I do not accept the Brexit referendum result

I’ve had a ton to say about the Brexit referendum, but I’ve been too depressed to write. I have a big half-finished draft that I may complete one day. But there is one thing that I think is important to say and I am saying it now. It’s this.

We’re hearing a lot of pious nonsense, even from Leave Campaigners, about how the People Have Spoken, and we have to respect the Result Of The Democratic Process, however little we like it.

I absolutely reject this premise out of the gate. We know that the voting was based on systematic lies. We know that the Leave campaigners are rewinding every promise they made. We know that many who voted Leave now wish they had voted Remain. We know that Nigel Farage said before the referendum that a 52-48 result would not be the end of the matter. What we have here is a snap opinion poll, not the democratic will of the British people. And there is nothing democratic about plunging blindly on into oblivion because of it.

It is the role and responsibility of every politician now to serve the country by doing whatever they can to prevent this car-crash. Democracy is not served by adhering to what amounts to a late-night drunken phone-call, in the teeth of all that is rational.

stay-in-logo

That’s all.

 

28 responses to “I do not accept the Brexit referendum result

  1. I quite agree! I voted Remain, and I am very clever. The people who voted Leave must therefore be very stupid. Very stupid people are not informed, and cannot possibly have come to conclusions based on anything I would see as logic. Their worthless, universally racist, ill-informed, proletarian views are valueless, because my elevated, well educated views are just better, kinder and more pure. Its hard to even think of them as people, except when I need to pretend my hatred for the Tory scum is based on actual concern for the poor. Expressing an opinion at the local polling booth must have been a nice day out for their squalid little families, but because I predict the country will soon literally explode, forever, into the depths of hell, I think we should do everything in our considerable power to shit on their tiny stupid faces from a great height. They should be fucking grateful we even let them vote from time to time, although god knows it would be nice if they voted the right way for a change.

    The gits can have exactly as much democracy as we allow them, and if they take the piss, well, we’ll just fuck up the result and see how they like it.

    (I actually did vote Remain – but seriously man, you’re better than this.)

  2. Unfortunately the weakness of this argument is the very thing that should really be it’s strength – it’s always true. How was it not true of the last General Election, for example?

  3. rjubber, I’m not sure where you got all that from. If you’ll look back at my list of reasons why I don’t accept the result, contempt for the voters is nowhere. The point I did make is that many of those who voted Leave have changed their minds now that they’ve seen what the thing really is that they were conned into voting for — and how different it is from the thing they were told they’d get.

    So: my point is not “voters are dumb”, it’s that the referendum result came about by systematic deception, which many of those deceived now repudiate.

    Gavin: the biggest differences between this and a general election are (A) you get a new general election every five years, but this is a literally irrevocable step; (B) one side has been shown to have lied in every respect, and has consequently been rejected by many of those who were initially taken in.

  4. Martin Dominik

    if we were to take 52:48 majorities as mandate for radical changes, we would change back and forth. Given that support for ‘leave’ apparently increases with age, the majority is expected to flip around sooner rather than later. Do we want to negotiate an exit, and then face the situation that a majority of the population is in support of EU membership by the time an exit comes into force?

  5. David Brain

    @gavinburrows: The thing is though that, whilst a Government is, indeed, typically elected on the basis of minority support, it cannot carry out its legislative programme without considerable effort – it needs expert advice, support from the House of Lords, committee hearings, several actual votes in the House of Commons that it needs to win etc. etc. Even the humble voter is able to participate in the process. And whilst this may still lead to stupid outcomes (e.g. the recent Investigatory Powers Act), at least they have gone through sensible and established processes.
    On the other hand, one-shot deals like this are covered by a different sort of expectation. For instance, if this had been a union ballot for strike action it would have been rejected; similarly the bar for Scottish and Welsh devolution was set very high. (And it’s very unclear whether a similar close vote for Scottish independence would have been deemed a mandate.)
    But apparently we’re expected to consider a 52/48 vote that is not only going to affect our future but probably the future of an entire continent to be magically binding or, worse, extra democratic? Sorry, I don’t buy that at all.

    (For the record, I voted Remain but I’m not protesting the result, merely the incompetence of those who allegedly “won” without any sort of plan.)

