STUART REES, Brexit, A Democratic Absurdity

Mar 28, 2019


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

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