Letters to the Editor

People Before Profit's justification for Brexit is just nonsense

Newly elected People Before Profit MLAs Eamonn McCann and Gerry Carroll arrive at Stormont. Picture Mal by McCann

I was delighted when People before Profit topped the Assembly election results in West Belfast, and especially when Eamonn McCann won a seat in Derry. I wish them well in the future. But not their present stance on the EU. Eamonn’s justification of Brexit (June 28) is so weak you wonder does he believe it himself. He claims that without a left-wing Brexit there would only have been a choice “between the racist, neo-liberal elite of the European Union... and a raggle-taggle collection of right-wing loonies.”

Now of course it’s good for socialists to intervene in an awful debate and he made good criticisms of the EU and the Remain campaign but why take the same side as the Leave ‘loonies’? Some of them are also elite and even more right-wing, some are even more racist, others even more neo-liberal (wanting ‘freedom’ from EU regulations which protect jobs and the environment)?

“We welcome the outcome as changing the terrain on which we fight,” Eamonn says. Well it certainly has been changed, but it’s easy to think of changes for the worse (including fewer jobs, more poverty, higher living costs, less resources for the NHS, more racism, and so on) and difficult to think of any changes for the better as far as the left or workers in general are concerned. This was predicted and it’s not surprising. Whatever people’s motivations, Brexit in reality was and is a victory for the right and extreme right.

The unfortunate truth is that left-wing Brexit in Ireland and in Britain (where it originated) was a knee-jerk reaction which rightly criticised the neo-liberal austerity and democratic deficit of the EU, but failed to take into account the even worse implications of Brexit both on the terrain of ‘Little Britain’ and for the rest of Europe. It’s like a three-legged stool where one sturdy leg takes all the weight in criticising the EU but the other two are bent or missing and not surprisingly the stool falls over.

Brexiteers are keen on democracy for the EU but virtually silent on the UK’s own grotesque democratic deficit where a quarter of the electorate can produce an absolute majority government in London, and Brexit could make that worse too. Meanwhile, across the continent it is already giving encouragement to a nasty array of right-wingers and outright fascists. Instead of intervening by supporting Brexit or retreating to the terrain of their national states, socialists should be taking advantage of the EU for an internationalist fight against neo-liberalism and austerity at national and EU levels across Europe.

Belfast BT6


Brexit fallout has undermined the principle of consent

Democracy is a wonderful thing – to be cherished and respected. However, as the punishing impact of Brexit unfolds and thousands of middle Englanders reflect on what they have done (many have now openly and publicly expressed regret at voting leave  – as several media interviews are testimony to) you realise that going to the people on issues as profound as this carries its risks. 

I think if the vote was re-run in the morning the result would be very different as many people who were carried away on a tide of anti-immigrant and ‘take back control’ sentiment now realise they’ve been sold a pup and herded like goats. 

Millions have signed an online petition on the Commons website calling for a debate on legislation to be inserted that such a dramatic decision could only be carried if 60 per cent voted in favour of leave with a 75 per cent turnout. 

Two old lines spring to mind. Firstly to those who voted leave: ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ 

And to Cameron and those geniuses in Whitehall who crafted the legislation for this vote without ensuring that the process for a leave outcome had to be based on a vote that was resounding (say 60/40 or two thirds) majority: ‘You can’t shut the door after the horse has bolted.’

The reality is that sometimes a simple majority is not always that simple. 

In fact, as the last few days have shown, it can be horrifically complicated and extremely divisive with catastrophic consequences. 

What we have learned is this. When you tell the people to take back control and they do as you say – you soon realise that the immediate consequence of that is that you lose control of everything around you.

The First Minister and the secretary of state appear to be on a different planet from the majority of us who cherish our European identity. They believe that by telling us ‘It will be alright on the night’ they can erase the deep-felt emotional attachment we hold for Europe. What they completely miss is that the peace we all now take for granted was hewn out of the rock of John Hume’s vision to remove barriers and borders through the European Project.

Europe has been a generous supporter of Ireland north and south. In the same way unionists respectfully cherish the union between GB and NI, nationalists and many unionists and those somewhere in between, equally cherish the European Union. Its removal from the political equation here has only served to remove the comfort blanket which allowed many of them to accept the constitutional position of NI based on the principle of consent. The outcome of this referendum has completely undermined the principle of consent.

Attempting to ignore or patronise the will or consent of the people of NI in this referendum has only served to awaken the sleeping giant that is Constitutional Nationalism and cause many of us from all persuasions to start questioning our place in the world and where our best interests lie in the future.

Newry, Co Down


Call for independent Northern Ireland

In the recent Brexit vote a clear majority in Northern Ireland voted to remain inside the EU.

However, many of those who did so will not want to take up an offer to join a united Ireland as a means of remaining inside the EU.

Well, I’ve argued before through this newspaper for an independent Northern Ireland within the EU (European Union).

I’m guessing that some voters may now want to re-appraise that argument in lieu of the Brexit vote – it’s not looking just so silly now is it?

If it’s good enough for the Scots then maybe we should give it some thought ourselves – weigh up the pros and cons.

It can be argued that the DUP are the party of government, albeit in partnership with Sinn Féin and they’re firmly for Brexit.

However, I have also recently argued that were the pro-EU parties of the UUP, SDLP, Alliance and Greens or PBF to fuse together into a single political party and designate as ‘unionist’ they would be larger than the DUP and could take the position of First Minister.

If these parties found that it was legally too late to do so in the term of this assembly then they could plan for it in four years’ time for the next term.

Belfast BT9


Electoral threshold

I was surprised during the run-up and subsequent fallout of the recent UK Referendum on EU membership that there was no reference made to the requirement of the Scottish Devolution Referendum of 1979, that a minimum threshold of 40 per cent of the electorate had to be met for a vote to carry.

In the referendum of 1979, although 52 per cent of those that voted said ‘Yes’, the vote was not enacted due to the 64 per cent turnout which meant that only 33 per cent of the total potential electorate actually did say ‘Yes’, thereby falling short of the 40 per cent as was then required.

Had this same threshold been in place in the EU Referendum, the vote would again have not carried, due to the 52 per cent vote to leave being reduced relative to the total electorate to 38 per cent based on the 72 per cent turnout, and thus falling short of a 40 per cent threshold had that been in place. The UK government, in my view, has been grossly negligent in their setting up of the conditions for the referendum we have just been through.

Ideally, I feel, there should be a swift new referendum based solely on the question of whether Article 50 of the EU Constitution should be activated, or not. And, further, that there should be a minimum threshold in regard to total electorate set, as was the case in 1979, thereby removing the unreliable indicator of a very close result, such as we have just experienced, but upon which the future of our country now hangs.

Dundee, Scotland

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Letters to the Editor