A few short thoughts following the United Kingdom’s (UK) European Union (EU) membership referendum, in part inspired by this and other recent journalism and reportage: We need a second referendum. The consequences of Brexit are too grave [trigger warning: one instance of a mental health term being used derogatorily by author].
It’s not over yet
52% is a wholly unreasonable mandate on which to make a drastic supranational political governance change, especially when core tenets of the British exit (Brexit) campaign have already fallen apart, along with our economy (not that our economy should be the primary motivator for or against change). It also seems quite apparent that the Brexit vote would fall well under 50% if we took out the votes of those motivated by overt/conscious racism, given the prevalence of hate incidents in the last few days. Yes, a higher percentage for any vote to change should have been established from the outset; it’s a shame that it wasn’t. (Side note: if it was 52% remain, it may also be reasonable to call another referendum, though a vote to change the status quo obviously has much greater implications than a vote not to change.)
It’s not over yet. There seem to be a number of possible blockades a Brexit would have to deal with before it went ahead: Sturgeon’s veto (#TeamSturgeon); a parliamentary vote [see article linked at the top]; getting a prime minister who will actually initiate the process…
If parts of the UK want to break off to form their own sovereign states (of which the UK is already one, for the record) for this or any other reason, people from other parts of the UK shouldn’t be arguing against them doing so. It’s their choice (for their present and future) so it should be their voice; our sentiment towards them is not a valid factor.
Sovereignty, borders and supranational governance
Yes, part of the EU is unelected (the European Commission), but so are parts of our government (the House of Lords; (senior) civil servants). Moreover, the part of the EU that is elected (the European Parliament) is done so (at least for British representatives) with a much fairer, more democratic and more proportional system than ours (the House of Commons): a form of proportional representation (d’Hondt) versus our first past the post.
When making ideological judgments on whether international/supranational bodies should be making laws by which nations must abide, we should also consider the reality of what would be our government’s or prospective government’s alternative. In our case, it would most likely be a Conservative or Conservative-UKIP government with a sentiment against human rights and for deregulation and privatisation, pro-corporate and anti-proletariat, all of which strongly contribute to furthering inequality.
Also consider the arbitrary nature of borders, and where we draw the line between people deemed worthy of governing us and people deemed unworthy, and why the line is drawn where it is. Also consider who the “us” is: the supranational region, the nation, the subnational region, the locality, and further consider how arbitrary or at least inconsistent distinctions between such categories are.
Basically: who does and who does not get sovereignty and why?
We need better education on political literacy and critical thinking, and we need it as part of compulsory education. At present, the latter arrives towards the end of higher education (itself optional), and the former is a specific chosen subject in further and higher education (therefore entirely optional). The campaign as a whole has highlighted that votes and support are won on illegitimate grounds. Even as someone who was an active party political activist for a few years and who continues to be deeply politically-minded, too often I find myself feeling unable to take a view on issues one way or another for lack of any real idea about the ramifications of different political approaches. We should all have the skills to vote for something we truly understand, taking account of both the ideology and the reality. The ideology representing long-term goals whilst the reality informs our short-term actions.
In this situation, for example, I haven’t a clue whether in the long term being inside or outside of the EU is positive from my own radical/socialist/far left ideological leanings, but I do know that in our lived reality a vote to leave was a vote to legitimise racist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy, and that the leave campaign manipulated disenfranchisement with austerity and establishment politics to command a significant portion of their vote share. With better education, we would all (all being those who receive it) be party to a much enhanced opportunity to understand properly both the ideological and real issues at play, and to vote not according to misperception and manipulation but rather to the merit and likely outcome of the choices presented to us.