"Brexit is only one aspect of a much deeper constitutional crisis which ultimately requires a constitutional convention to decide how this country should be governed."
Due to its importance to the future of the country, it is essential that a People’s Vote be seen to be democratically legitimate and truly empowering by all British voters, both procedurally and substantially. This means that it will have to address not only whether we wish to remain in or leave the EU, but just as importantly, how we can now chart a clear way forward on “how this country should be governed” as a “21stcentury democracy” moving towards “a different kind of future”. Therefore, it cannot not simply consist in being just a repeat of the June 2016 Brexit vote, nor can it be done in haste, without adequate popular debates, discussions, and consultations. Before holding such a vote, it must be established without doubt that we, citizens of Great Britain, do indeed demand to make our voices heard anew in a second referendum on our future in Europe. As recently suggested by Jane Morrice, former deputy Speaker of the Northern Ireland Stormont Assembly, the upcoming May 2019 European Parliament elections provide us with exactly such an opportunity to legitimise democratically the upcoming People’s Vote. A cross-sectional pro-EU candidates list must be put to the voters, together with a clear program outlining what such a People’s Vote will entail, and how it will be managed. The election of a majority of British MEPs from this list to the European Parliament would thus provide unquestionable evidence of the British electorate’s firm will to engage in such a process, culminating in a second referendum. A victory of a majority of pro-EU MEPs explicitly running on a platform advocating a People’s Vote and spelling out both the substance and the procedure of such a future consultation, would constitute a new and powerful popular mandate and would more than overcome the Brexiteers’ argument that, in holding a second Brexit vote, the democratically-expressed view of Britons in the June 2016 would be thwarted, disrespected, ignored. Following the European Parliament elections, a cross-party-led House of Commons must show leadership and vision by legislating to extend the application of art. 50 so as to allow us enough time to organise and participate in the public deliberations of a one-year long Citizens’ Constitutional Convention, which would be followed by the actual People’s Vote – as the culmination and validation of our civic exercise of discussion, deliberation, and decision-making, and not as a negation of our right to do so, as clearly happened with the 216 Brexit Referendum.
This process must be defined by four key requirements:
- setting out from the start fair, legitimate, and effective rules on how the Citizens’ Constitutional Convention would be selected and conducted;
- enabling an open, participative, deliberative process bringing together all voices that demand to be heard in today’s Britain and are determined to contribute in shaping our common future together, in the UK, in Europe, as members of the Transatlantic community, based on the three fundamental principles of absolute inclusion, deep diversity and the power of the best argument;
- allowing for sufficient time for an iterative process of creative envisioning, feedback, and decision-making to emerge from the ground up, from all citizens towards the Convention, and not from the top down, as a ‘royal directive’ from Westminster’s entrenched élite to its ‘British subjects’; and finally,
- deciding on a simple, clear, direct question giving all British citizens, wherever they might live, the opportunity to make their voice heard and have their votes counted in a final People’s Vote.
Towards a 'Citizens' Constitutional Convention'
This one-year consultation period that would see our entire civil society come together and take part in an open, accountable, and honest process of directly deliberative democratic decision-making during which we, citizens of this country, would reflect on, propose, and decide how our country should be governed.
As former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has rightly pointed out in a recent Guardian article entitled “A citizens’ assembly is now the only way to break the Brexit deadlock”:
“Key to this would be a series of citizens’ assemblies whose thinking would then lead to constructive reconsideration by parliament of our relations with Europe, including the option of a renegotiation followed by a referendum. Brought together in public hearings in each region, a representative sample of 2016 remain and leave voters would take time to engage, deliberate and then pronounce on all the concerns that Brexit raises: about immigration, sovereignty, the costs of membership, and other burning issues such as the state of manufacturing, the condition of our left-behind communities, and the rising child poverty austerity has imposed.”
The Citizens’ Constitutional Convention should be composed of seven phases, as follows:
- Phase 1: Each of England’s nine regions, together with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland select a 24-member Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) to determine how each of these 12 constituencies will select a Regional Constitutional Assembly (RCA), how these will conduct their proceedings, and what issues they will address in their deliberations. Two members from each RAC shall be then selected as members of a United Kingdom Advisory Committee that will oversee the country’s Citizens’ Constitutional Council (CCC). This phase would last two weeks.
- Phase 2: The Regional Constitutional Assemblies, each composed of 1,200 citizens drawn from all walks of life so as to represent their specific constituencies as closely as possible, will start out by holding public hearings for four weeks, then deliberate for three weeks, and finally draft their Preliminary Recommendations to the CCC over a two-week period. One hundred members from each RCA will then be selected as members of the country’s CCC. This phase would last a total of nine weeks.
