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8 reasons to be positive about the EU Referendum result

Flag_of_Europe.svgLike many friends and colleagues I awoke on Friday feeling alienated in my own country.   I appreciate those who voted leave saying that for them this is the feeling that has built up over many years, but the intensity with which such a feeling was brought upon was devastating.

I don’t think those that voted to leave are all idiots or racists.  However, I do believe many have voted naively, taking great risks with our future, the stability of our society, and the dreams, aspirations and opportunities of a generation, whilst handing a mandate to xenophobia, for, at best, a gain in their conceptualisation of sovereignty.

The distribution of votes regionally, and across age groups, is divisive and dangerous to the unions that have been built over decades.  It alienates regions of the UK, and generations who will out live many in the majority who voted for this outcome.

We cannot change that now, but we can change the future, and its direction.  We now live in a highly disrupted political environment.  It’s unpredictable, but disruption brings opportunity.  We must move on.  We must look forward to what happens next and take the opportunity by engaging in reforming our politics for the better.  We cannot ignore the referendum result.  The EU cannot ignore the result.  It is not legally binding, it is advisory, but it must be respected, the people have cast their vote.

However, the referendum is certainly not a guarantee that we will leave the EU, and it will not be un-democratic to ultimately, with time, remain a member of the EU.  Many were undecided up until the last moment, and the majority for Vote Leave was small.  The longer uncertainty continues, and the greater the disruption, the more likely it is we will remain a member of the EU.  Here’s why:

  1. There is no post-referendum plan.  There never was a plan.  Leave did not expect to win and Remain didn’t need a plan.  Neither side in the referendum fought a strong campaign, but the winning side’s lack of plan is clear.  It was high risk to Vote Leave on that basis, and whilst no clear plan is presented, the public sentiment towards leaving will wane with time.  As the Vote Leave campaign promises unravel this only serves to turn public opinion against leaving the EU.
  2. I find it impossible to believe that many leave voters feel that the possible break up of UK is a price worth paying for Britain leaving the EU.  The Government’s review into the process of withdrawal from the EU accepts that we likely need agreement from Scotland, and the other devolved regions to leave the EU.  Nicola Sturgeon will not grant this without a second referendum which will almost certainly lead to independence and the break up of the UK.  This genuine risk of breaking up the UK only serves to turn public opinion against leaving the EU.
  3. The markets and business dislike uncertainty, and the economy and jobs will be affected longer term whilst no decisions are made.  In any event, the economy will eventually recover, as we will adapt, but the longer any decision takes, as the pound remains weakened, and holidays more expensive, the more likely it is that the public opinion moves against leaving the EU.
  4. The EU is not perfect and there are many issues that require re-negotiation.  Similarly, there are many other groups in countries within the EU who are not completely happy with how the EU works.  The EU as a whole now has an opportunity to put pressure on Brussels and catalyse a broader renegotiation.  It is quite likely that we will now be offered a “second deal” from Europe, or be asked to speed up the process of leaving, the latter begins stalemate, which will likely move public opinion against leaving the EU.  Stalemate because…
  5. Article 50 notification has not been sent, the longer that takes the less likely it ever will be.  Cameron’s resignation has purposefully kicked this into the long grass.  Whilst the UK is compliant with the EU’s conditions there is no process by which we can be removed by the other member states.  There’s much more on this in David Allen Green’s excellent blog.  Without Article 50 notification being sent, we probably won’t leave the EU.
  6. Corbyn is likely to resign within a few days, Cameron has already resigned.  Both main party leadership races will be fought on an EU manifesto.  It’s highly possible there will be offers of general elections (albeit they will have to get round the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011), offers of second referendums and hopefully, an opposition leader able to hold the Government to account. The Conservative constitution does not allow the sort of member take-over that elected Corbyn, but there is a huge unknown here, a lot to play for, and a lot to influence.  Whilst he is the obvious choice, there is no guarantee that Boris will be the next Prime Minister, the majority of Conservative MPs are for remaining a member of the EU and…
  7. Leadership of the Tory party is now a poisoned chalice.  To lead the country in leaving the EU, as an unelected head of state, requires a mandate that I don’t believe Boris thinks he has.  This was summarised in this Guardian comment:
    EU Referendum Comment: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2016/jun/25/brexit-live-emergency-meetings-eu-uk-leave-vote#comment-77205935
  8. Being apathetic is no longer an option.  On either side, the debate will now happen, and the public are catalysed to engage with it.  They now see that it matters, and see the fallout, even if naively they didn’t before.  That only serves to produce a better, more democratic, outcome.  Do not be apathetic.

