Reflections on the outcome of Brexit referendum

Democracy isn’t about optimising for the best outcome short-term. It’s about giving people the sense of control of the political process in order to avoid government overthrows, violence and instability. And as long as people believe that politicians believe that their voices should be listened to - we enjoy stable and, as a result, prosperous economy.

Prime and recent example of what happens when majority of the people no longer believe that the government institutions are obeying the rules would be Ukraine’s political turmoil, “Euromaidan”, in 2013 which resulted in the president fleeing the country. Despite the president’s term coming to an end, many people didn’t think that the upcoming election would be fair and they took it upon themselves to overthrow the government.

Thus we should appreciate what Britain has: members of the parliament repeating “people have spoken and should be heard” after the recent referendum. Despite the fact that many MPs, I suspect, secretly keep the electorate in contempt.

And I largely agree with such “elitist” position that some opinions are not as valid as others. A person who voted based on factually incorrect information or contrary to his/her own interest without realising it, of course, shouldn’t be listened to. And in some ideal world where people don’t become disenfranchised and don’t try to riot and/or overthrow the government - I’d insist on not listening to such voters.

A person who thoroughly researched the options and considered all with an open mind and based the decision on the facts should be listened to.

But implementing a system which distinguishes between these two kind of people could easily result in an authoritarian state where “factually correct opinion” is, in fact, the most convenient opinion for the government in charge.

And thus, regretfully, I insist that Britain should now leave the EU. There should be no second referendum, parliamentary block or any other act that comes across as obviously disrespecting the will of the people - as the question on the ballot was unambiguous, the turnout was high (higher than in latest general elections - and if the referendum vote is somehow illegitimate - they why is the current government legitimate?). Finally the majority won by a small yet sizeable (>1 million) margin.

And people approaching the strength of the referendum from the “elitist” position: who is to say that all Remain voters were well-informed and based their decision on factually correct information?

However, all isn’t lost. Leave and Remain could potentially come to a compromise of Britain leaving the EU yet staying in the EEA. EEA would lead to an access to the single market, free movement of labour, scientific cooperation, participation in Erasmus programme, etc - i.e. things Remain largely cares about. It would calm the markets down, Britain could avoid the recession, keep its financial sector in London and keep Scotland united with England.

It would be interpreted by some Leave voters as a betrayal of their wish - but it wouldn’t be. The EU ballot was about the EU and not about the EEA. Besides, some Leave voters might be satisfied with such outcome, especially those who weren’t motivated by immigration in the first place, and some might just change their mind by the time such arrangement is worked out.

I encourage Remain to come to terms with the outcome of the referendum and try to make the best out of the situation instead of gleefully watching the country tearing itself apart whilst smiling to themselves in “I told you so” moment, wishing for the worst possible scenario to unravel as some sort of self-inflicted punishment on the Leave camp.

Finally I’d like to come back to the point that MPs, secretly, hold the electorate in contempt. I hold this belief because of the prevalence of poor argumentation and outright lies politicians often resort to in order to achieve their goals. Some of it comes from the politicians being “mind-killed”1 by politics themselves (i.e. misled and confused yet utterly convinced). However, some of it comes from them using selective quoting of experts, consistent misrepresentation of facts and downright ad hominems (such as “racist”) thrown at political opponents. Needless to say, such tactics resulted in mistrust and derision from the Leave camp. So yes I partially blame “I think people in this country have had enough of experts” on Remain who resorted to such means in order to persuade the public and received a “f*ck you” protest vote instead.

So let us all put on the “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others” gloomy faces and push for the EEA arrangement with our improved rhetoric.

  1. term used in series of blog posts which I obviously recommend to anyone interested in having better political debates than typical ones