Can Europe Make It?

Great Britain rides stunning decision to leave the EU: what you said about Brexit

Was this vote an unprecedented act of self-sabotage? And is this the end of a centuries-old union? Here’s what our readers are saying about the UK’s EU referendum.

openDemocracy Opendemocracy
30 June 2016
The Brexit 'flotilla'. Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.

The Brexit 'flotilla'. Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.The UK’s decision to leave the EU has ushered in an era of radical uncertainty – some of our best writers have been trying to make sense of what drove the vote to Leave, and to map out where we go from here. And we’ve been turning to you, our readers, for some of our most insightful commentary in the post-referendum haze.

Here’s a taster…

In the wake of England’s vote to leave the EU, the glue keeping Scotland in the UK is rapidly dissolving, wrote our UK editor Adam Ramsay:

“Centrist Scottish unionism was built on four pillars: the press, political parties, business and Britishness. Each of them seems to be crumbling. The chances of the Yes campaign winning a second independence referendum look higher than ever.”

Below the line, Toque thinks Sturgeon may be overestimating her hand: “Yes there is a lot of anger but have things really changed since the last Scottish referendum? The anti-secession countries of the EU (Spain, Belgium) will still be against setting a precedent and the NATO members will still be against fragmenting a NATO state. And then there is the question of Scotland's finances and the fact that it will probably have to sign up to the EU completely (with the EURO and a commitment to full integration).”

And Robin Kinross points to how fast things are developing: “The EU may be arthritic in the way it moves, but it's also a bargaining, pragmatic institution in ways that many English people haven't been able to grasp. So who knows – Scotland could become a "reverse Greenland" or even the successor state, or the Scottish parliament could try a veto of the UK leaving. Certainly the Scotttish govt has been quicker off the block than the UK govt.”

For openDemocracy writer Kirsty Hughes, the UK has done deep damage to itself, the EU, and the wider world:

“Uncertainty is bad for investment and economic decisions: yet no one knows – and we won’t know for a long time – what sort of new relationship the UK will build with the EU.”

Commenter BC says: “The government's "no hurry" approach to formally moving the resolution to leave is scandalous. The damage which could be done to not only the UK's but also Europe's economy in the interim will do very serious damage to both.”

Our founder Anthony Barnett asks whether the English left can find its voice:

“Can the left grasp the opportunity this offers to link the spirit of London with its country? It will have to embrace a genuine programme for democracy as a central part of its revival.”

Excellent postmortem by @AnthonyBarnett on https://t.co/q8lnApVU5B He had seen it coming! Blimey, it is Brexit! https://t.co/DkBEWDmDG2

— Yanis Varoufakis (@yanisvaroufakis) June 24, 2016

But Kippers warns in the comments section: “One of the themes of the Brexit campaign has been that people shouldn't listen to experts. Anyone who is an "expert" (ie anyone who tries to gather facts and analyse them and draw conclusions) should be worried. They need to quickly start defending their professionalism.”

Meanwhile former finance minister of Greece Yanis Varoufakis weighed into our debate on the results of the UK referendum, and its meaning for his movement to democratise Europe:

“The EU’s disintegration is now running at full speed. The DiEM25 campaign of building bridges across Europe, bringing democrats together across borders and political parties, is what Europe needs more than ever to avoid a slide into a xenophobic, deflationary, 1930s-like abyss.”

Below the line, Robert Cox argues that the Leave vote is the catalyst that will make reform possible: “I at least voted leave in part in the hope that the present sclerotic political structure of the EU would be swept away in the following tsunami. DiEM25 must indeed seize this opportunity. You have far, far more support among leave voters than you might imagine….”

openDemocracy writer Jeremy Gilbert argues that this vote shows that people do care about democracy:

“The vote is not just a vote against austerity and it is not just a vote for xenophobia. It is also a desperate vote against a situation in which the mechanisms of representative democracy have completely broken down.”

