We live in a representative democracy. We vote for our MPs for personal reasons, based on our understanding of their personalities and the policies of their parties, and we expect them to take account of our collective views, as indicated by the distribution of their constituents' votes. We do not expect them necessarily to take particular account of our individual views, but rather to use their judgement in parliament, based on the policies of their party and their wider understanding of the best interests of the nation and their constituents. I take these statements both to be true and to be acceptable to most people in the UK – a starting point for my argument.
Brexit is an issue that has divided the nation down the middle. It is also divisive of both main parties and of the constituent nations of the United Kingdom. Moreover, it is far more complex than was dreamed of by those people who promoted the idea of a referendum, though perhaps not by the shadowy plutocrats and schemers behind them. But we now know that its implementation will not be as beneficial as was originally proposed and is likely to do economic harm to both the UK and the EU. This includes what appears to be an insoluble problem of a European customs border between the North and Republic of Ireland.
We have reached an impasse that threatens our democracy itself with prorogation of parliament and darker suggestions of extra-judicial action including rioting. A way forward must be found that can meet with general accord and is consistent with representative democracy. Here is a suggestion, to separate Brexit from other pressing political issues. It depends on accepting Europe's previous agreement to postpone the implementation of Article 50 if a good reason is advanced.
A general election must be held. The dominant issue will be Brexit but all parties would be expected to have a broad programme of policies to deal with the other obvious political and economic problems facing the UK, education, health and social care, taxation and so on. As for Brexit, all candidates will be allowed to make up their minds on whether they are standing on a Remain, no-deal Brexit, or re-negotiated Brexit platform, regardless of the overall policy of their party, otherwise adhering to the relevant agenda.
Some parties, notably the Liberal Democrats, SNP and Brexit, will have a clear view but others, notably Labour and Conservative, may wish to allow their candidates to judge what they consider best for their constituents and campaign on either side. Those individuals standing for re-negotiate would have to have a realistic view of how to achieve this if they are to persuade their constituents, who by the time of the election would be expected to have a clearer view of the consequences than previously.
The views of those elected in such circumstances would be very likely to reflect the majority views of the people in each constituency – the true voice of an informed people. Policy could therefore be settled by our democratically-elected representatives having a free, unwhipped vote in parliament, first for Remain or Leave and then, if Leave wins, between no-deal and re-negotiate. If the latter were to succeed, those elected on this ticket would be presumed to have a realistic plan accepted by their constituents that avoids problems of the border in Ireland and would be acceptable to the EU.
This theoretical argument holds hope of finding a democratic way forward without damaging the constitution and may prove less divisive for our political parties and the country as a whole than either a repeat referendum or an election in which parties are forced to impose on their candidates a choice that may contradict their better judgement. Brexit is not a party-political issue since it threatens fundamental principles of both Left and Right. It can only be solved by an informed public, speaking through its elected representatives.