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The half-baked ideas of a candidate for UKIP leader may be insignificant in the grand scheme of British politics, but Evans’s comments typify a strand of argument all too prevalent in post-referendum British politics today. She is part of the “will of the people” brigade. They see themselves as mediums who must be consulted if the views of the electorate need to be ascertained. Farage leads this cohort and he is promising a “100,000-strong” march to the Supreme Court on the day it hears the government’s appeal against the High Court decision. A politician who calls his supporters out onto the streets whenever something doesn’t go his way is not a politician who deserves to be listened to, as the government tackles the many thorny questions that come with the Brexit process.

Unfortunately, the “will of the people” brigade do have one thing going for them: the existence of a Remain rump who really do want to ignore the referendum result. Indeed, the hostile response to the High Court judgment (“Enemies of the People” headlined the Daily Mail the next morning above pictures of the judges involved in the case) can in part be explained by the fact that those bringing the action against the government would rather Britain remained in the EU. They are not alone. The SNP has made clear that its MPs will vote against the triggering of Article 50 come what may because Scotland voted to Remain. The Liberal Democrats see an opportunity to woo new voters as an unambiguously pro-EU party. Some Labour MPs are also tempted by this logic. They are entitled to make whatever argument they like; but they should not be under any illusion as to the ammo they provide Nigel Farage and anybody else who makes political capital by persuading the British public that they are being cheated out of what they voted for.  

The most important dividing line in the politics of Brexit Britain is not between those who campaigned for Leave and those who campaigned for Remain. It is between those who have faith in the strength of British institutions — the legal system, Parliament, the Bank of England, the civil service, the press — and those who see these institutions as nothing more than obstacles to change. The mistake at the heart of the populist group’s thinking is the idea that everything would be so simple if the establishment didn’t get in the way, as though good ideas (and leaving the EU is a good idea) would automatically become reality if it wasn’t for pesky bureaucrats. This is the politics of the pub bore and should not be taken seriously.

Theresa May has three big Brexit questions to answer: What agreement will the UK reach with EU member states? What relationship will we have with the rest of the world once we leave? And what domestic reforms are needed to make the most of our new freedoms? For Brexit to be a success, she must draw on the strength of the institutions around her as she navigates the uncertain waters in which she finds herself.    
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Sir William Cash MP
November 28th, 2016
5:11 PM
Oliver Wiseman is right. Westminster can and must be trusted on Brexit. Campaigns outside Westminster are an intrinsic part of our national politics. However, the implementation of the Referendum result must be resolved in Government and Parliament itself. Furthermore, none of the external campaigns during the Referendum itself on either side were lessons in propriety. Nor did UKIP play an exclusive role as some have claimed. The battle against the EU, the Government and the Establishment has been conducted for decades by Conservative backbenchers, with the assistance of some principled Labour and DUP Members of Parliament, to regain our parliamentary sovereignty and to unchain this country from European government. There would have been no Referendum if these Members of Parliament had not successfully fought in the House of Commons consistently and relentlessly from Maastricht onwards. It was extraordinary that the Vote Leave campaign even attacked Westminster Members of Parliament on its website. This totally failed to recognise that it is in Westminster and for Westminster and thereby for the people themselves through their representatives that the battle for parliamentary sovereignty had to be won. It was Westminster which passed the European Union Referendum Act 2015 and transferred the right of decision from Parliament to the people of the United Kingdom as a whole. Westminster must now implement this sacred and historic decision. UKIP has not managed to achieve more than one Member of Parliament. It cannot be said that UKIP itself forced David Cameron into the manifesto commitment for a referendum. It was 81 Conservative MPs in a crucial vote against a 3-line whip, as a culmination of battle after battle and Referendum Bill after Referendum Bill which forced the issue. UKIP played their part as did Nigel Farage but contrary to current conventional wisdom, it was not UKIP alone by any means who achieved the result. It was the British people and their innate democratic instincts who won. The General Election results of 2015 and the votes cast in the Referendum prove the point.

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