Let’s de­bate a sec­ond EU ref­er­en­dum

The Herald on Sunday - - EDITORIAL & LETTERS -

WE live in an in­tel­lec­tu­ally changed world – a world where ac­cepted wis­doms, once seen as sacro­sanct, are there to be over­turned. Too of­ten, though, these wis­doms are re­placed with folly. For an ex­am­ple, look west to the Amer­i­can elec­torate’s de­ci­sion to chal­lenge the con­cept of Wash­ing­ton elites by vot­ing into power a bil­lion­aire play­boy with his own golden tower, jumbo jet, and TV show.

In some places, how­ever, the chal­lenge to ac­cepted wis­doms is an en­light­ened one. For an ex­am­ple of this, look to the dis­cus­sion go­ing on around the world, con­ducted by the young and the clever, about con­struct­ing an al­ter­na­tive to ra­pa­cious ne­olib­eral cap­i­tal­ism, an ide­ol­ogy now so in­tel­lec­tu­ally and morally bank­rupt that it is no longer fit for pur­pose. The Sun­day Her­ald would like to pro­pose an­other ac­cepted wis­dom which needs chal­lenged: that there can be no sec­ond ref­er­en­dum on our place in Europe; no sec­ond ref­er­en­dum on the out­come of the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions that would give the UK elec­torate the chance to step back from the cliff’s edge. Any­one who dares sug­gest such an idea is shouted down by hys­ter­i­cal Brex­iters as if they were cham­pi­oning the very de­struc­tion of democ­racy it­self. But is the idea re­ally so out­landish? The Leave cam­paign was, af­ter all, sub­stan­tially con­structed from un­truths – not half-truths or white lies, but plain old-fash­ioned, wicked, black lies. Do we re­ally need re­minded about claims of £350 mil­lion be­ing re­turned to the NHS plas­tered over the side of a bus; or those dis­grace­ful Ukip “Break­ing Point” posters show­ing lines of refugees and de­signed to in­flame ha­tred?

One could ar­gue that on this ba­sis alone, the elec­torate de­serves to have a sec­ond chance at vot­ing on the most im­por­tant de­ci­sion to face these is­lands in decades – only this time, armed with the truth, not be­fud­dled by wealthy moun­te­banks, char­la­tans and racists. The Labour Party may have found its so­cial­ist soul of late, but its Janus-faced po­si­tion on Brexit – say­ing one thing to anti-EU work­ing-class vot­ers and an­other to pro-Euro­pean metropoli­tan vot­ers – shames Cor­byn and takes the en­tire elec­torate for fools. The Tories are in a tor­ture cham­ber of their own con­struc­tion when it comes to Brexit and seem fit to do only one thing: drag the coun­try into an abyss.

If both the Govern­ment and of­fi­cial opposition at West­min­ster are in­ca­pable of of­fer­ing any sen­si­ble and truth­ful lead­er­ship over Brexit, then how can it be con­sid­ered a form of demo­cratic heresy to sug­gest that per­haps the peo­ple need to have their voice heard again once the ne­go­ti­a­tions are done and we can see the true path to ruin that stretches out be­fore us paved by Brex­iter lies.

Ac­cepted wis­doms are all very well. But where is the wis­dom of driv­ing the coun­try to­wards eco­nomic catas­tro­phe? Surely the wis­est peo­ple are those pre­pared to tell the em­peror that he is naked – and so it’s time to at least dis­cuss the prospect of giv­ing the UK elec­torate a sec­ond chance to have their say.

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