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Post Was the Brexit Vote Democratic?
Created by John Eipper on 12/19/20 4:01 PM

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Was the Brexit Vote Democratic? (Arturo Ezquerro, -UK, 12/19/20 4:01 pm)

I wish to thank José Ignacio Soler for writing incisively about Brexit, the most depressing political event in the UK since World War Two. His is the first posting about this subject on the WAIS Forum since I was invited to join a year ago.

As a psychiatrist working in London for the last 37 years, I have struggled to identify anything sane or beneficial for ordinary people in the UK coming out of the Brexit process and, so, I have needed to write a dozen articles about it in order to preserve my sanity.

Please allow me to share some of my thoughts in a couple of links:

https://groupanalyticsociety.co.uk/contexts/issue-83/articles/report-brexit-who-is-afraid-of-group-attachment/

https://groupanalyticsociety.co.uk/contexts/issue-87/brexit/brexit-and-the-foreign-virus/

In summary, I have argued that Brexit thinking and feeling seemed to have evolved from complex large-group and global-group dynamics, linked to a constellation of historical and ongoing contributing factors, including the following:

• a reactivation of anti-immigrant attitudes, in the context of the ongoing migratory crisis;
• a nostalgia for the sovereign British Empire;
• a tension within the UK about devolution to its constituent nations;
• a revival of English nationalism;
• profound regional inequalities within England itself;
• a divide between big cities and the rest;
• a generational divergence of values and aspirations;
• the global financial crisis;
• a disdain for the poor and vulnerable, expressed through austerity and the undermining of the welfare state;
• a sensationally self-indulgent, right-wing political ruling class;
• unacceptable levels of class inequality and social detachment;
• a persistent and insidious anti-EU propaganda;
• a deeply ingrained British ambivalence towards the European project and distrust of EU institutions.

The list is longer. However, during the Brexit referendum campaign, research consistently found immigration to be the public's number-one issue of concern. And it had a pernicious influence on how the franchise was defined under the strong pressure of the pro-Brexit (and largely xenophobic) lobby within the Tory Party, which held a parliamentary majority.

In a piece of research which is to be published in a couple of months, I have critically examined the democratic quality of the June 2016 UK referendum on EU membership. The Brexit "mandate" is based on 51.9% of the voters but just 26% of the UK population. On a rigorous scrutiny, the referendum failed key tests on democratic legitimacy, such as human rights and the definition of the franchise. The UK Referendum Act 2015 deliberately excluded 3.3 million settled EU citizens, permanently resident in the UK, from the franchise.

This cast serious doubts: the political and legal status of common EU citizenship conferred by EU Treaties (of which the UK was a signatory) was disregarded by the UK and by the EU. According to the Treaties, no EU citizen shall be discriminated against on grounds of nationality, in any of the member-states...

In conclusion, a democratic process such as the Brexit referendum, in which a whole group of subjected citizens within the political community is excluded and marginalised, cannot be legitimate enough.

Plus ça change!

Best wishes for the New Year.

JE comments: Best wishes to you, too, Arturo.  Appreciate your update.  We've been way too US-centric on the Forum this year, but much is going on everywhere else.  Who would have imagined that Trumpism would have been "resolved" in less time than Brexit?

Arturo, some naive Yank questions.  Are there calls in the UK for another referendum, especially given the 45-billion euro exit invoice coming due soon?  Is it already too late for a reconciliation?


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  • Why Did the Supreme Court Not Side with Trump? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/22/20 10:56 AM)
    First I must congratulate Arturo Ezquerro (December 19th) for his excellent post regarding the stupidity of Brexit. In an age when the world is shrinking, cooperation, unification, participation should be the key words for humanity to survive, let alone prosper. Only special interests drive nationalism, fundamentalism, and xenophobia. The EU is far from perfect, but it is a grand experiment which should not be allowed to fail.

    JE commented on my last post (regarding US vs Chinese democracies), "Trump resolutely failed in his quest to be president-for-life, and ... the US courts, even Trump's own judicial appointees, rejected the seas of litigation to overturn the election results. Do you really believe an analogous process could have happened in China?"


    Presently, there is zero chance; further, the present Chinese top leader can stay on with the party's consent. Surely does not seem very democratic, eh?


    On the other hand, our precious US courts can be blamed over the years for blindness to a wide array of injustices ranging from vote suppression, racial injustices, civil rights violations, to enabling a wide variety of electoral process manipulation by special interests. To my relief, even this Trump Supreme Court, no matter how biased, is apparently not debased enough to allow an election overturn by claimants with no evidence to back charges of fraud against election officials of their own party. While they were not crazy enough for Trump this time around, four more years of indoctrination could be sufficient in the future, just like the Nazi judiciary.


    Nevertheless, if a democratic system can ensure that the government represents the people's interests, then the political leaders would stop trying to manipulate the courts as a vehicle to accomplish their special interests. We must not forget that the elected legislative must write the laws to be executed/interpreted by the other branches.


    JE comments:  I am reminded of Cameron Sawyer's reassurances that the court system is beholden to no one, politically.  Most of us took this argument with a grain of salt, but so far since November 3rd, the Supreme Court (and lower courts) are proving us skeptics wrong.

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