Now we need a proper, open and honest national debate
03 November 2016
Whether they voted Leave or Remain last June, the British people want to “take back control” of their destiny from politicians, unelected officials, big corporations and all the other powers that have shaped their lives for too long.
That much is clear.
But what does “control” look like when it comes to the torturous process of Brexit?
Today’s stunning High Court decision begins to provide a bit more clarity in that regard.
Whereas the government has wanted to design its plan for Brexit in secret, the Court has now insisted that the process must be brought out in the open. At the very least, in order to blow the starting whistle on formal exit negotiations, Parliament has now to have its say.
“This is a hugely welcome development. But control must not stop with our elected politicians either.”
What we need is a proper national debate about Brexit. Not the kind of debate we had during the referendum — full of bluster and buses — but a serious and sincere national discussion about what we want for our country’s future.
Image credit: Sam Greenhalgh via Flickr
What should our place be in relation to the single market? What is the future of free movement of people? How can we maintain the environmental and social protections that membership of the EU has given us for so long? And, perhaps most importantly of all, how can we bring people together again when they have been so deeply divided by all of these issues and more.
“These questions must not be resolved behind closed doors, either in Number 10 or in the Houses of Parliament themselves. They must be resolved in the country, with a clear sense of the options and vibrant public discussion.”
That openness is required not just because it is the right thing to do but because it is vital to the success of the enterprise.
And that’s for a very simple reason: the only deal that can succeed is one that works both for Britain and for the other 27 member states of the EU and the only way such a deal will emerge is if we approach the negotiations with openness, clarity and honesty.
That was the essence of the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s argument way back in 1795. There are always siren voices who say that secrecy and bluff are the way to get what you want in international negotiations. And those voices are always wrong.
Today is a start in bringing the vital energy of participation and open debate back to the Brexit decisions, but there is much further still to go.
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