  6. Mike,

    You claim you didn’t call voters stupid because there are SOME that would change their vote. This is purely anecdotal evidence. You are making the assumption that it would be impactful in changing the result. See the old argument in the US (“I don’t know anyone who voted for Nixon”).

    What can I say, Democracy is hell, and referendums are pure democracy, as messy as that can be. From the outside (US) looking in, I would say the worst thing Britain could do would be to deny the will of the people. No matter how bad the course chosen will or could turn out to be.

    Denying the referendum and overturning it via other means of government will show clearly, distinctly, and dangerously that the representatives of government have nothing but pure contempt for the desires and opinions of over HALF of the people. I would even go so far as to say that overturning the outcome would lead to disaster. If your a group of voters who ends up on the winning side but is handed a loss anyway because you can’t be counted on to make good decisions, then in the future what options will you choose from to get your point across? Especially when you know voting won’t work. From the four boxes of liberty (jury, soap, ballot, and ammo) you will have effictively removed one (it could be argued two because what good is a soap box if the ballots don’t count) of the options from viability. And the last of those has truly awful portents. Better to leave the result than throw out democracy because it went “wrong” this one time.

  7. Jason: “You claim you didn’t call voters stupid because there are SOME that would change their vote. This is purely anecdotal evidence. You are making the assumption that it would be impactful in changing the result.”

    Well, there is certainly plenty of this about. Obviously we can’t quantify based on letters to the Telegraph, but a Surveytion poll concluded some days ago that 1.1 million Leave voted wish they’d voted Remain (based on 7% of those surveyed). That swing would be enough to give Remain a majority. Now the same poll also shows a smaller number of Remain voters now wish they had voted Leave — which would be enough to give the majority back to Leave. But it shows how very, very slim the margins are.

    Those who talk in terms of “denying the will of the people” need to realise that it is literally impossible to fulfil the will of the people. At best they can give 52% of the electorate what they wanted. And those 52% won’t get what they wanted either, if what they wanted included closed borders, £350M for the National Health Service, increased fishing quotas, etc.

    Finally: the idea that not bowing to this misdirected and widely regretted howl of rage would constitute “throwing out democracy” seems absurdly hyperbolic to me. It is certainly true that it would make a lot of people very unhappy. But a lot of people are already very unhappy, and there is literally no way to fix that. It’s a matter now of what course of action will make the smallest number of people the least unhappy. And that is to Remain.

  8. Mike,

    I think that the best response to the risk of popular vote referendums would be to have a referendum to end referendums.

    Seriously, this may be the best example of the risk of referendums, which may enable a vote to swear them off.

    Personally my state allows referendums and has had good ones and bad ones over time. Generally I appreciate them but some of them are truly poorly thought out and would be bad if they had passed, but we take the good with he bad for now.

    But whether to allow direct democracy is a pertinent question, as you are seeing, it has risks. The biggest issue I have with referendums is their explicit will of the majority power and very poor protection of minorty rights.

    Again as an outsider I do also want to say I’m sure that Britain will survive either with or without the EU. Keep calm and carry on.

  9. Britain is not the problem .Muslim Immigrants are taking over they are multiplying and Europe’s population is declining.Within 20 years they will become the majority in many European countries.Open your eyes and smell the ………………..

  10. Personally my state allows referendums and has had good ones and bad ones over time. Generally I appreciate them but some of them are truly poorly thought out and would be bad if they had passed, but we take the good with he bad for now.

    The problem with “we take the good with the bad” is when the bad is the irrevocable destruction of fifty years of post-war consensus. You rightly say that Britain will survive — I don’t think that is in question. The issue is 64 million people in the UK will be permanently very much worse off, 678 million people elsewhere in Europe will be permanently worse off, and the other six billion people will be permanently affected to a lesser degree — see how markets have fallen around the world, including places like Japan. All that, plus a significantly increased chance of future war in Europe. So “Britain will survive” is true just it’s true to tell someone who loses an arm in an accident that they will survive; but no-one for that reason voluntarily cuts their arm off. Which is what we’re proposing to do.

  11. While the referendum is not binding, it would have been better to make this clear, perhaps even make a legally-binding referendum, but with the need of a 2/3 majority in order to make the change. I haven’t made a survey, but I would guess that most countries apply such a rule for referendums concerning important changes.

