Excited yet about what the reality of Brexit might mean for us all? Perhaps you’re still gripped by the sticky remnants of ‘Project Fear’. Watching highlights of the G20 summit this week, it’s clear that positions and perspectives are hardening in the geopolitical ‘Wild West’ that is the Group of Twenty Forum. I’m all for moving on and making the future work for all concerned, but before we do, there are some really important lessons that have been discarded into the dirt, that may be forgotten unless we take the time to look carefully at our recent past. For simplicity I’ve identified x3 key dimensions worthy of learning from; Debate, Diversity & Democracy. Think of them as a 3D look at the referendum.
Debate: History books may well consign Cameron to the role of ‘fool’ or ‘Braveheart’ for taking the country to the polls on a simple in/out question. As an engaged citizen I was genuinely excited about the starting gun going off & seeing democratic process in action in our great nation. I was excited for a new generation of young voters who were actively talking to politicians, each other and other generations about the topics and values that were important to them. In my view, instead of a great debate, both sides (campaigns) engaged in open warfare using made up arguments, fear, phoney data and personal attacks to trash people’s reputations & character. The lesson here is the power of genuine argument. Had both sides listened to each other and the electorate, the debate could have served a great educational value to the nation (and probably Europe). In this globablised and interconnected world, there isn’t enough open debate and use of skills like persuasion through considered argument.
Diversity: Wasn’t the whole point actually about the freedom of diversity? Post World War II, Churchill was one of the first espousing the value of unity, then early French and German leaders vowed to avoid future conflict at all costs. The essence of a closer Europe was to prevent something bad and promote shared values and ideals of close neighbours. In the last 15 years the small project of the European Economic Union (freedoms and fairness of trading arrangements to create prosperity), has morphed significantly towards full economic, monetary & political union. Whether that’s right or wrong, how is the diversity of nations being honoured and protected? Are we really benefiting from the diversity of 27 nations learning and cooperating together? The lesson is a very serious one; if the EU is not serving its original purpose and stifling any of the 27 in terms of their people, their economies and their cultures then we need to call it out, because stifling anyone’s voice is a very potent pre cursor to conflict.
Democracy: Don’t we talk about the will of the people being paramount? You have to admire the PM; clearly in the ‘Remain Camp’, she seems to be making a good job of following that will of the people. More broadly is democracy really being served? I think it’s very mixed, for example, it’s pretty shocking to realise how few people got the chance to vote on the introduction of the Euro. As the EU has grown, so too have the dangers of the arrogance of the so called Political Elite, both here and abroad. In the referendum, as they were asleep on deck, they allowed the campaign to be further polarised towards just x2 issues, immigration and the economy. Personally, I wanted to talk about how the EU makes decisions and its efficiency and transparency as a key institution in my life. Democracy is a fluid concept and we must respect, preserve and where necessary, talk about how it works in a changing world.
If you’re not excited yet about the future, perhaps it’s because something deep inside you didn’t get what you wanted or felt was right during the campaigning. Let’s all hold on to what’s actually important, begin to learn the lessons and conduct ourselves in a way we’d be proud of. The result was the result; let’s all embrace the possibilities and hope for a bright future that we work hard towards. Politicians – keep up, show some leadership and demonstrate you can learn and improve!
Written by Steve Bernard