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Note To Remainers: Respect The Referendum Result And Get On With Building The Country We Want

14/11/2016 13:16
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The Liberal Democrats are wrong to call for a second referendum. Those of us who voted Remain should not obstruct the work of the government to deliver Leave. That's not to say the technicalities shouldn't be debated and scrutinised, the anticipation of which will put pressure on the government to obtain the best possible outcome. But we shouldn't question the basic parameters, namely that we are to leave the European Union, and that the mood of the British people is against paying a budgetary contribution to any European structure or any automatic or uncontrolled freedom of movement into the UK from other countries (be they EU or not).

It is not anti-democratic to say that parliament shouldn't get the final choice. We just had a general election where one of the major parties said in their manifesto they would hold "a straight in-out referendum on our membership of the European Union". That party won an absolute majority. Parliament passed a law to hold the referendum. The question was independently assessed for bias. The referendum was held and gave a clear result. No statistical insignificances, queues around the block to vote after polls had closed or hanging chads. You can't really get more democratic than that in the British system, and woe betide any MP that thinks their personal mandate is greater than this train of events. The courts will determine if there needs to be a parliamentary sign-off, which will be interesting for the constitutional historians, but common sense dictates that there shouldn't be a parliamentary stalling.

Of course that isn't to say that a lot of people don't feel very upset by the result. But given that our country has decided to leave, there is a danger of fighting the wrong battles here. Fervent pro-Europeans need to ask themselves why it is that they are feeling so violated, and what it is that really matters.

I care about our country's prosperity, about our ability to generate wealth in order to give individuals opportunities to pursue their dreams and build secure and fulfilled lives, and also to give the government more opportunities to shape the type of society we want to live in.

I care about our country's influence in the world, our ability to lead and right now I particularly care about our power to act as a restraining force on an unpredictable US President. I also think there are some policy issues that are best handled internationally, and I'd like to see us confident playing our role to resolve them on an international stage. For all these reasons I voted Remain; I thought it would be easier for us to achieve these aims as an engaged member of the European Union.

But I think there is a problem if we start to conflate the means with the ends. I presume it will be harder to be an internationally confident, influential and prosperous country outside the EU. We'll need all our brainpower and resources to try and achieve it over a number of years, and this will be to the detriment of other priorities. But that doesn't make it impossible, it just makes it time-consuming. Membership, or not, of the EU shouldn't be seen as an end in itself, but rather as one of a number of potential tools to be used to help us achieve our ends. So we do our country no service by campaigning to reverse the decision. Instead we should seek and pursue alternative ways to achieve our policy objectives.

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