- Phase 3: The 1,200 members of the Citizens’ Constitutional Council (100 from each RCA) will also begin its proceedings by holding public hearings for four weeks across the country, then deliberate for three weeks based on those hearings and on the Recommendations received from the 12 RCAs, and finally draft in two weeks an UK Interim Report (UKIR) setting out clearly “how this country should be governed” as a “21stcentury democracy” – including, but certainly not limited to, the UK’s relationship with the EU. This phase would also last a total of nine weeks.
- Phase 4: The CCC sends its UK Interim report to each of the 12 RCAs and proceeds to hold public hearings across the country on the content of the UKIR for nine weeks; meanwhile, the RCAs, after receiving the text of the UKIR, would deliberate on its contents for seven weeks, and go on to draft their Final Recommendations to the CCC over a two-week period. Phase 4 would thus unfold over a nine-week period.
- Phase 5: The Citizens’ Constitutional Council would deliberate for five weeks based on its Interim Report, on the feedback to it received during its latest public hearings, and on the Final Recommendations handed to it by each of the 12 Regional Constitutional Assemblies. The CCC would then take four weeks to draft its UK Final Report (UKFR) detailing its analysis of how this country should be governed as a 21stcentury democracy, and including an actionable set of clear, coherent, comprehensive, and concise Recommendations on how to implement the necessary constitutional changes to enable this ‘different kind of future’ at the local, regional, British, European, and Transatlantic levels of governance.
- Phase 6: A fourteen-week long democratic deliberation process will be held across the country to discuss, debate, and decide whether or not to approve, ratify, and implement the CCC’s Final Report and Recommendations.
- Phase 7: A People’s Vote, held over two days to ensure all citizens who wish to do so will have the opportunity to make their voices heard and have their ballots counted, will finally determine whether the UK will adopt or reject the CCC’s Recommendations, including but not limited to our future relationship with the EU. The question to be put to vote must therefore be simple and direct: “Do you approve or reject the adoption and implementation of the Civic Constitutional Convention’s Recommendations?”
The collapse and re-formation of Britain’s system government: Our challenge and Our duty
The 20th century British system of government has imploded.
The Labor-Conservative duopoly inaugurated exactly 100 years ago at the end of H.H. Asquith’s last Liberal government by the ascension to the Prime Minister’s post of David Lloyd George in a coalition dominated by the Conservative party is dead.
Quintessential representatives of the mass production, hierarchical, top-down industrial management systems that until only recently dominated both our public and private networks of governance, neither of these two parties were able to successfully navigate the transition from with the Sovereignty era of centralized, homogeneous nation-states, to the Connexity era of innovation, creativity, diversity, pluralism, and cooperation. Both parties split down the middle regarding the fundamental issue of British membership in the European Union. They utterly failed to understand as political organizations that the European Union was not simply an ‘international club’ Britain could choose to join or to leave, or to explain to their members the EU’s true nature – that of a critical level of governance that is part and parcel of the rapidly evolving British multi-level political system, that plays a vital role in helping us, its citizens, manage our globalizing world as we seek to achieve our own goals and dreams. Bitterly opposed factions in both these parties have been using in a reckless and self-serving manner the ‘European’ wedge issue in order to promote their partisan interests and their personal careers. Consequently, in the immediate aftermath of the stunning results of the Brexit referendum of June 23., 2016 both the Conservative and Labor parties have in fact ceased to exist.
The Conservative party is now experiencing a hostile takeover by a coalition of its deeply Eurosceptic wing now led by political opportunist Boris Johnson, in a de facto alliance with Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). This faction, which is all but certain to appoint Boris Johnson as Britain's next Prime Minister and compose a vast majority of his Cabinet, will lack any direct popular mandate and political legitimacy to govern and to trigger Britain’s exit from the EU by invoking Art. 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This new, T-REX - Territorially-exclusivist, Radically-nationalist, Extreme-authoritarian, Xenophobic - version of the Tory party brandishing an AARGH strategy of Anger, Alienation, Resentment, Grievance, and Hate will have as much in common with the old Conservative party of David Cameron, John Major, Margaret Thatcher, and Edward Heath as today's U.S. Republican Party led by Donald Trump has in common with the Grand Old Party of George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, or David Eisenhower: it has become a nefarious, reprehensible, far right, isolationist mutation that does not represent British civil society and is incapable to garner its support and to steer Britain towards a brighter future for all its citizens.