    Making such an important decision with huge impact based on what is basically a coin toss seems mind-boggling when you think about it that way, doesn’t it?

  12. While the referendum is not binding, it would have been better to make this clear, perhaps even make a legally-binding referendum, but with the need of a 2/3 majority in order to make the change.

    Absolutely. There are a hundred ways this could have been done better. You are right that, among countries whose constitutions define how referendums should be conducted, there is pretty much always a far higher bar than simple majority.

    We will never know how big an effect the rain on polling day had — both in generally depressing people’s moods and leaving them thinking “something’s got to change”, and in particularly inhibiting the pro-Remain vote in London — but as someone observed at the time, if we leave Europe because it rained, that will be the most British thing ever.

  13. Mike,

    I don’t believe the long term problems will be as large or ongoing as you expect. You also ignore the other problem with the EURO’s stability in the face of the massive debts of many of the remaining members. That will someday have a bad impact. As an American it frustrates me somewhat that our Fed is printing money like its going out of style, but the dollar remains strong because every other currency is being printed out at an as rapid or more rapid pace. This is keeping things afloat now, but will not work continuously into the future.

    Everyone in the media talks about when the Fed will raise interest rates again. The banks want it so bad so that they can make money, but the media doesn’t realize that when the Fed raises rates the US debt goes from hard to pay back to impossible to pay back. So the answer is, until the US starts paying down debt, we will never see rates go up by more that tiny fractions (from which I believe they’ll quickly be pulled back down). A rate hike would hurt the markets worse, much worse, than the Brexit.

    I’m also getting very frustrated with the markets being the only measure of fiscal health for countries and the world. When the markets go up do workers get raises, no. When they go up do people’s jobs get more secure, no. When they go up do small businesses face a better climate for starting up and growing, no. Big entrenched business and the 1% benefit when the markets go up. Sure, we have a lot of retirement savings tied up in the markets, but the big businesses use that funding to buttress their ability to make money on short term trades and market movements. The common man receives nearly no benefit from the markets being good anymore. And as I said earlier on your blog, inflation from “quantitative easing” drives up stock prices and commodity prices, making the rich richer and the poor have to pay more for lots of things. I was gobsmacked when the response to oil prices bottoming out was about how awful it was for investors. Lower prices at the pump let regular people have more money for other things, but that isn’t even being noticed anymore.

    As to bad government decisions, and the lies that make them possible: Even representative bodies lie to get their way and make mistakes. In our town the school board got the great idea to break up our elementary schools in to k-3 and create one 4th and 5th grade school (using American terms for grades here, realize the UK may be different). Many parents were very upset about this idea and would have preferred that the district stay with building k-5 schools instead of doing the new school holding only two grades for the whole city. They promised a lot of things that would be “better” about this arrangement. We believed every one of these things to be a lie in order for the proponents to get their way. But the decision was rammed through anyway. In the years since, every issue we said would arise due to this setup came to pass, nearly none of the benefits they promised were realized. But, it didn’t matter that they lied to get their way. They got their way, we lost and we had to live with it. Don’t get me wrong, when parents now complain about the system, I do get to say “I told you so”, but thats little consolation. I know thats the boat you’re in with the remain camp. You do and should reserve the right to in the future say, and say loudly “I told you so”, but that’s also all you’ve got.

    But as I said before things will go on, Britain will be alright, and the EU will likely be alright (although it still has its own problems outside of the Brexit too).

  14. Pingback: The first of two reasons I am very sad about the Brexit vote: direct consequences | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  15. I think this is the stage of grief known as, ‘Bargaining’.

  16. Yes, I think you’re right.

    (Doesn’t mean I’m wrong, though.)

  17. Jason:

    I don’t believe the long term problems will be as large or ongoing as you expect. You also ignore the other problem with the EURO’s stability in the face of the massive debts of many of the remaining members.

    This shows the wisdom of the UK electing not to join the Euro back in 1992. And that goes to a core issue in this whole debate. People talk as though the choice is between being fully in or fully out, whereas the UK’s position as things stand includes a whole list of opt-outs — not least, we have opted out of the shared currency, of the passport-free Schengen Zone, and of course of paying our full share. Much as I dislike many of the politicians who made these things happen, I have to admit that they add up to an excellent deal in our relationship with the EU — a much better deal than anything we can realistically hope to negotiate now, from a position of extreme weakness in the face of self-created hostility.