The Vote Leave campaign was fought on taking back control.  These are some of the biggest decisions the UK has faced since the end of the Second World War, yet we now have less control than ever before.  We have handed it back to the EU, and to our now leader-less, mandate-less political parties.  Without a general election fought upon leading us post-referendum, the people of the UK, and its regions, have no sovereignty whatsoever.  Before we leave for good, we should be given an opportunity to genuinely take back control.


  1. John Yates says:

    More than 17 million people voted to leave. More voters than any other election or issue in our country. So many of those who voted leave are the alienated, working classes whose views have consistently been ignored over decades. Britain is an open, democratic country. The EU something close to an elites only club. Why not grasp this opportunity to show Europe there is an alternative to top down, bureaucratic governance. Read George Orwell’s brilliant essay The Lion and the Unicorn and see what I mean. There are eight much better reasons to look confidently to the future than wishful thinking that the views of 17.4 million people can be ignored. All the best. J

    • John Roberts says:

      Thanks for the comment John. I wouldn’t dare to ignore the votes of 17 million, nor the 16 million of those that voted in the other direction. Unlike during the time of Orwell’s essay, we’re not strategising to fight nazi-ism here, we’re living in the arguably the longest period of peace, and that it should remain.

      • Roger Simonsz says:

        “we’re not strategising to fight nazi-ism here, we’re living in the arguably the longest period of peace, and that it should remain.” Actually to maintain that long peace we should be absolutely strategising against Nazi-ism and fascism. The British press and establishment has been for far too long too lenient on the likes of Farage and UKIP. In France their ideological partners, Marine Le Pen and the FN, are quite rightly labelled fascists. The political establishment doesn’t dare offending UKIP as they want to have their voters come back to them, so they won’t see it. Most of the extreme right wing press in the UK won’t either, but everything points towards a rampant fascist party on the rise. A couple of historic points are worth remembering. When someone says “its mostly the working class that support UKIP so they can’t be fascist”, let’s not forget that Hitler’s party was the NSDAP where the “A” stood for “Arbeiders”, ie “workers” party. Hitler also managed to turn a small election result into a coup by blaming the burning of the Reichstag on a communist immigrant. Apart from the obvious Nazi propaganda parallel with the recent anti-immigration poster, try substituting the word “Jew” for “Immigrant”, “Jewish problem” for “immigration problem” and “overstressed services” for “Lebensraum” and see if it doesn’t sound awfully familiar. Farage saying “stuck on the M4 due to Jews” would have everyone up in arms. Say NO PASARAN to Nazis, be intolerant of fascists, its the only way.

      • John Yates says:

        Hi, agree with you on war and fascism. It’s more his stuff about the politics of England and the class system and who rules. Your other respondent utterly misquotes Farage on the M4 and is creating demons where none exist. Labelling anxious, disoriented decent people as fascists fuels the very alienation that makes fascism possible. This could be an opportunity for progress and growth but the initial crisis reminds me of WB Yeats’ great poem, the second coming…

    • Hugh Jones says:

      I can see a contradiction between your third sentence “So many of those who voted leave are the alienated, working classes whose views have consistently been ignored over decades” and the one that immediately follows it: “Britain is an open, democratic country”.

      If we’re so open and democratic, why have we been ignoring the views of such a great swathe of the population. I think our political system in Britain is itself something of an elites only club. Not to metion top down, bureaucratic governance.

      The EU is far from perfect but one thing it represents is countries working together and co-operating and helping each other out. And that’s something I would like to see continue.

  2. But why would the EU actually want the UK after this? A leader in the Spiegel today pointed out that a 52% “win” for remain would have been as bad or even worse than a 52% “win” for leave. “Wer nicht bleiben will, der soll eben gehen. Alles andere schwächt alle Mitglieder – auch die Überzeugten -, hält auf und zerrt an den Nerven.” The UK has been pushing the patience of the EU to the limits for decades. I think it highly likely that this will be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. The House of Lords called for more engagement by the Government in the EU back in 2013, in a short debate that is well worth reading: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/130422-gc0001.htm#13042212000075. Merkel is saying “Give the UK time”, but other EU leaders want this settled quickly.