Commenter Rowena Hiscox is more sceptical about easy solutions, pointing back to the rejection of the AV referendum: “I struggle to see - even allowing for the left's tendency towards wishful thinking - how anyone could believe that the people who voted for Brexit are likely to be won over by a message of PR and participatory democracy.”

Our editor-at-large Benjamin Ramm thinks that the Brexit vote is an unprecedented act of self-sabotage:

“Never has a nation relegated itself into obscurity with such needless, reckless abandon. The country has opted for a form of ritual suicide, but one which will destroy others in its wake, fundamentally undermining the EU, the most progressive political project in history.”

A fair article by .@BenjaminRamm but doesn't look at Left #Brexit & their culpability for post #EURef rise in racism https://t.co/sbEbWcft3t

— (((Soupy Remains))) (@InTheSoupAgain) June 27, 2016

In the comments, Robin Kinross wonders whether an AV system would have reduced the democratic deficit, defusing some of the country’s widespread political discontent: “My suspicion is that with a reformed voting system we would in 2015 have had another coalition UK government, of left or right or just centre I don't know. My hopeful guess is that a more proportional representation would have provided safety valves that would have led to better, less chaotic and dysfunctional outcomes than the one served up.”

JackieHolt believes we need proportional representation: “I fear we'll continue with FPTP and get a Tory/UKIP coalition representing less than half the population. But we're navigating uncharted waters now, we really need a truly representative government.”

Elsewhere, Alfred Moore argues that the referendum is not worthy of our respect:

“This referendum manifested a profound disrespect for democracy, in the way it was called, in the way the decision thresholds were framed, and in the way the campaign itself was conducted.”

Anobserver says that we shouldn’t even call the vote a referendum: “What took place on the 23rd June 2016 was a plebiscite: a vote decided by the government, at a time decided by the government, on a question formulated by the government. The fundamental objective of that vote was obvious – to buttress the position of the Prime Minister against fractious members of his party.”

In his piece for us, Alan Finlayson maps out how the Brexit vote should be seen as a series of responses to globalisation:

“The key to it all is that in voting in the referendum a large number of people weren’t voting on our relationship to the EU but, rather, manifesting their attitude towards – and experience of – ‘globalisation’. So, to make sense of what happened you have to think about the changes to the UK economy and society that started with the liberalisation of the UK economy under Margaret Thatcher and which continued under the Blair governments as an attempt to make us at ease with cultural and financial ‘modernisation’.”

A balanced academic view of what happened in the referendum this from my cleverest friend @ProfAFinlayson https://t.co/FBQEdbLU88

— Richard Osman (@richardosman) June 26, 2016

Commenter Kippers draws a line to the chaos engulfing the Labour party: “The Labour "moderates" who have plunged Labour into crisis show no sign of understanding how the Blair years contributed to the negative attitude towards globalisation.”

Writing for oD, Michael Skey urges us to stop sneering at Leave voters – they knew exactly what they were doing:

“Disdained by a political circus that barely even bothered to acknowledge the crowd anymore, this was a chance to (really) send in the clowns. Ignore us for long enough, they said, and we’re going to do exactly the same to you, and damn the consequences, because in places like Sunderland we already feel pretty much damned.”

Below the line, commenter Renwick thinks Skey is misguided in using the word ‘sneering’: “Pro-EU Britons are dismayed that so many of our compatriots could vote for something that will be so damaging to their own interests, given the economic problems that will stunt employment opportunities and investment in the very areas where leave voters prevailed.”

Meanwhile, our UK editor Adam Ramsay's term 'reverse Greenland' appears to have taken on a life of its own

Seems the term "reverse Greenland", coined by our UK editor @AdamRamsay is now a key bit of Brexit terminology: https://t.co/dC4oafbR2X :)

— openDemocracy (@openDemocracy) June 26, 2016

And finally, we want your responses to Brexit

What does #Brexit vote mean for UK and Europe? Send 350 words telling us what you think: https://t.co/9Gl5v3sOFH pic.twitter.com/1JFnmLeGoS

— openDemocracy (@openDemocracy) June 28, 2016

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