    I’m also getting very frustrated with the markets being the only measure of fiscal health for countries and the world.

    I don’t think anyone thinks they are. But they are the quickest responding indicators. In a year or two, we’ll be able to report on the effect Brexit has had on working wages, job security, small business failure, etc. But to talk about those things now would be to some degree speculation. And we know what contempt expert opinion is held in.

    wWhen the markets go up do workers get raises, no. When they go up do people’s jobs get more secure, no. When they go up do small businesses face a better climate for starting up and growing, no.

    In the long term, yes, when markets are healthy all these things do improve. Remember, too, that people’s pensions, endowments and other savings are usually linked to markets. (Is it the case that someone retiring today and taking an annuity will spend the rest of their lives living on 7% less than they would if they’d retired eight days ago?)

    But as I said before things will go on, Britain will be alright, and the EU will likely be alright (although it still has its own problems outside of the Brexit too).

    Broadly I agree. Civilisation won’t end (though it’s definitely taken a step down a dark path.) But Britain and the EU and indeed the rest of the world will be less all right than it could have been.

    Let me put it this way. I will be OK, and so will my family, because I have a nice job and a big house. But I know plenty of people in my church and the surrounding area who will not be OK. People who are already on the edge financially, who are reliant on the foodbank that the church hosts. Living in one of the poorer areas of the UK, I get to see some of this at second hand. It’s not pretty, and it’s getting uglier.

  18. Reblogged this on Bogdan Babych: Academic blog and commented:
    How Ukraine responded to #UKRexit in 2013 reversed the decision: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-25162563 UK: it’s whether people would accept #Brexit or not https://twitter.com/b_babych/status/748481881931419648

  19. VERY interesting, Bogdan — shamefully I’d not heard about this. Thanks for the pointer.

  20. Is it the case that someone retiring today and taking an annuity will spend the rest of their lives living on 7% less than they would if they’d retired eight days ago?

    Not if they are sensible; most pension plans gradually convert from stock trackers to cash over a period of several years leading up to planned retirement date, specifically to avoid being caught by this kind of short-term volatility.

  21. Much as I dislike many of the politicians who made these things happen, I have to admit that they add up to an excellent deal in our relationship with the EU — a much better deal than anything we can realistically hope to negotiate now, from a position of extreme weakness in the face of self-created hostility

    Indeed — personally, I think it was a mistake to have the referendum now.

    However, given it was happening, we had to vote, ‘Leave’. This is because most of those exceptions and special deals were negotiated because our Prime Ministers could credibly threaten that if Britain didn’t get special status, the voters wouldn’t stand for it and would bring the whole European Project of ever-closer-integration crashing down.

    The Eurocrats, whose main aim was to keep the whole show on the road, would therefore sometimes back down and give Britain, for example, the rebate.

    The reason it was stupid of Cameron to call the referendum is because it was effectively calling his own bluff. If the vote had gone, ‘Remain,’ then neither he nor any subsequent Prime Minister could use the, ‘Give us this or we’ll scupper the whole thing’ card to get Britain special treatment: the response would always be, ‘But you had a referendum and the people voted to stay, so shut up and get on board with the Project.’

    That’s why he shouldn’t have called the referendum, but given he did, we had to vote, ‘Leave’. Otherwise we would have been stuck in the European Union but without the trump card that had enabled us to win so many concessions — we would have been just another state within the wannabe-federal-superstate.

  22. I think it was a mistake to have the referendum now. However, given it was happening, we had to vote, ‘Leave’. This is because most of those exceptions and special deals were negotiated because our Prime Ministers could credibly threaten that if Britain didn’t get special status, the voters wouldn’t stand for it and would bring the whole European Project of ever-closer-integration crashing down.

    Huh? That makes no sense. We did get special exceptions, over and over again. The fact, having been given these, our 52% still voted Leave is a kick in the teeth for the idea of negotiation.

  23. We did get special exceptions, over and over again

    Yes, and we wouldn’t have got them if our PMs hadn’t been able to argue, convincingly, that if we didn’t then we would leave.

