Nothing is more democratic than allowing people to have their say

Nothing is more democratic than allowing people to have their say

AS an elected representative, I want to do everything in my power to protect our local area and Northern Ireland as a whole. It is for this reason I am delighted with the recent decision of Newry, Mourne and Down Council to endorse and back my call for a people’s vote on Brexit.

Across the UK, more and more people are asking for this vote to have the opportunity to pass their final judgement on what will define us for generations to come. Brexit will affect everyone and we should be looking at the detail and allowing everyone the right to have their say.

This is not only a moment for those of us who voted to remain, but also the growing number of people who voted to leave and now see the ramifications of Brexit will be so widespread.  

Northern Ireland only works when based on sharing and interdependence, yet Brexit entails new divisions, barriers and friction. We can stop those divisions by supporting political stability and protecting the Good Friday Agreement, maintaining open borders throughout these islands and protecting our economy and enabling future opportunities. 

This is not about overturning democracy. Indeed, nothing is more democratic than allowing people to have their say. Democracy cannot be overturned by applying more democracy.

Rather than answering a question, more questions can often emerge at the result of an election. This is the case with the EU Referendum of 2016. Since the end of the Second World War, we have had four sets of general elections which have occurred within two years of each other. I doubt anyone would argue these elections occurring in any way subverted the democratic process.

We are witnessing almost daily the complexities of interdependence, which we benefit from, that have developed between member nations of the EU. These complexities were brushed aside by many of the leave side as unnecessary and easy to re-establish on better terms. Yet, with six months to go, these same leavers have not managed to propose anything which has come close to a pragmatic workable solution. For these leavers to now claim to speak on behalf of the ‘will of the people’ is a falsehood.

This leads to bad politics and bad democracy through containing the ‘will of the people’ to a one-time snapshot within history. This precludes the people from quite simply changing their mind. Just as a healthy democracy requires constant checks and restraints placed upon the government of the day, departure from the EU should require the continuing consent of the people. 

We are without an Executive, and thus without a voice, in what is the most tumultuous constitutional period in generations. Our preparation for leaving the EU is based upon a two-page letter written over two years ago and being carried out by civil servants. 

This is a complete abdication of responsibility and the duty of governance by those elected to lead this society. Instead, our politicians have retreated into the safe confines of their own ideology, rather than search for a consensus which is best for the country.

It is time for the people to take back control. What we have seen is an abject failure of politicians to lead in the face of this crisis. Instead, they have retreated into the confines of their own ideology rather than search for a consensus within the country. That extends not only from Westminster, but also closer to home. 

Only a people’s vote can begin the untying of this Gordian knot.

• The South Down Alliance Party is organising a Brexit panel discussion in the Newcastle Centre on Thursday, October 25, between 7pm and 9pm.