STUART REES, Brexit, A Democratic Absurdity


Fear, deceit, racism, illegalities and foreign interference contributed to Britain’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union. The referendum outcome resulted from a giant con trick, a democratic absurdity which should never have been taken seriously.

In November 1774, Edmund Burke explained to the electors of Bristol that as their representative in parliament, he was not going to Westminster merely to follow instructions but rather, to use his mind to make decisions in voters’ best interests.

Prime Minister Theresa May has never understood the wisdom of Burke. Instead, she repeats ad nauseam that she is following instructions, that she respects ‘the will of the people’, which she says is an example of democracy at work. But a peoples’ will fuelled by fear, deceit and racism should have given the British government reason to reinterpret the referendum. In the last throes of two years of pointless debate, British MP’s at last seem to be doing that, in effect acknowledging what Edmund Burke tried to tell them 250 years ago.

In the run up to the 2016 referendum, the Brexit, anti-Europe campaigners, aided by the British tabloid newspapers painted an image of the EU as an ogre to be feared. Fear was stoked by headlines which warned that Britain would be ‘swamped by strangers’ and that the EU planned to merge the UK with France.

Boris Johnson became the chief liar. Emblazoned on the side of his red campaign bus was the forecast that exit from Europe would result in 350 million pounds per week being returned to the National Health Service. Johnson also claimed that Britain could not be democratic if the country remained as a member of the EU, even though, in ninety five per cent of cases, the British government had voted for laws passed by the EU.

Nigel Farage became the chief racist. Infamous for posing in front of a picture showing queues of non-white migrants invading Britain, he refused to repudiate descriptions of such people as cockroaches. A Farage supporter appeared on British television saying that these people were ferals who did not understand English culture. Pamphlets suggesting that EU members from Turkey, Iraq and Syria would be entitled to enter Britain became part of the Farage Brexit ammunition even though these countries were not EU members. Iraq and Syria had not even applied.

Arch Conservative Brexit supporter Jacob Rees-Mogg became the the anti-Establishment clown and fake. This Eton schoolboy ally of Boris Johnson argued that the EU represented the Establishment whereas he was fighting for the interests of ordinary people. Rees-Mogg ‘s special deceit was to attribute to his opponents the interests which he represented. This is a suited gentleman who wants Britain to rediscover the glory days of Empire, is a supporter of fox hunting, is against abortion of any kind and once presented a petition to the Daily Express demanding that overseas aid should be abolished.

In common with US President Donald Trump, the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is keen on eroding the influence of a human rights based Europe. To that end the evidence shows Putin, and Trump, as enthusiastic supporters of Brexit – the Leave campaign. The English multimillionaire business man Aaron Banks, an associate if not a close ally of Putin’s, gave a huge donation to that campaign.

On Saturday March 23, 2019, an estimated one million people marched in London to demand a people’s vote, a second referendum. Speakers at the rally said that Brexiteers’ use of fear, deceit, racism and reliance on foreign interference showed the outcome of the 2016 referendum to be a democratic absurdity which should not be defined as the will of the people.

The London marchers and speakers abused Theresa May as an obstinate, inflexible mediocre, unimaginative leader. They were also honouring Edmund Burke’s advice about the best ways to represent constituents’ interests and thereby ensure the wise operation of a parliamentary democracy.

Stuart Rees OAM, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Sydney and recipient of the Jerusalem (Al Quds) Peace Prizewinner


Stuart Rees OAM, human rights activist, poet, novelist, author of books on social justice. Recipient of the Jerusalem Peace Prize, Founder Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation.

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5 Responses to STUART REES, Brexit, A Democratic Absurdity

  1. Avatar Mike Yewdall says:

    BREXIT is looking more and more like the final joke on the UK by Spike Milligan. Do any of the marchers, the members, the commentators have even a vague idea of what is going on. I doubt it. The arch agitators, Boris and the frightful Farage are conspicuous by their silence. Boris is lurking, ready to pounce on May’s carcass. What an appalling situation for any nation to find themselves in. And we think our politics is childish. By the way, is Farage still a member of the EU parliament?

  2. Avatar Richard Ure says:

    Why is the thought of an informed referendum anathema to those who oppose having one? Can their motives possibly be pure? An insufficient number of people seem to care.

    But even now, how many of those walking through country villages waving their flags are thinking through the issues for themselves or, more importantly, their progeny? I guess it is no different to our coal mining communities who refuse to see the demise of their industry despite no shortage of overseas experience even possibly in places their parents or grandparents came from.

  3. Avatar Malcolm Crout says:

    Interesting that the Brexit campaign shenanigans were explained herein, but that the equally odious and fear mongering campaign of the remainers was not disclosed. This is somewhat uneven handed. Both sides played around with the truth. I guess it all depends on your point of view, but in the end the public voted and the result is what it is.
    Regarding the EU as an ogre to be feared, one need only look at the dysfunctional monetary union that has destroyed Greece and is in the process of doing so to many others as we speak. The EU has morphed into a pure neoliberal, straying far from it’s original roots and creating the greatest movement of wealth in favour of the elites in particular Germany and France. The inequality is being played out in the yellow vest movements again as we speak for anyone who doubts this reality.
    The fox hunting quip is pure nonsense and the Russia connection equally so – show us the proof! Stooping to those arguments is harping over matters settled months ago and are just dredging up old fake news. Trump had zero influence over the Brexit vote – he is hated with a passion by the Brits. Interestingly, the so called progressives led ineptly by Corbyn are rejecting Brexit with everything they can muster – go figure! The Conservatives are largely pro Brexit, so the fox analogy seeking to recreate the old class struggle is somewhat misplaced.
    The management of Brexit has been mismanaged by the polity in it’s entirety. The people voted to leave, but no one expected party politics to usurp the process. Deal or no deal it’s going to be a mess and a big adjustment by all economic and social sectors. The people want Brexit. The Conservatives largely recognise that although they struggle with the detail and the Left are in pixie land again.
    It’s too late to be lamenting about the original vote and the means as to how it transpired. Just get on with it!

    • Avatar Andrew McRae says:

      Malcolm, you say both sides ‘played around with the truth’ (a massive understatement in the case of Boris’s red bus). Assuming you are somewhat correct, it means the British people were completely misinformed about an issue of unparalleled importance. How does that sit with both the concept and the actual workings of democracy? Without factual information, and beset by propaganda, voters cannot be expected to make informed decisions, meaning democracy is a farce. Yet, you say, ‘the result is what it is’, ‘the people want Brexit’ and ‘just get on with it’. Such pat generalisations and vacuous slogans and catchphrases do not sit comfortably with the conclusion that a democratic process was completely corrupted by misinformation and propaganda. Perhaps if you could clearly explain what ‘getting on with it’ entails, you would have a bit more credibility.

  4. Avatar Andrew McRae says:

    Great article. The incoming Tory government, once Cameron had (in shame) resigned, should have repudiated his ‘binding’ referendum straight away (the party moderates should never have accepted his barmy referendum in the first place, even if it was assumed the vote would be ‘no’) for reasons well explained here by Stuart. Failing that, a strong and sensible PM should have led the parliament towards a rejection of the tainted referendum vote. Instead, the Eton set and the rest of the self-entitled loony ruling class have been allowed to shaft the whole country, including even those who voted for Brexit; among leave voters, many are surely alarmed at Boris’nMoggs’ favoured ‘no-deal’, which even now looms as the most probable default Brexit.

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