    Now, if we hadn’t voted to leave, then every time in future a PM tried to pull the same trick, ie, get a special concession for Britain, threatening to walk away from the Project if it wasn’t granted, instead of giving in as happened when eg Mrs T got her rebate, the other countries would just laugh and say, ‘What are you going to do, have another referendum? Your people don’t have the guts to walk away,’ and we wouldn’t get our special concession.

    So if we had voted ‘Remain’ we would have been stuck inside the EU but unable to use the ‘nuclear threat option’ which had got us such a good deal up to no.

    So we had to vote ‘Leave’ in order to not be stuck in the position of just being another country in the EU, unable to demand, and get, special concessions.

    That’s why it would have been better not to hold the referendum because, for the moment, if it hadn’t been held, we could have stayed in and continued to demand, and get, special considerations that no other country could get.

    Does that make sense?

  24. (Though I also note that our ability to get special concessions seemed already to be on the wane: Cameron didn’t get any in his much-publicised ‘renegotiation’, for example, which is why it wasn’t mentioned by the ‘Remain’ side during the referendum campaign.)

  25. Well, what you say does make a certain cynical kind of sense — provided what we wanted was for our relationship with the rest of Europe to remain forever adversarial. I believe what Cameron wanted and expected to get (Johnson, too, for that matter) was a narrow defeat for Leave that kept our threat to leave credible without actually inflicting all the harm of leaving.

  26. The strange thing, is just how right rjubber is at the smart people voting to remain. Oxford and Cambridge, both university cities, overwhelmingly wanted to remain. London, (the municipality, not metropolis) also voted to remain. Scotland (my ancestral country) Absolutely voted to remain, with every single sector voting remain, and mostly overwhelmingly so. Northern Ireland, while they weren’t as clear cut as Scotland, also voted strongly to remain over leave. And, what is quite interesting, a majority of the younger demographic voted to remain, while the older demographic voted leave (that does not mean all older people voted leave or all younger people voted remain). As only indirectly related to this, the leave vote still did impact my country, as Canada still has the Queen as our monach, and the Can. Dollar dropped a small amount with Brexit. A word of advice to people in England who want to remain in the EU, even if Britain leaves, move to Scotland, as a second Independence referendum will be very soon if Britain leaves the EU.

  27. The strange thing, is just how right rjubber is at the smart people voting to remain

    Perhaps calling the people who were thinking of voting leave dumb wasn’t, in retrospect, the best way to win them over?

    Scotland (my ancestral country) Absolutely voted to remain, with every single sector voting remain, and mostly overwhelmingly so

    Hardly overwhelming; it was 60-40. That’s less than the margin by which AV was rejected in 2011.

    move to Scotland, as a second Independence referendum will be very soon if Britain leaves the EU

    I doubt it. The big gaps in the SNP’s plan from 2014, the currency and where the money will come from now the answer to everything isn’t ‘oil’, are still there. And if Scotland wanted the join the EU they would presumably have to join Schengen, which would mean border guards, checkpoints, etc at the border with England — it would become a more fortified border than even between Northern Ireland and the Republic (which can be open because the Republic isn’t in Schengen). Is there really an appetite for that?

    And remember, again: it’s not like 90% of Scots voted to stay in the EU. It was 60%: a clear majority, but by no means an ‘overwhelming’ one. And would every one of those 60% want to stay in the EU even if it meant breaking up the UK?

    Have there been any opinion polls on independence conducted in Scotland since the referendum?

  28. This is simply a case of “I didn’t get what I want, so let’s have another go”
    The campaign on both sides was ridiculous.
    The remain camp relied upon the element of fear. If the people didn’t vote to remain then the country and Europe were doomed. Complete nonsense.
    Exactly the same tactaics were used in the Scottish independence referendum.
    Despite all the efforts made to frighten the people into complying, they made up their own minds and decided to leave.
    Much is made of the fact that older voters, by and large, wanted out of Europe. These are the same voters who opted in 40 years ago.
    Let’s respect their experience of the European project.
    It’s no longer a common market but is in fact, only a few steps from a federal United States of Europe.
    That’s not what they voted for 40 years ago. The goal posts have been moved.
    I’m all for a common market. A pact of nations who trade freely with each other.
    I’m not a fan of a federal Europe which is run by unelected mandarins.
    The European Union is a corrupt, undemocratic monster.
    I’d suggest that people stand back and take a look at what’s it’s become.
    It’s not what people were promised all those years ago.

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