Brexit protesters wave flags made up of a European Union flags and British Union flags, otherwise known as a Union Jack, outside the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. European Union leaders kept alive the notion of the U.K. reversing its plan to leave the bloc in a sign of lingering hopes that British Prime Minister Theresa May will halt Brexit scheduled for March 2019. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
© Bloomberg

Sir, Malcolm Rifkind is informed, intelligent, technically capable and experienced. Online comments on his op-ed “ Sadly, Brexit must mean leaving the EU single market” (February 19) should respect his opinion that “democracy” makes Brexit irreversible, and engage him on that, rather than demeaning his intelligence, or referring to scandals.

I’d suggest three counter-arguments. First, the UK is a parliamentary democracy. Popular opinions and press may object, but the most important expression of Britain’s historical understanding of democracy is Burke’s Address to the Electors of Bristol, pre-dating the French Revolution, that balanced so well the knowledge of the few with the electoral power of the many. The Conservative right, especially if they fear the voice of the uncontrolled many, should value the informed views of parliamentarians in sifting the nation’s policy options. To refuse to exercise your true judgment, because a thin majority disagree with you, is an abdication of an MP’s duty.

Second, while listening is part of an MP’s duty, and the Brexit wings — to right and left of British politics — would be bitterly disappointed if Brexit failed, the numerically equal centre ground is sincerely, deeply disturbed by the driverless Brexit — a runaway horse and cart they see careering into an undefined future. And generationally, the emotional momentum of the decades-long efforts of a passing generation to achieve the ambiguous state termed “Brexit” is a democratically insufficient reason to cut off Britain’s younger generation from its aspirations to a European future. Democracy must also look forward.

Third, ambiguity. Looking forward, the initial thin majority for Brexit was a unity of opposite: ur-capitalists, seeking a US social model, and ur-Marxists, denying the market component of the EU economy. Only one of those two sides who united on voting “Brexit” will get what it wanted. In numerical terms, half of Brexit voters will be denied what they voted for; three-quarters of the country will be disappointed. That is highly destabilising, and another democratic reason to end Brexit.

Sir Malcolm should change track, and fight Brexit.

Paul Serfaty
Mid-Levels, Hong Kong

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