• 27 Oct - 02 Nov, 2018
  • Shahed Sadullah
  • London Eye

The march in London for a People’s vote over the final Brexit deal must have been reported in Pakistan as well. As someone who was there and a part of it, it was awesome to see so many people congregated at one place. It was supposed to start at noon from London’s famous Park Lane and go up to Parliament Square, and although I was there well before time, there was no way I could actually get on to Park Lane. The road on both sides of the green belt in between was filled to capacity, right up to Marble Arch on one side and beyond Green Park on the other. People spilled over to Hyde Park and it is estimated that over 700,000 people participated. There were there in all the variety of the human race, old and young, men and women, whites and non-whites, babies in pushchairs and old people in wheel-chairs. Yet, as far as eye could see, it was difficult to see anyone who looked like a Pakistani. Surprisingly, none that I knew even bothered to tune in and see the event on television. They were more bothered about what was happening in Pakistan and with Imran Khan, although this issue here about Brexit is going to impact the lives of everyone without exception living on these islands. The National Health Service is going to be hit, some medicines may not be available at all and everything under the sun will become more expensive. Travel to Europe may well require visas and all this is in the short term. In the long term, only time will tell but as grants from the EU are discontinued, higher education will be hit, especially research projects. And yet, none of this appeared to have had the slightest impact on Britain’s Pakistani population, virtually all of whom and their children will continue to live here for generations to come. This trend will be further strengthened with the right to vote in Pakistani elections now being given. It is a measure which will not serve the community here well.

But to come back to the march, impressive as it was and massive as the turnout was, yet the government is adamant that another referendum is out of the question. The argument is that the last one was definitive in its result and that there is no need for another. The government had undertaken to give Parliament a ‘meaningful’ vote on the final deal reached with the EU, but it is now saying that the only option available to Parliament will be to either vote for the deal the government brings or to exit the EU without a deal – in other words, my way or the highway.

Strangely enough it is being argued that another referendum would be a negation of democracy, although how a public vote on anything can be a negation of democracy is very difficult to understand.

For that matter, the march against the Iraq war in February 2003 was perhaps even larger and yet it made no difference to the government’s ultimate decision. Perhaps in recent years a certain cynicism has crept into western democracies where the right to protest and the right to hold public meetings and marches as well as the right to express one’s opinion on most things is guaranteed, but the exercise of these rights has no effect whatsoever on the decision making process. You can march all you want and shout all you want and write all you want but after doing all that you must go home and everything will go on just as before. If this goes on, democracy could well become irrelevant and anything that is irrelevant sooner or later becomes extinct. Western society has more or less done away with religion and lives now in what it describes as the post-religious era. Could a post democratic order be on the way?

Some of the EU leaders are now saying that a deal is within sight and it is only the matter of the Irish border that has held things up. Labour has laid down five or six impossible conditions that no form of Brexit can ever meet and has said that if the government’s deal does not meet its guidelines, it will not vote for it. Nor will some extreme right wing Tories who could number as many as 40 in Parliament; on the other side of the spectrum, about a dozen left wing Tories will also vote it down as will some 30 plus members of the Scottish National Party plus the LibDems, and Greens. It is therefore difficult to see how the government, even if it gets a deal with the EU, will be able to get it through Parliament. And the big question is what happens then. The government is adamant that if that happens, the UK will exit the EU without a deal but that is so absurd that it is difficult to believe that intransigence bordering on tantrum can seize a nation to such an extent. Yet, stranger things have happened and once madness sets in, the extent of madness is impossible to predict. •