People are allowed to change their minds

Veronica Hardstaff

Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 12:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 12:08 pm
An EU flag flies in the face of Parliament

Northfield Court, S10

Several of your correspondents have recently accused me of not being a democrat. I have actually been actively involved with the democratic process for over fifty years and have been a candidate ten times; I won five and lost five elections, and have always accepted losing with good grace, as that was the result on the night. 

However, I have always continued to campaign for what I believe to be right. The essence of democracy is that people are allowed to change their minds if what they have been promised proves not to be the case.

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The 2015 referendum was called by David Cameron to win support to become leader of the Conservative Party. If the electorate in 2016 had been on the same basis as for the Scottish referendum, namely everyone registered to vote in Scotland, including EU citizens, plus 16-18 year olds as their future was at stake and also there had to be a 60% vote for major constitutional change to take place, we would not be in the turmoil we are now in over two and a half years later. The word “ADVISORY” did appear in the legislation, but seems to have been completely ignored, as were UK citizens living and working in other EU countries without property in the UK.

The Leave campaign promised that it would be very easy to leave yet continue to trade on similar terms with our former EU partners without obeying the rules or paying the 1% GDP contribution all member states pay. They said it would be very easy to negotiate new trade deals across the world (regardless of extra transport and environmental costs), but more than two years later we have managed a deal with the Faeroe Islands and stand to lose more than 60  trade  agreements we have as EU members. They said we would have £350million to spend on the NHS, which actually is currently under greater financial pressure than ever. The figure was not even a true reflection of our net contribution, once our rebate and all the money we get back from the EU are factored in, the latter having been invaluable to struggling areas like South Yorkshire. The extent of the integration across the EU of our major manufacturing industries was glossed over, and the leaders of the Leave campaign dismissed concerns that inward investment would move elsewhere to take advantage of the much larger single market of which we would no longer be a member. We are now getting announcements of job losses.

Their campaign was funded by very rich men whose concern is a fear of possible EU constraints put on them to make them pay their taxes in the EU country where they should be paying; it certainly is not the well-being of workers whose rights are enshrined in European law. A question mark still hangs over the legality of their campaign in terms of declaring their true expenses.

Nearly three years later, longer than the two years after the previous general election that Mrs May called a second general election, people have far more idea of the reality of leaving the EU and all the many agreements affecting our daily lives, such as shortages of medicines and the daily arrival and departure of fresh food, to say nothing of the potential disruption to the Good Friday Agreement. Asking people to confirm their previous vote, or reconsider and decide it makes more sense to remain seems to me to be a sensible democratic way forward, given that Parliament seems unable to reach a decision.

Mary Steele, I concede that all is not well in every EU country any more than in our own; however demonstrations and street fights are hardly on the same scale as armies fighting each other across borders, reducing prime agricultural land to mud, major cities being reduced to rubble by bombs, and millions of people, soldiers and civilians, being slaughtered or rendered homeless. Working together to avoid such horrors is surely a better way forward, especially when so much of the world seems unstable. (I’ll leave Maastricht for another day!)