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Just over half of the British public have Britain have
voted to take Britain out of the European Union. Sadly it's not the
first time in history that a nation has fallen for siren sounds
voluntarily voted away the best options for its future. So who is to
blame for any event is often a complex and tricky process. Trying to
say whose fault it is that the UK has decided to leave the European
Union is a trickier question than most. The truth is that it is not any
particular person's fault (if indeed you believe that it is a "fault"
in the first place). A whole range of people in Britain and Europe are
to blame for Britain's exit. Very few in the worlds of politics, the
media and public life can be said to be blameless; but some, evidently,
must shoulder more blame than others.
- David Cameron.
Obviously it is firstly the fault of the British Prime Minister, David
Cameron, for taking such a reckless political gamble as to have the
nation's future determined by referendum, rather than by the normal
parliamentary process. For the best part of 400 years, Britain has
relied on Parliament and elected governments to manage the affairs of
the country, and take the important decisions. That's what
parliamentary democracy is all about; as a system, it is not perfect,
but it is generally accepted to be the least imperfect of the different
models of governance that are available.
in western democracies, we elect
governments to run our countries, on the assumption that those
rely on expert evidence and advisers to take the best decisions.
Inevitably the decisions are not always the best possible, and the
experts can get things wrong, as they did over Iraq with Weapons of
mass destruction. But we elect parliaments and governments to make
decisions, on the assumption that those making the decisions generally
understand the issues.
In a referendum, a collective decision is taken by people
many of whom fail to understand the issues, and enough of whom vote on the basis of
impulse or prejudice, or for people who best instrumentalise
popular prejudices and fears. Populism is a great
vote-winner, when populist politicians offer rosy visions of the
future, however unlikely these visions may be.
David Cameron succumbed to an illusion that is
fatal to politicians; the illusion of invincibility. When he called the
referendum, not for one moment did he imagine that he could possibly
lose, that the British people could possibly vote for Brexit. If he had
done so, he would not have called the referendum. So the first person
to blame for Britain's decision to leave the EU is David Cameron. His
will be remembered as possibly the worst move of any British prime
minister in the 21st century.
- The Labour
Labour Party has to shoulder a heavy share of
responsibility for Brexit, on account of its half-hearted support for
the "Remain" campaign, and more generally because it has been unable to
form a strong and credible opposition to the Conservatives since losing
power in 2010. Had the party chosen the
far more experienced and respected David Miliband as leader in 2010,
rather than Ed Miliband, "Red Ed", it is quite possible that Labour
would have returned to power after five years of Cameron Tory
government, and the referendum would not have been called.
Choosing the rather limp Jeremy Corbyn as leader further
decredibilised the party. While it should have been fighting tooth and
nail from the very start of the referendum campaign to get Labour
supporters to vote "remain", Labour's effort was, until mid June,
pretty half-hearted. Corbyn could only give the "remain" camp a ranking
of 7/10 when asked how keen he was to remain in the EU; and not until
two weeks before the election did the rest of the party suddenly
realise that the result of a "leave" vote would not just be a
disastrous British exit from the EU, but would also give the UK the
most right-wing and labour-unfriendly government it has had for over a
century. Labour's effort was too little too late.
Conservative Party. The Conservative Party should have
taken decisive action decades ago to quell the Eursceptics on its right
wing. Instead it just tried to accommodate them.
politicians and public officials generally speaking.
Anyone who travels regularly to other parts of the European Union will
have been struck by the difference between the way other countries
display their participation in the EU with pride, while Britain seems
to pretend the EU doesn't exist. Go anywhere in Europe, and the EU flag
flies beside the national flag; go almost anywhere in Britain, and there is
not an EU flag to be seen. A few town halls bravely fly the flag on
official occasions, but most of the time it is just not there. No
wonder British people feel a them and us divide between the UK and the
Instead of talking up Britain's role as a member of the
Europe Union, UK politicians have too often referred to the European
Union largely to blame it when things go wrong, rarely to comment
favourably on the many benefits derived from it.
- The European
Commission and the EU in general. The EU Commission must
also take a good part of the blame for so many people in Britain choosing Brexit. The EU
has moved forward at breakneck speed, since the EEC was first created,
and it has done so with scant or no regard for public opinion in member
states. When the EEC was just a collection of 12 states or less, its
expansion was generally seen as a good idea. Once it passed the
20-state mark, many outside Brussels, including many national leaders
and parliaments, became wary of expansion, but the Commission ploughed
on regardless. Today it still wants expansion to include countries such
as Albania and Turkey, even though public opinion across Europe, and
local political opinion, is strongly against this. This way of
operating cannot continue, as it will inevitably lead to the breakup of
the whole European Union... if it has not already done so.
With regard to the Euro, the European Union seriously
damaged its credibility by rushing into a project that attempted to
unite countries with seriously different economies and living
standards, within a single currency. Many experts said from the start
that this was courting disaster. As generally happens, the experts were right, and disaster came with the
collapse of economies across southern Europe.
With the shambolic and fragile Euro as the most talked-about illustration of
its achievements, no wonder the EU gets a bad press across large parts
of the continent.
- The British
media. Unlike the media in other countries, the
UK print media has long been controlled by neo-conservative Eurosceptic
billionnaires, who are opposed to any form of "big government", and
therefore by definition even more opposed to a "government" that in
their view is just superfluous. Thus large parts of the UK media,
notably the popular press, has for decades played a major role in
promoting any story that damages the image or reputation of the EU,
while failing to report the stories that show the advantages
and benefits of the EU. No wonder so many people, in
the runup to the Brexit referendum, complained that they did not really
know anything about Europe.
- Boris Johnson.
For putting personal ambition above the interests of party or country,
for misleading voters with fantasy figures, and instrumentalising
prejudices about immigration.
© Andrew Rossiter and About-Britain.com