercising the privileges that come with such a badge, chose – in a democratic process – to leave the EU. For want of a less tired phrase, Brexit means Brexit. It’s about time our leadership stands up for the democratic choice of the people, is clear about the United Kingdom’s desire to leave the European Union, and takes some pride in our free and democratic decision.
Muscat’s comments betray a muddled mindset on the democratic freedom of member states of the European Union. It is this mindset that prompted many to vote Leave, to see sovereignty and democracy as championed better in a Britain outside of Europe.
Our negotiators, and our government leaders, need to stand up to our allies and friends in Europe, and politely inform them that the will of the people will be honoured, democracy is to be championed…and that Brexit means Brexit.