The Brexit Mess reveals a problem: There is no written Constitution

The Leave and Remain demonstrators are standing irreconcilably face to face. „Remainers are Traitors“ against „Bollocks to Brexit“. Both say, the are fighting for democracy.

The problem is there is no written constitution

The function of a constitution is to facilitate collectively binding decisions and plurality of opinions and interests at the same time: Some prefer this, others prefer that, and the constitution gives them institutions and procedures to settle their disputes in a way that makes it expectable that in the end each part will accept the outcome as binding even if they lose. Which is precisely what the unwritten, but nevertheless very much existent British constitution spectacularly failed to achieve with Brexit.

The first referendum didn’t make it expectable at all that the losing side would accept its result as valid: not just because of the tremendous amount of lies in the campaign, but because so much was still unresolved at the time of the referendum. How binding would the result be for Parliament? What exactly happens after one side or the other wins? Instead of settling these matters before, under the veil of ignorance, they were tackled only afterwards, if at all, when all answers inevitably appear as an attempt to manipulate the outcome in one direction or another. By the way, it was absolutely not clear, what „Leave“ should mean. Only 35% of Leave voters expected a No-Deal-Leave. Thus, the output of that decision process was both too weak to make it collectively binding and not weak enough to just dump it.

The one side tries to resolve this dilemma by immunizing themselves against the recognition of the gaping flaws of this result and outsourcing the problem to the critics of the referendum: it is them there’s something wrong with. They are traitors. The other side tries to resolve the dilemma by pathologizing the conflict and pretending that it is only a phenomenon of distorted perception and that the decision between leave and remain is just a matter of reason, outsourcing the problem to those who refuse to see that. It is them there’s something wrong with. They are lunatics.

The possible solution: 1. second referendum with a clear alternative 2. a debate about a written Constitution

I am well aware of the fact, that most British would reject the idea of having a great, organized debate about their constitution as horribly un-British. And presumably that is still true for many people. But for many perhaps not, after all that has happened. And it’s far from over. The worst is maybe still to come. Whatever the outcome, it will remain a deeply divided nation. In my opinion the way out of the whole chaos and the deep division in the long run can only be the one: The UK needs a constitution that makes clear the relation between government, parliament and referendum.

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