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My 350 on BREXIT: Responsibility

"I am entitled to shout this from the mountaintop since I have been asking since the referendum was called: How are political decisions made in this country?"

Stein Ringen
6 July 2016

We have to move on from where we are, but let it not be forgotten, not now or ever, how we got here. The responsibility for the Brexit calamity lies fully and undividedly with Mr. David Cameron personally. He is the prime minister whose legacy is a divided and diminished society and a reduced standing of the United Kingdom in the world. He is the prime minister who has caused damage not only to his own country – and we do not know how far the fallout will reach, the Union has been put in danger of breaking up – but also to the cause of European cohabitation. Britain is a big power in Europe. With power comes responsibility. In calling the referendum and waging the campaign in narrow terms of self-interest, he abandoned that responsibility. 

The referendum should never have been called. There was no issue in the EU to be decided on. There was no prospect for a different deal for Britain in the EU. There was no prospect for settling the European question in the Conservative party. Even a remain majority in the referendum would have been a calamity since it would have emboldened the voice of leave.

Prime ministers must take risks, but to initiate a gamble in which there is nothing to win and everything to lose is madness. This gamble, a spur-of the-moment decision with no analysis of consequences and no plan, was a colossal mistake. It was a mistake strategically, as we are now seeing. It was a mistake morally and politically since it invited the ugliness of the campaign that we have seen.

I am entitled to shout this from the mountaintop since I have been asking since the referendum was called: Why are we having this referendum? How are political decisions made in this country?

In the aftermath of the historic British vote to leave the EU, openDemocracy is asking for our readers' thoughts on Brexit and what needs to happen next in 350 words. We've had an extraordinary response and you can read them all here.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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