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1st November 2016

Remain voters need to scrutinise Brexiteers like me

A well-planned exit from the EU is reliant on all voters continuing to voice their concerns

If, unlike me, you voted Remain on June the 23rd, you might have encountered some hostility since the referendum. The Brexiteers have come up with a new line: anyone who voted to remain and stands by their opinion is an effete, moaning, unpatriotic, metropolitan liberal, to whom we should pay no notice. This is ridiculous. Many prominent Leave voters, including Nigel Farage, said that they would not be content in accepting the result if Britain voted to remain. You can be sure that if we had voted to remain, there would be cries of an establishment stitch-up and calls for a second referendum (as was the case after the Scottish Referendum).

One of the main arguments that convinced me to vote to Leave was the lack of democracy in the European Union. Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the European Commission) and his cronies, it seemed to me, were and are completely unaccountable to the British (or indeed European) electorate. There is no vote in which we can remove him, and he gives little thought to what the people he governs think of him.

The reason why the Westminster system is so much better than the EU system is that its politicians are scared of the people they represent. If your Local MP is an expenses cheat or does not turn up to parliament, they will likely be removed by their constituents in a General Election. When newspapers such as The Daily Mail make jibes at anyone who is still angry about the vote to Leave, they undermine a key reason for why so many people voted to leave — it is important that decisions taken by politicians can be criticised by the British people.

Democracy does not work if the opposition are expected to not oppose the government. As Ken Clarke (a Conservative MP for Rushcliffe, who supported Remain) said on Question Time: “When a party loses an election, they do not go to parliament and accept that the winning party was right about everything. I don’t think many Labour voters would be happy if, after having lost the election in 2015, Ed Miliband had gone into parliament and accepted that the Tories were right about austerity, tuition fees, and zero-hour contracts”.

Those making the foolish argument that Remainers should keep their traps shut about the dangers of leaving the European Union set a dangerous precedent. They think it would be better if those who hold the majority view remain immune from criticism. Think the weakening of the pound is a bad thing? Be quiet. Think that Brexit will lead to workers’ rights being eroded? Shut up.

I voted Leave with the understanding that if Brexit was a complete disaster — though I do not think it will be — I would have to shoulder a portion of the blame. Likewise, if we had voted to remain in the European Union I would have been first to criticise Remainers if, as I suspect it will, the EU continues in its ways, such as the forcing of austerity upon the poorest people on the block, or retaining protectionist barriers that are detrimental to farmers and workers in Africa.

The people who voted Remain, who are still firm in their belief that Britain should stay inside the European Union, or the single-market, or whatever it is, must not shut up. Liam Fox, Boris Johnson, and David Davis might well make a mess of Brexit. If they do, you ought to be the first to say so, because a functioning and healthy democracy is reliant on the fact that the electorate will be able to sniff out a dodgy deal, or a promise that has not been delivered on.

The public voted to Leave and now that the referendum is over that is what we must do. But, as Remain-voting MPs have become fond of saying, we did not vote on what kind of Brexit we wanted. Contrary to what some people think, we did not vote for the official Vote Leave campaign. We did not vote for Boris Johnson or Michael Gove. We simply voted to leave. And many of those who voted to leave, me included, certainly do not have much sympathy with some of the plans of the current government.

I rely on Remain voters to keep the Conservative government in check and to ensure that Brexit is not a disaster. If it is, ordinary British people will suffer. More importantly, I will have egg on my face.

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