This week Nigel Farage proposed a second referendum on leaving the EU to settle the issue for a generation, as he believes the result would be the same again. The former United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader suggested another poll would ultimately kill off the campaign for Brexit to be reversed, which is championed by “remainers” such as Tony Blair, Andrew Adonis and Nick Clegg.
Speaking on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff, he said: “My mind is actually changing on all this. What is for certain is that the Cleggs, the Blairs, the Adonises will never, ever, ever give up. They will go on whining and moaning all the way through this process.
“So maybe, just maybe, I’m reaching the point of thinking that we should have a second referendum on EU membership. I think that if we had a second referendum on EU membership we would kill it off for a generation”.
It is not sure if Mr. Farage’s intentions are as he says, “to kill off the debate”, or simply like any other good populist, he is sensing the mood of the British public changing its mind. And perhaps he does not want to have his name forever linked with the most disastrous decision in the British history.
Thus, like Pontius Pilate he is “washing his hands” and now seemingly coming out as a supporter of a second referendum on the British EU membership. This comes from the same person who blasted the Irish government and the EU itself for having second referendums on the Lisbon Treaty among others. “Respect the Irish vote”, he was claiming, together with other UKIP MEPs in the European Parliament, holding signs. He criticised the move as being undemocratic and bullying by the EU, which totally disregarded the will of the people.
His claims, among many other populist, Far-Right, Far-Left and other anti-EU groups and political parties, helped increase Euroscepticism across Europe. When people were voting for something, they had to vote again as it appeared and thus, it legitimised Farage’s claims of an extremely undemocratic EU.
Fuel for the anti-EU
How can we now accept a second British referendum, which, if we judge from the current public mood in the country, will be for staying in the EU. Wouldn’t this give another reason among many Eurosceptics, not only in the UK but across Europe, to slam the EU once again for “bullying” and disrespecting people’s wishes?
Won’t this move give a sense that a country cannot leave the EU, even if it wishes to? What is the point of a referendum to leave, many will think, if we have to vote again on it.
And they will be right.
Understandably, the British public is exhausted by all the debate, hugely divided, confused, angry, feeling cheated and in despair. Most likely they will vote to remain this time, in order to avoid years and years of uncertainty that will have a disastrous impact on their economy. But it was them who voted to leave – it was their decision. For too many years the British governments failed to tell the truth to their voters about the benefits of EU membership, in order to take credit for any successes and to feed petty pride and nationalism.
Long time discontent
Being a blogger for over 10 years, I was always amazed about the passionate hatred that the British pensioners and other Eurosceptics had towards the EU. They were among the most vocal anti-EU protesters, not only always rejecting any possibility for further EU integration, but wanting to dismantle the block altogether.
When I took a look at the British press though, it all became clear to me. While the anti-EU media and political parties were spreading their corrosive propaganda against an “EU superstate”, the British elites did absolutely nothing to counterpart these claims. In fact, they even played along in order to gain votes and reputation. They turned the EU into a punching bag for their failures. Sadly, now the country is deeply divided and on the brink of collapse as Scotland considers to abandon the UK altogether and join the EU alone. Numerous pro-EU rallies take place and the public is angry. But it is too little, too late. Brexit must happen now.
If there is a second referendum then the Far Right or Far Left and other anti-EU parties will grab this opportunity to slam yet again the EU for being a bully and undemocratic. This will be always used as an example to block any further EU integration, not just by British Eurosceptics, but perhaps in Hungary, Poland and other member states too.
This phenomenon has to stop and it is sad that Britain must become an example, but there is no other way. We have to let them face the consequences of their choice, see how it is outside the EU, satisfy their curiosity and nationalism and if they decide to rejoin the EU, there will be no more cherry picking or scepticism. The EU will move on to deeper integration and if the British want to rejoin, they will have to agree to it, stay out or in the EEA. So everyone will be happy and receive what they want, deserve or suits them. If the British government decides to cancel Brexit, then they must find legal loopholes to do so, depending on their constitution. But a second referendum must be out of the question.
The alternative citizenship
We cannot let the whole European project fail, just to satisfy the cyclothymia of just one nation. However, one possible positive outcome of all this will be if we agree to give British nationals EU passports and citizenship. Those who wish to remain EU citizens could, together with other EU/EEA nationals, apply for an EU passport.
It has long been debated that it will offer the benefit of belonging to a European republic only for those who chose to do so, of course. Brexit could make such move a necessity, but it should not be only available for British nationals. Others, like the Norwegians, Icelanders, or indeed any of EU nationals that feel passionately about their EU citizenship, could also apply and attain such passport.
Brexit certainly poses many challenges, in all fields: economic, political and social, not just in Britain, but in the whole of Europe. It is as scary as it is uncertain. But many lessons could be learned from it, and perhaps people will finally learn to love the EU, see its potential for the future and be proud of our collective achievements, once they experience the effects of Brexit.