Today, across the UK, it is as if the vote to leave the European Union had never happened. Despite the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, asserting that 'Brexit means Brexit', all of her actions, as well as those of the people around her and even, increasingly, European players too, such as Angela Merkel and others, points to a desire to kick the Brexit ball into the long grass where it cannot be seen and they hope, may never be recovered.
May has indicated that the earliest she would invoke Article 50 and trigger negotiations for the withdrawal would be next year at the earliest. So what happened to the assertion of former Prime Minister, David Cameron, that he would enact the people's will with immediate effect? We should recall that this vote was the single biggest mandate in British electoral history and yet it remains unfulfilled.
Instead, various groups, including middle-class hippies dancing in dresses made of the European Union flag, members of the unelected second chamber in the British Parliament, as well as a law firm and even one of the candidates standing to become the new Leader of the Opposition either assert that the public were duped when they voted, or that they were too ignorant to vote, or that such a momentous decision ought not have been left to them in the first place. So much for democracy!
What does this all mean for the future? Well, if we are not very careful what it points to is how democracy is now upheld in principle but not in practice in one of the birth places of democracy. It reveals in sharp contrast the elite's disdain for the people that they govern and it can only lead, much further afield, to more significant social challenges as people will eventually have to assert themselves more forcefully for their voices to be heard. How much better it would be to hear them now, now that they have spoken, and to start taking them seriously as agents of their own destiny.
Brexit would come with many problems, but it would reveal unimagined new possibilities too. Concerns over migration certainly featured in the debate. These need to be confronted head-on rather than by-passed by regulatory procedures. Foremost among the rationales to leave though was a desire for greater control and more of a say in decision-making. And while many young people wished to remain in the European Union, far more chose not to vote at all.
What we confront in all countries the world over today is a fear of the future, combined with a hatred of the masses that is paralysing development and opportunity for all.
Brexit and its aftermath continues to wreak havoc on British politics. David Cameron’s wreckless and unsuccessful gamble may eventually lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom but that is in the long term. In the short term, the failure of the Remain campaign, and Jeremy Corbyn’s perceived culpability in it, is tearing the Labour party apart. This may be the week that finally breaks Labour.
The co-ordinated string of resignations from the shadow cabinet that followed the Brexit vote was designed to pressure Corbyn to resign as leader of the party. MPs have never accepted Corbyn’s leadership and the Brexit debacle presents the opportunity to replace him before changes to the party’s rulebook that make his position more secure are pushed through by his supporters at the Labour Party Conference in September. MPs recognise that this is a crucial moment in the battle for the future of the Labour Party. Many are now prepared to gamble their own political careers on that future.
Deputy leader Tom Watson warned Corbyn that he has lost the confidence of MPs in a gesture many are seeing as a firm elbow towards the exit.
But Corbyn, backed by key allies such as the shadow chancellor, John Mcdonnell, shows no sign of backing down. He fully expects to defeat a leadership challenge.
Corbyn’s confidence comes from two sources. He remains very popular with the party membership, which is now decisive in any leadership contest and seems content with the current direction of travel. Any possible challenger, therefore, would have to be able to trump that popularity with the rank and file and there aren’t that many of them in the Parliamentary Labout Party at present.
Those who would have us remain in the EU simply don’t get it. They project all manner of reasons for why we should do so. Economic reasons, security and migration reasons, global connection and trade reasons. Heck, they even point to the bleeding obvious – that the Brexit camp is led by a bunch of fruitcakes like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.
Every right-thinking person on the planet, it would seem, argues for the UK to stay in the European Union. All of the party leaders want us to remain, as does the government, many leading businesses, the International Monetary Fund, even Barack Obama (though using a US president to promote the EU highlights the profile problem of European leaders).
Quite frankly, I’m expecting the Archbishop of Canterbury to come out any minute now to pronounce on the Christian case for staying in. After all, Tracey ‘f******’ Emin has.
I was invited to speak at the European People’s Party’s (EPP) European Ideas Network in the European Parliament (EP) earlier this month in Brussels. The focus of the discussion was the somewhat wordily entitled ‘EU response on the upcoming and possible subsequent events commonly known as Brexit’ and the panel included myself, two other academics and a number of EPP MEPs, chaired by the group’s vice-chairman Paulo Rangel.
The EPP, which in effect, comprises Centre Right MEPs from across the member states including the German CDU and the French neo-Gaullist Republicans, remains the largest party in the EP. Historically it has had, and still retains, a pro-EU outlook. The Conservative party famously withdrew from the group following the European elections in 2009 and set up the smaller, more EU-critical grouping called the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). This group somewhat controversially includes the Radical Right Danish People’s Party, The Finns Party and the Alternative for Germany Party which has been threatened with expulsion from the group following remarks by one of its MEPs that firearms might be used as a last resort to repel refugees from crossing borders.
