Many British people voted for a British exit, or Brexit, from the EU in a referendum on Thursday June 23, 2016. With more than 30 million votes cast, referendum turnout was 71.8%.
Across social media, Remain voters who are not happy that their side lost, and that the UK is leaving the EU, have been labelled “remoaners” by Leave voters and told to “suck it up”, “move on” and to stop being sore losers because this is “democracy in action”.
However, without even touching on the pros and cons of the EU, or the impact of the result, there are many valid objections to the Brexit referendum. These include:
1) The referendum was a perversion of democracy
Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University:
“The real lunacy of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union was not that British leaders dared to ask their populace to weigh the benefits of membership against the immigration pressures it presents. Rather, it was the absurdly low bar for exit, requiring only a simple majority…
“The idea that somehow any decision reached anytime by majority rule is necessarily “democratic” is a perversion of the term. Modern democracies have evolved systems of checks and balances to protect the interests of minorities and to avoid making uninformed decisions with catastrophic consequences. The greater and more lasting the decision, the higher the hurdles.”
2) The voting process was flawed
“Given voter turnout of 70%, this meant that the leave campaign won with only 36% of eligible voters backing it. This isn’t democracy; it is Russian roulette for republics. A decision of enormous consequence – far greater even than amending a country’s constitution (of course, the United Kingdom lacks a written one) – has been made without any appropriate checks and balances.”
3) The campaigns lied
“I think the leave campaign has degenerated into dishonesty really on an industrial scale.” said Professor Michael Dougan before the referendum vote took place.
Now, following the vote to leave, Professor Dougan has repeated his criticisms of the Leave campaign, saying it was “one of the most dishonest campaigns this country has ever seen”, potentially resulting in “untold damage to the quality of our national democracy”.
Professor Dougan: “The Leave campaign really set out to create a climate of fear among many of our fellow citizens, effectively trying to make people believe that they had lost control of their country, that their democracy had been taken away and that foreigners were to blame.”
Here’s a list of some of the Brexit mis-truths that were told by the Leave campaign.
E.g. “The campaign claim: We send £350m a week to Brussels, which could be spent on the NHS instead.
“The current claim: The claim was a mistake, and we will not be able to spend that much extra on the NHS.”
The wild claims were a deliberate ploy by the Leave campaign. In fact, Arron Banks, the Brexit campaign’s biggest financial donor, says the Leave campaign succeeded because it avoided facts and concentrated on immigration:
“It was taking an American-style media approach,” said Banks. “What they said early on was ‘facts don’t work’ and that’s it. The remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. It just doesn’t work.
“You have got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.”
“The Conservatives are now trying to rewrite the campaign that immigration wasn’t important, but boy was immigration important,” Banks said. “The first thing we did was poll everybody and we found that if immigration wasn’t the issue, the issue was schools or education, proxies for immigration. It was the number one issue by a country mile.”
4) Voters were misled
The famous voter with regrets, is the young woman at the airport who said:
“The facts are coming in now and our eyes are actually open,” she explained. “We’re actually seeing what’s happening.”
But there were many others with regrets, too.
One video on the Leave.EU Facebook page, viewed 1.6m times, begins: “Are you concerned about the amount of crime committed in the UK by foreign criminals?” before ending with the message:
“Isn’t it time to take back control.”
As the Guardian notes: “Several commentators have said the Republican candidate for the US presidency, Donald Trump, uses hypnotic techniques in his speeches. He uses repetition to make simple ideas stick. Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader and Leave.EU supporter, did something similar during the EU referendum campaign, repeating again and again the mantra “take back control”.”
The article also mentions: “The leave campaign enlisted the TV hypnotist Paul McKenna to advise on some of its campaign broadcasts”.
5) The referendum was held for reasons other than to make a decision about EU membership
Here’s journalist John Harris’ version of events:
See also: Guto Harri says Boris Johnson’s heart was not really in the Brexit cause. When Johnson was Mayor of London, Harri was his head of communications.
6) The referendum is not legally binding
Dr Frederick Wilmot-Smith: “One thing is clear: the referendum itself had no more legal effect – either within the United Kingdom or on the UK’s legal relations with the European Union – than a straw poll of your friends (or mine). The UK is still a member of the EU and has not, legally, indicated its desire to leave the Union. The political consequences are quite another matter, and may well lead to exit from the EU.”
7) This whole thing is very “un-British”
Here’s Clement Attlee, a former British Prime Minister, talking about referendums: “I could not consent to the introduction into our national life of a device so alien to all our traditions as the referendum, which has only too often been the instrument of Nazism and Fascism. Hitler’s practices in the field of referenda and plebiscites can hardly have endeared these expedients to the British heart.”
8) Voter personal data has been misused, unethically, on a mass scale
“The company behind Trump’s online campaign was the same company that had worked for Leave.EU in the very early stages of its “Brexit” campaign: Cambridge Analytica.”
“Data mining by political campaigns is nothing new, but individualising these statistical presumptions through psychological theory, coupled with media that can choose who sees which messages, is new.”
“A very seductive hypothesis: did Cambridge Analytica use its psychographics profiles to find the audience for our post-truth world? Did they target gullible voters on behalf of Trump’s campaign? Why is a Cambridge Analytica employee reading about the Need for Cognition Scale?”