The great English philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham defined as the "fundamental axiom" of his philosophy the principle that "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong".
Let's apply that test to the current dilemma facing the Government.
The options are: Plan A - proceed with Hard Brexit. Plan B - negotiate some form of Soft Brexit , Plan C - Abandon Brexit. Let's look at the happiness or misery resulting from each option.
Plan A: HARD Brexit:
For LEAVERS: For perhaps 15m, the satisfaction of having 'won' and 'taken back control'. and 2m guilty and unhappy because they never thought Brexit would really happen when they voted. Perhaps a curb to EU immigration - but with possible retaliation from the EU on UK citizens working in the EU and loss of access to a huge pool of skills and talent in the EU. A few thugs beat up innocent Asians or Poles and smash windows in celebration.
For the REST of the nation: (48m): Economic austerity for 5 - 10 years, loss of EU citizenship, loss of right to live and work in the EU, little further investment in job creating industries, exclusion from EU science and research, Scotland breaks way, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar become insoluble issues, Civil Service resources taken up in negotiation and rewriting laws are diverted from other essential national tasks.
Net assured happiness: 15m people.
Plan B: SOFT Brexit:
For LEAVERS: perhaps half (8.5m) satisfied, half (8.5m) dissatisfied and feeling cheated.
For the REST (48m): Impossible to evaluate, since nobody knows what 'Brexit Lite' could be, or if it is even feasible. A Norway option - if even feasible, which is in serious question - means free movement, £10bn payment for access to single market. Net gain from status quo = practically nil, Net loss = no say in the EU decision making.
Net assured happiness: 8.5m people.
Plan C: ABANDON Brexit:
For LEAVERS: perhaps 15m very dissatisfied, and 2m relieved because they never thought Brexit would really happen when they voted. Farage has hissing fits. Boris Johnson says phew - thank heavens. A few thugs beat up innocent Asians or Poles and smash windows in frustration.
For the REST: (48m) Joy, happiness, relief, back to normal life and business, freedom to live and work in the EU, investment in jobs returns to the UK, participation in EU science and research resumes, the Government and Civil Service gets back to the job of running the country, church bells ring and there is dancing in the streets. Theresa May becomes the saviour of the nation. Even Corbyn raises a smile.
Net happiness: 50m people.
Can the government, or any MP whose solemn duty is to act in the best interests of the nation, really ignore the fundamental axiom of one of the greatest English philosophers and seek to create "happiness" for 15 million while creating misery for 50 million?
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