Two things intrigue me about Brexit, although I have not yet seen them discussed.
First, one of the key concerns of the Eurosceptics and of the PM has been to re-assert the sovereignty of Parliament. However, Parliament was allowed no role in endorsing the terms on which the PM sought to negotiate, nor was it asked to give its blessing to the deal he brought back and commend it to the electorate. I did not however hear the Eurosceptics complaining at this. Curious.
Second, it seems to be assumed that if the referendum decides for Brexit, it will be incumbent on Parliament and Government to implement this decision: incumbent in a political - but hardly a constitutional - sense. But that will not mean exit the day after the referendum result is in: there will be a perhaps two-year process of negotiation, to establish the new relationship between the UK and the EU27. After all, the UK will not want to be suddenly without any relationship with the EU (even North Korea is not in that situation).
It is also however widely recognised that the EU might well negotiate a hard bargain, if only to discourage others who might think of heading for the exit. Will the UK Parliament and Government feel themselves obliged to persist with exit however hard those terms? Or will they realise that under those conditions they would have no alternative but to take back the responsibility - I suppose Cameron might want to call this his 'emergency brake Mark 2' - if only to put the terms on offer at that point to a new referendum? It is those terms on offer in 2018 that will be far more important in the long run than the terms which Cameron brought back from Brussels to launch the referendum campaign.
We are I suppose unlikely to get that far down the road. The Conservative Party is showing signs of fracture: in the circumstances sketched above, its fabled capacity to hold together, for the sake of retaining power, may prove insufficient. Cameron would in any case be unlikely to survive a vote for exit in June: whoever succeeds him would have to clear up the mess.
Read more comment and analysis from Bath researchers in relation to the EU referendum http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/opinion/category/eu-referendum/.
Like all successful gamblers, Boris Johnson knows how to play the hand he is dealt, clearly calculating the odds of success. The London mayor’s decision to break with David Cameron to become a figurehead of the Leave side in the forthcoming EU referendum is the product of untold hours of calculation.
When Boris tells us that the referendum presents us with “a once in a lifetime chance”, we should believe him. If he has made the right calculations, Boris could become the next British Prime Minister. Let’s have a look at what those calculations might have been.
This weekend Prime Minister David Cameron announced that an in / out referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union would take place on Thursday 23 June.
Over the next few months in the lead up to the referendum via the Opinion blog you'll hear from academics around the University on what this might mean across a whole host of themes. Here, in this first post, Bill Durodié and Nick Startin from the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies give their initial reactions.
A referendum date on Britain's membership of the EU is now set for 23 June 2016.
Donald Lancaster, a new teaching fellow in our School of Management, has held a successful international career in advertising working with some of the world's biggest brands. Here he blogs with some dos and don'ts for the campaign to keep Britain in the EU.
There is still no date for the UK’s EU referendum and the deadline of 2017 may seem a long way off, but the “In” campaign is starting late and on the back foot for several reasons. Most Britons are naturally Eurosceptic and many are also seriously ill-informed about the benefits of EU membership. The subject is, in reality, too big, too complex and too far-reaching for most to comprehend.
In addition, the “In” campaign is navigating its way through uncharted waters. The last referendum on the subject was in 1975 and was held under almost entirely different circumstances. Plus, the issues at stake remain unclear, as the prime minister has yet to unveil the reforms against which this referendum will be set. The result is that the “In” campaign has less than a full tool-box with which to campaign.
Meanwhile, the “Out” campaign, although divided, has some charismatic spokespeople and titillates by selling the exciting prospects of change, increased sovereign control, and regained stature on the world stage. It is able to inflate the electorate’s sense of British pride.
So Sir Stuart Rose (pictured above), chairman of online grocer Ocado, former CEO of Marks and Spencer and head of the “In” campaign, has his work cut out. Here are some dos and don'ts for him and his team.
Dr Sue Milner is from the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies.
UKIP’s vision for Britain’s future rests on an exit from the European Union. This vision is laid out in a section in their manifesto unambiguously entitled “Brexit”. UKIP states that a withdrawal from the EU means the UK can take back control of business and employment legislation and immigration rules, and sets out how the party would go about withdrawing the UK’s membership.
Two crucial aspects of this strategy are unclear. First, although everything in UKIP’s manifesto is based on a withdrawal from the EU, the manifesto calls for a referendum on the question of membership. The reasons for this are not hard to fathom. Without locating withdrawal within the context of some kind of public consultation, the party’s critique of the EU as undemocratic and bureaucratic could be seen as hypocritical.