  3. Emma Eccles says:

    An interesting perspective. I would say that ‘the people have spoken’ however… given the fact that it was the leave campaign that actually put in place the government petition for a second referendum (I had wondered how it was up and running so soon after the referendum, when it takes days to “check whether it meets the petition standards before we publish it”), it is clear that the leave campaigners were never going to sit back and accept a vote to remain.
    People haven’t been given an ‘informed’ choice. When so many people have been struggling in this country, it was inevitable that they would listen to the lies promising them a solution that dealt with, what they have been encouraged to believe was, the source of the problem (after all this isn’t the first time this has happened, is it?)
    I believe there is a lot more at stake here than just Britain’s economic future. The effects will be much further reaching, for Europe and possibly even for humanity… we have a responsibility, one way or another, to ensure this decision doesn’t go down in history for all the wrong reasons.
    The issues for the British people are far from solved, in reality we will probably suffer more… so the real question is why? Who does this agenda really serve?

  4. Bill Swan says:

    It seems to me this is far from a done deal. The technical process was well described by Anthony Hilton in the Evening Standard before the vote (link below), and it’s hard to imagine parliament just nodding it through – necessary for Article 50 to be triggered

    In terms or moral justification for doing so, there is both the realisation that the key promises on which many voters based their decision are being exposed as a mixture of lies, half-truths and meaningless soundbites, and the fact that MPs are elected to exercise collective good judgement in the best interests of the country. A key precedent is the denial of a referendum on capital punishment, despite the public appetite being well known.

    Finally there is the fact that the referendum was supposedly predicated on the offer of a ‘reformed EU’. What David Cameron brought back in February cannot be considered to be that. Only now – armed with a mandate which other EU leads clearly hadn’t expected – might it be possible to negotiate some tangible reform, for which there seems to be significant appetite across member states but which, more immediately, would almost certainly lead to a different result (not least because it would illustrate that reform Is possible)

  5. Bev says:

    I think the author underestimates the strength of Leave voter conviction. Because Cameron has refused to carry out his duty to commit to triggering Article 50 this by no means equates to a turn around in thinking. If anything in my view it will exacerbate the will to leave the EU not subsume it or mitigate it. For it take two years to leave this spider’s web of complexity proves how insidious it is. I’ve personally waited 20 years for this chance, as you point out the rationale for voting to leave is far more complex and incremental than the black and white narrative we have been labelled with. Some people have been made ashamed by the decision to leave whereas I have felt ashamed to be British for several years and am only now encouraged by the patriotism, however sour others may connote that word, of more than half of my countrymen. So I disagree that there is any reason to feel positive, let alone eight. And every reason to feel shafted. No one comes out of this looking good, especially not those people who voted to Remain and who have attempted to disguise their shabby self-interest in ‘liberalism’.

    • John Roberts says:

      I don’t underestimate the strength of Leave voter conviction, in some Leave voters. But that conviction is not strong in all. The lack of Article 50 notification being sent acknowledges that this is a democratic minefield. After 20 years, the debate is now at the top of the agenda, but it’s certainly not concluded.

  6. John Roberts says:

    It’s quite possible the Tory leadership campaign may offer a second referendum, rather than call a GE. Because of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, without repealing it, or managing to get a vote of no confidence of 2/3rds of the house, i.e about 110 Tories voting “no confidence”, it can’t be called. That’s not to say it won’t happen though, it just requires some huge, and probably planned, political suicides.

    It’s not likely to happen because, no political party wants to lose power, even over such a poisoned chalice as leading their way through this. What any new leader will want to know is that they have a strong enough mandate to lead. Whilst holding a GE feels better from a democratic mandate point of view, if staying in the EU is your primary goal, based purely on tactics, then having a new Tory leader, voted in on a second referendum ticket, who clearly defines the process of exit, explaining exactly when article 50 notification is sent (if leave wins) and who does so on a binding vote (whether at 50% of vote or at greater %), is probably the best chance of staying in the EU at this point int time.

    Holding a GE has so many unknowns at this point in time, it could well backfire, especially into a UKIP backed quagmire. And with such a short time for Labour and everyone else to get houses in order before October, it’s looking more and more likely that this will form part of the Tory leadership campaign.

    All speculation, we’ll know who are being put forward for leadership by Thursday evening. As it stands, it looks like there’s only 2 likely ‘leave’ candidates and 7 ‘remain’, and, no bookies favourite has ever won a Tory leadership contest

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