An open letter to Jacob Rees-Mogg
I’m going to be honest with you: in almost every way, you and I could not be further apart. I voted to remain in the European Union; you’re the chairman of the ERG. I disagree with your opposition to gay marriage, your belief that women don’t have the right to abortion, your disregard for environmental protection, and your push for autonomous faith-based schools that allow for discrimination based on religious beliefs rather than state-supported standards. I’ve written to you in the past regarding these subjects, and your replies to me have only further illustrated just how different our opinions are.
But there are two things that unite us — beyond being near-neighbours in beautiful North East Somerset, of course. The first is that we both agree Theresa May’s vision for Brexit is not good for this country. I’m glad you voted against the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. The second is duty: it’s my duty as a voting citizen to write to my local MP and express my opinions on the matter, and it’s your duty to represent your constituents’ views in parliament.
You’ll be eager to point out, I’m sure, that the British public voted by a (slim) majority in 2016 to leave the EU, and that, in being voted into power yourself, your conservative viewpoint is, in theory, representative of the majority of your constituents’ beliefs — who also voted to leave by a majority. But there are three things I’d ask you to consider:
- Those who voted Leave in the referendum did so based on a number of false promises, not least of which was the infamous buses claiming that leaving the EU would give us £350 million a week to put into our NHS, touted by a campaign which has been shown to have illegally spent beyond campaign caps. Leave voters also placed their votes under impressions that the country would enjoy all sorts of freedoms, not realising that the myriad forms of our country’s trade-based ties to the EU would make it virtually impossible to have those Leave-related desires satiated.
- Statistics show that, because the Leave/Remain divide was largely one between old/young, voters who are now of eligible voting age — those who would arguably be most affected by Brexit — would likely vote to remain in the EU. It’s therefore not accurate to judge the mood of the nation on the now two-year-old referendum result.
- Those two years since the vote — and, in particular, the last few months — have shown that the government simply cannot agree on a way forward. Leaver or Remainer, leftwing or rightwing, Tory or Labour, I think we can all agree that a decision for a workable way forward is still an elusive target. With the Brexit deadline looming — whether extended or not — we’re no closer to any sort of plan, and what plans have materialised have clearly been met with derision by the public and parliament alike.
With these points in mind, it’s my strong belief that a significant percentage of Leave voters or non-voters would actually now vote Remain if they had the chance, and therefore I am urging you, as my supposed representative in the UK government, to agree to a second referendum, or so-called People’s Vote.
I’m well aware that you personally believe that a no-deal Brexit would be the preferred outcome, but I do not think this is a belief shared by the majority of your constituents in North East Somerset, or indeed by the country as a whole. Who in their right mind wants to enter into something that, as you yourself have said, could make us worse-off for the next 50 years?
I realise the chance of you backing a second referendum is slim to the point of being non-existent, because you would stand to lose your own, personal desire for a no-deal Brexit if the result of that referendum ends up being that the UK wishes to remain a part of the EU. But, if you really do believe in delivering what the public voted for in 2016, then you should have no objections to opening the question to public once more in 2019.
You, as chairman of the ERG and perhaps the most well-known hard-line Brexiter, have divided your own party in ways not seen for years; and you, as a member of the UK government, have yet to present a clear way forward for Brexit. I’d like you to put your personal goals aside and let the people tell you what they actually want.
Lastly, I have a question for you: what would actually be the benefit of leaving the European Union? I’m not looking for empty statements about our country’s independence, or of taking back control, or anything that can’t be proven with a solid plan for a way forward. I’d like some sort of outline for your strategies, please. Some facts. Anything tangible and achievable that you have the confidence to stand behind and promise to one of your constituents.
I’ll look forward to your response.
(Photo by Chris McAndrew)