The Labor Party has already suffered its own T-REX mutation last year when the ‘new’ Old Labor faction of Jeremy Corbin took over the party of Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Jim Callahan and Harold Wilson, and attempted to transform it back into a democratic socialist, Eurosceptic, inward-looking organization rigidly controlled from the top by a narrow group of left-wing ideologues. The ongoing contestation of Jeremy Corbin’s leadership as illustrated by the post-Referendum sacking or resignation of a significant group of his senior Shadow Cabinet members as well as the widening schism between Labor’s primarily anti-Corbin parliamentary wing and its grassroots members overwhelmingly composed of Corbin supporters has only added the final seal certifying the irretrievable collapse of this political movement.
The Liberal Democratic Party, having failed under the leadership of Nick Clegg to establish itself as a viable governing alternative during its five coalition years with the Conservatives, was wiped out at the last general election, in 2015, and shows no signs of recovery despite the valiant efforts of its new leader, Tim Farron.
The political situation in Holyrood, Scotland is a mirror image of that now prevailing at Westminster: both Scottish Labor and Conservative parties have been virtually obliterated by the rise of the Scottish Nationalist Party and of the increasingly powerful pull of the Independence option that it embodies and advocates.
In brief, over the past few years the traditional British political parties have in effect ceased to exist. A dramatic radicalization of our available political choices has left us as citizens with no sensible options to express our opinions or with any competent representatives to entrust our votes to. As a result, Great Britain itself is on the verge of dramatic implosion and irreversible collapse.
The time has finally come for us, members of the British civil society, to take our governance and our destinies into our own hands and to create together a new, hopeful, optimistic, open, and forward-looking future for ourselves, for our children, and for future generations in Britain, in Europe, in the trans-Atlantic community, and across the world.
The “Stronger United” movement brings these issues of governance, participation, democracy, and rights together in a clear, coherent, and comprehensive 8-Point Citizens' Plan for Change. In simple terms, it states that if we wish to preserve and promote the equal freedoms, opportunities and prosperity we have prided ourselves with until now, we need to profoundly re-think and re-form the way our existing institutions of governance interact and function at home and abroad. In a rapidly changing global environment, where time and distance have been reduced to almost nil and both human and natural risks have increased to levels until recently simply unthinkable, we cannot continue to let ourselves be ruled by 16th century "sovereignty" theories and 17th century political institutions according to 18th century rules of procedure, 19th century limited democracy values, and 20th century hierarchical political parties.
We must, together, as free and equal citizens, make a conscious decision to resolutely step into the 21st Century and address all these governance issues – economic, political, cultural and military – in a clear, open, comprehensive and coherent manner. This is why the catastrophic outcome of the recent UK Referendum on EU Membership cannot be the end, but only the beginning of our ongoing struggle for “A Stronger UK in a United Europe”. Winston Churchill’s passionate entreaty at The Hague Congress of Europe of 7. May 1948 seeking to re-build a peaceful, prosperous, pluralist, democratic, and united continent applies with the same force and urgency to us today as it did then to the leaders of a warn-torn Europe:
“…there is only one duty and watchword: Persevere. That is the command which should rule us at this Congress. Persevere along all the main lines that have been made clear and imprinted upon us by the bitter experiences through which we have passed. Persevere towards those objectives which are lighted for us by all the wisdom and inspiration of the past.”
We at “Stronger United” have drafted a Civic Appeal directed to all British citizens, asking you to support our clear, detailed, and comprehensive 12-point plan on how to deal with the fallout and consequences of the Brexit referendum result in a legitimate, democratic, open, and accountable manner that will maximise our choices and reduce dangerous uncertainty and turmoil for ourselves, for our European partners and for all our fellow European citizens. Please take the time to read it, download it, share it with your family and friends, and support our initiative by contacting us, joining our movement, reading our 'Britain Beyond Brexit book, or making a donation to help us achieve “A Brighter Future Together!”
Stronger United Civic Appeal of June 25, 2016
(to download a .pdf version, please click here)
Today, June 25, 2016, Europe celebrates 68 years since the start of the 1948 Berlin Airlift. For 322 days the joint air forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the British Commonwealth flew over 200,000 flights and provided the beleaguered citizens of West Berlin close to 90,000 tons of fuel, food, and other life necessities to help them preserve their freedom and dignity as they bravely resisted the Soviet-imposed blockade of their valiant city. This supreme moment of solidarity between freedom-loving citizens across Europe, North America, and the world lit a beacon of hope that transformed the history of the war-torn and divided continent and marked a new era of military, economic, and political cooperation between former adversaries spanning borders, languages, and continents. It marked the birth of a new Europe based on common values of democracy, prosperity, and diversity and on a vision of a hopeful, brighter future for all citizens on both sides of what Winston Churchill then called the continent’s “Iron Curtain”.
