Why Britain Needs a General Election

September 11, 2019

This article was initially commissioned by Der Spiegel and is republished with the kind permission of Der Spiegel's editor. The original article (shortened and translated) can be seen here.




I was too young to vote when Britain held its historic referendum in June 2016, however I was out on the streets campaigning passionately for Leave. Along with over seventeen million fellow citizens, I wanted my country to become an independent, democratic, self-governing nation once again and to therefore leave the institutions associated with EU membership.


It was my opinion, and that of the Leave campaign, that economic integration with Europe had come at too high a, and ever-increasing, price: the continuous erosion of national sovereignty. This affected the country not only in obvious practical ways - not least our inability to control our borders from inward European migration - but in profound constitutional ways also: our parliament’s legal inferiority to European institutions, which at once are more remote, less democratic, and less accountable to the British electorate, which increasingly felt that the EU was not working for them. In addition, the EU is an undemocratic body: all legislation is initiated by the European Commission - completely unelected and indeed partly composed on failed former politicians who have actually lost elections in their home countries - with the democratic element, the European Parliament, only having the limited power to accept or reject. And even in this already week body, too, Britain’s power is diminishing as a result of EU expansion so that we now elect and influence only a small proportion of it. This assault on sovereignty and democracy was not acceptable to Britain.


These issues were what the Brexit vote was fundamentally about. Though the slogan ‘take back control’ has been derided for vagueness - as all political slogans are to an extent - this was indeed what Brexit was essentially concerned with: reassuming ultimate control over the political, social and economic fate of our country, free from external constrictions imposed undemocratically at a European level.


It in this spirit that Boris Johnson, since becoming prime minister, has attempted to proceed after the failure of the previous administration. Theresa May’s deal in no way satisfied the principal aims of the Brexit vote - and opened up the country to potential servitude with the rightly hated backstop - and was rejected, both by supporters of national independence and those who wish to ignore the referendum result. A key reason as to why she was unable to secure a good deal is that she was clearly never willing to walk away: her soundbite ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, whilst true words in themselves, was empty and meaningless because the government she led had made no preparations for leaving on these terms - as the EU knew full well. Her humiliating requests for extensions to the Article 50 process - backed by a majority of MPs who saw it as a route to cancelling Brexit altogether - emboldened the EU to simply stick to their intolerable terms (which were very beneficial to Brussels, of course) in the fair expectation that Britain would soon surrender.


Boris Johnson is, it appears, serious about no deal, however. The government is speeding up preparations to ensure a smooth transition on 31st October. The constitutional trickery employed by Remainers is being turned back on them, with lawful and legitimate devices such as prorogation. Given the EU’s regrettable intransigence and refusal to countenance substantially altering the terrible withdrawal agreement, Mr Johnson is - whilst open to discussions on a new, better and fairer deal - preparing to walk away. This is beneficial for Britain because it both satisfies the mandate given in the referendum (a good thing for democracy in itself) and the primary principles of Brexit: Parliament would once again be supreme and the British people would once again be able to vote for, and remove, the people who make the laws they are obliged to follow. The idea that this was not a form of Brexit to which the people consented to is farcical (with the suggestion people were uninformed downright snobbish and insulting): the campaign consistently advocated the negotiation of a free trade deal, with a reversion to WTO terms if the talks were unsuccessful. Even if Theresa May did not stick to her word, The Conservative Party (the largest party in parliament and the current party of government) stated in the 2017 manifesto that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ which, at the time, voters were inclined to take at face value. And finally it is basic common sense that, in any negotiation, the ability to walk away is crucial unless you are willing to accept any terms whatsoever, no matter how terrible. Those who say they are not prepared to leave except with a deal are effectively saying they believe Britain should only be able to leave with the EU’s permission - a clearly ludicrous position.


Last week, however, the government’s hands were tied by new legislation which is designed to force the prime minister to request yet another extension of our EU membership. This is completely unconstitutional, as the powers under Article 50 are a competence for the prime minister and the government, not parliament. Sensibly, therefore, Mr Johnson, confronted with legislation with which the government profoundly disagrees, did what convention demands in this situation and attempted to call an election - so that the voters could choose the next route forward. Yet opposition parties (who ironically the week before had been calling him an unelected dictator) blocked him from doing this, so intent are they on closing off - in a fundamentally undemocratic way - any chance of the government fulfilling the mandate of the June 2016 referendum. So we are stuck with a powerless government, completely unable to perform any of its duties: Britain is paralysed.


Britain needs an election because it needs a new parliament, one which is actually prepared to withdraw from the European Union and finally do what the British people have instructed them to. Remain MPs are acting in as undemocratic a way as is possible: preventing Brexit from taking place, ignoring the manifestos on which they were elected, and then refusing to allow the voters to have a say on all of this voting through an election - all whilst condemning the prime minister as a wannabe dictator. It is a pathetic and embarrassing state of affairs. Let’s have an election, put an end to it all, and allow Britain to retake its rightful place as an independent nation.

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