Today, we Britons and Europeans stand at a bifurcation point in our history as critical as that of 68 years ago. Our actions over the coming months and years will determine whether we will move forward as a united European civil society animated by values of peace, prosperity, pluralism, and participative governance or whether we will again regress back to centuries-old patterns of mistrust, conflict, crisis, and war we trusted to have forever banished from our continent. The June 23, 2016 Referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union is a watershed moment not only for Britain but for the European Union and for the entire trans-Atlantic community. Given:
- the brief, acrimonious, and misleading campaign which preceded this vote;
- the close margin of victory of the “Leave” campaign;
- the deep divisions this referendum brought to light across the breadth and depth of British society;
- the strong reactions it triggered among our fellow European citizens resident in Britain and throughout the European Union;
- the subsequent resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron;
- the lack of democratic legitimacy of any future Prime Minister and Cabinet to be selected exclusively by members of the Conservative Party without any popular consultation; and
- the duty and responsibility of any such future British government to assume responsibility for the results and consequences of this referendum in accordance with our well-established constitutional rules and conventions as well as with fundamental principles of representative democracy and the rule of law;
We, the citizens of this United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, strongly united in our respect for democratic values, human rights, and the dignity of all individuals at home and abroad for which we and our forbearers have stood and fought for decades and centuries past,
Hereby provide clear and mandatory instructions to our elected representatives -whose partisan actions have brought us at the edge of social strife, economic decline, and political implosion - as to how to proceed from here on forwards with regard to our country’s constitutional future over the next three years.
- Art. 50 of the Treaty on European Union regarding the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU can only be triggered once the results of the June 23, 2016 Referendum have been enacted into law by the British Parliament.
- Any unelected British Prime Minister lacking a legitimate popular mandate to govern our country is constitutionally required to hold national elections to obtain a direct and conclusive popular mandate to do so;
- Such a General Election can be called only after the expiry of one year and a day from the official proclamation of the June 23, 2016 Referendum results so to allow us, members of the British civil society, the necessary time and opportunity to engage in responsible and democratic deliberations on the composition of our next government and on the nature and scope of the mandate we wish to entrust it with;
- Further to the election of a new British government (the “New Government”) no earlier than June 25, 2017, our duly elected national representatives shall appoint a non-partisan Negotiation Team (the “Team”) composed of at least twelve eminent and respected individuals representing a cross-section of our civil society and drawn from the public and private, academic and civil service spheres, and provide it with Terms of Reference to negotiate the United Kingdom’s new relationship with the European Union and its member states, and to re-define the rights and responsibilities of all our citizens towards each other;
- The New Government shall present the unaltered results of the Team’s negotiations (the “Negotiation Results”) to us, the citizens of the United Kingdom, no earlier than twelve months from the start of these negotiations and no later than two years from the appointment of the immediate successor to the current Prime Minister, David Cameron.
- The Negotiation Results shall constitute the New Government’s official electoral platform for the 2019 European Parliament elections, so as to allow a full, inclusive, and democratic debate across the entire European public sphere of critical decisions that will affect all citizens of the European Union.
- Should the New Government win a majority of British MEPs in the 2019 European Parliament elections it will then have the legitimate popular mandate to enact into law and to proceed with the implementation of the Negotiation Results.
- Should the New Government fail to win such a majority of British MEPs in the 2019 European Parliament elections, it will be required to hold a new and binding Referendum on U.K. membership in the European Union (the Second Referendum) no earlier than six months after the 2019 European Parliament elections.
- The Second Referendum shall be worded as follows:
“The United Kingdom shall remain a full member of the European Union” (“Stay In Option”); or
“The United Kingdom shall leave the European Union by implementing the Negotiation Results” (“Leave Option”).
- The Second Referendum must meet a participation rate of at least 75% of all eligible voters; the winning option must garner a simple majority of all valid votes cast. It is the New Government’s duty and responsibility to ensure that the above participation rate is met in actual fact.
- In the eventuality of a win by the “Leave Option”, the New Government shall notify its EU partners that the United Kingdom shall proceed with the implementation of the Negotiation Results. In the eventuality of a win by the “Stay In Option”, the New Government shall notify its EU partners that the United Kingdom shall remain a full member of the European Union subject to the same membership conditions as any other European Union members.
- No other Referendums regarding any constitutional matters, including but not limited to issues pertaining to the independence of any of Britain’s constituent nations, shall be legally authorized or held in actual fact by any level of government of the United Kingdom before the conclusion of the detailed mandatory constitutional process outlined above.
Stronger United’s Marchathon “MOOT UK 2016”
A Referendum on our future cannot be conducted like a giant opinion poll - simply asking each and every one of us over and over again whether we want to "Stay In" or "Leave" the European Union.
Our ties with Europe are much more complex and more important than this simplistic question where we must choose between two equally unsatisfactory answers - crafted by politicians, about politicians, for politicians.
To really decide how we wish to govern ourselves in the decades to come, we must come together as individuals, communities, and nations. We must discuss and debate where do we want to go as a country, and what means do we have at our disposal to get there. We must listen to one another, argue and even disagree together, and then enthusiastically support the best arguments and the most effective solutions we can put forward.
Only at the end of a nation-wide consultative process of information, debate, and opinion-forming will we truly be in a position to evaluate the real stakes and options in the BREXIT Referendum, and act accordingly.
The official organisations leading both the "In" and "Out" campaigns do not have the credibility, legitimacy, and means to spearhead such a truly massive, grass-roots debate. They are funded by private business people who each have their own interests in doing so as well as by our own tax money and are led by discredited current and former politicians who repeat the same old arguments again and again and again. They do not represent us, what we think, what we want.
Stronger United is taking a radically different approach - participative, democratic, inclusive, in-depth. Over 311 days, from February 15 to December 21, 2016, we will visit your neighbourhoods, communities, cities, and regions and give each and every one of you the power to express yourselves on these critical issues - to think, to listen, to talk, to act. This is the true meaning of the democracy we have been struggling for in the UK for 800 years, ever since the enactment of the Magna Carta, and whose roots go back even further in time, to the folkmoots of early pre-medieval Britain.
Such "moots" or meetings, widely known throughout the Anglo-Saxon world since about the 6th Century AD, took place in various forms throughout the British Isles and were designed as occasions for local "wise men" of both church and state to discuss and debate various matters of justice, internal and external policy, advise kings and, sometimes, even appoint sovereigns. It is from these original "moots" that our tour takes its name - to emphasise the critical role such decentralised, grassroots, deliberative meetings must play in the process of opinion-formation leading to the actual BREXIT Referendum vote.
The Witenaġemot ("meeting of wise men"), also known as the Witan was a political institution in Anglo-Saxon England which operated from before the 7th century until the 11th century. The Witenagemot was an assembly of the ruling class whose primary function was to advise the king and whose membership was composed of the most important noblemen in England, both ecclesiastic and secular. The institution is thought to represent an aristocratic development of the ancient Germanic general assemblies, or folkmoots.
In England, by the 7th century, these ancient folkmoots had developed into convocations of the land's most powerful and important people to discuss matters of both national and local importance. The folkmoot or folkmote ("folk meeting") was analogous, the forerunner to the witenagemot and in some respects the precursor of the modern Parliament of the United Kingdom. The word folkmoot in time came to mean a more specific local assembly with recognised legal rights.
In Scotland the term is used in the literature for want of any other single accepted term. Its most famous such place is without doubt the Scone Moot Hill, or Hill of Credulity. It was to here that Kenneth MacAlpin, the first King of Scotland, brought the Stone of Destiny, or Stone of Scone, in 843. For the next 500 years, all Scottish kings were crowned on the Stone until it was seized by King Edward I of England in 1296 and taken to Westminster Abbey where it was placed beneath the Coronation Chair on which the monarchs of England were crowned. (Source: Wikipedia)
"The Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, comes wrapped in myth and legend. Tradition has it that it was the coronation stone of Kenneth MacAlpin, the 36th King of Dalriada. But the historical view is that Fergus, son of Erc brought the revered stone from Ireland to Argyll, and was crowned on it. Whatever the origin, the Stone of Destiny was placed on the Moot Hill and used in the coronations of the Kings of Scots until the end of the 13th century." (Source: Scone Palace Website)
In this section, we will publish daily reports of the meetings, discussions and events that we will hold in over 300 locations across the country, from Edinburgh and Belfast, to Liverpool and Cardiff, and on to London and Coventry. For the detailed timetable of the MOOT UK '16 events, please consult our calendar here. For more pictures and videos of the events, please consult our Instagram account here. We look forward to see you, listen to you, talk to you when we will come to your neighbourhood in 2016. And remember: We have the power to decide our own futures in accordance with our wishes, values, and dreams, and not just based on the two simplistic an self-serving options offered by the political and business elites who falsely claim to speak in our name and represent our view.