Explaining Brexit to an American friend
Tobias Stone

A little something that I wrote in response to this article, being a student of history, working towards being a historian:

If somebody starts his article with claiming that 60% of the people are for remaining in the EU, while the actual vote for remaining in the votum was 48%, you know you’ve got some ideological bias inbound.


Now he says that if brexit was damaging to the British economy they would be “…morally obliged to vote against it…..” but also that “Yet at the same time, you could argue they are morally obliged to vote to Leave to respect the will of the people, as expressed in the referendum. “.

Well, the “…you could argue…” is a semantic trick that is supposed to present the case for the MP’s following the votum of the referendum as weaker than the case of them rejecting it.

I disagree with him, it is not that “…you could argue they are morally obliged to vote to Leave to respect the will of the people,…”, but that they have to.

The whole principle of a democracy is that the people are the sovereign, and that all the authority that the MPs in a representative democracy get is from the people.

Their job is to enact the will of the people, in such a way that it won’t cause harm to the people.

For example one such will of the people could be, that the nation is protected from harm, i.e. National security.

Now, let’s take a few examples:

First, a possible war, the cabinet and the PM claim that Nation X is a threat to National security, and that we must fight them, or even attack them, as has been the case in the most recent Iraq War.

In such a case, the MPs are required to critically analyze the claims of the cabinet and PM, so that they don’t needlessly go to war, as an unnecessary war would expose the nation to harm.

It could face retribution from other countries in the form of trade bans, or being militarily attacked itself.

Also a war causes a loss in human life, which is detrimental to a nation’s economy and wealth, as even Sun-Tzu did observe thousands of years ago.

“[12.12] Those angry will be happy again, and those wrathful will be cheerful again, but a destroyed nation cannot exist again, the dead cannot be brought back to life.”

Source: https://www.sonshi.com/original-the-art-of-war-translation-not-giles.html

Another case where the will of the people or in this case national security will morally oblige to look closer and maybe vote against the clamour on the street, is if there is a law proposed to combat for example terrorism, and said law will infringe upon citizen rights.

In such a case the MP’s will have to critically analyze if the law will have negative effects on the liberty of the people, and if such effects exist, ask the question if they are justified or not.

Now of course, no rules without exceptions, as we say in germany, and there are cases, where an MP can be expected and should go against the will of the people, when the will of the people is immoral.

For example, if the people would demand that the members of the religious/political or ethnic group Y were to be rounded up, expulsed or imprisoned and/or later killed.

In such a case, the MP could reasonably not follow the people’s will on moral grounds.

But as you see that is a question of ethics, and of what you value higher, a human life, economy or the democratic principle?

And it is here where I think the author does not realize the slippery slope towards authoritarianism he’s on.

To go back to his earlier claim, he says that the MP’s would be morally obliged to vote against brexit, but that they could be in a moral dilemma as they would also have to respect the people.

Now, the main question here is what you value higher, economic stability or the democratic principle?

What are the problems?

If the economy declines, people might make less money or loose jobs, so it impacts the welfare of the people.

If you disregard the democratic principle you might not impact the income or the jobs of the people, but you will impact the welfare of the people in another way, by making a precedent for simply disregarding their will.

Who says that future politicians will only use this for moral things?

Take a good look at some of the Policies Mrs. May is proposing…..

What he at the moment argues for is protecting people from themselves, by disregarding their opinion if it is deemed hurtful to them by somebody else, which is denying them their agency, and their freedom of choice.

That would mean going against the core principle of democracy and liberalism.

It would be authoritarian, and the last governments that used such ideologies were.

It was also the basis of the prussian law about Schutzhaft (directly translated=Protective Custody), which allowed the prussian police to arrest even people who had not committed a crime, on the basis of “protecting the personal liberty of the people in question”.

The principle of charity has me assume that he is unaware of this.

He furthers this in the next part saying: “ That, again, is why referenda have no place in representative democracies. You either ask Parliament to act for you, or you don’t…..”.

I disagree again, as that would preclude using a referendum as a reality check for a government, as a way to remind them of the views of the electorate.

In essence he is saying, vote and otherwise shut up!

He is essentially arguing against the people participating in policy making, and even denies that referenda should take place at all, even to get an idea of what the people think.

I would argue, Referenda serve as a necessary reality check against politicians who would otherwise just make the policies that they want, disregarding the will of the people.

If you take Colin Crouch’s analysis of modern parties, where the leadership who also selects the candidates is along with their “experts” ever more isolated from the basis, you can see that the basis has less and less influence of the politics on the national level, same as the “experts” gain influence.

And a referendum can be an important tool to balance out that imbalance of influence and therefore power.

So if he argues against referenda at all, which he does by saying, they have no place, he would perpetuate the power imbalance as he takes away the tool that people have to protest problems.

After that the meat is pretty much gone in that article, once again chalking up the problems to a lack of communication……….boy that gets old.

That view itself is paternalistic or maternalistic, in that it thinks people only reject the view held by the side of the writer, because they were not informed enough.

It categorically rejects the idea that people might reject their ideas on the basis having seen them and not liked them, or disagreeing them.

So in his “So what will happen next” he says this:

“1. Once May is more confident it may work, she triggers Article 50. A very watered down version of Brexit is agreed with the EU, and we leave the EU. The UK will endure a recession, major businesses will leave London, but over time the UK will reinvent itself in some way and muddle on. It will probably cease to be as relevant globally.”

Again evidence please!

I note that he’s not saying is going to endure a recession, so he does not present it as an absolutely irrefuteable certainty, but he still presents it as a certainty, instead of a likelyhood.

Very biased and unscientific, really interesting for someone who is an archeologist, and who also claims to speak for the rational side.

Same here:

“2. May and the EU leaders carry on playing a big game, but in the background lack any real interest in the UK leaving. The UK falls into recession, and gradually many Leave voters change their mind, as is already happening. May lets Parliament, and then an election undermine her attempts to Leave, and eventually nothing happens. The UK is a poorer and less credible place but she survives without bearing the burden in history of having pulled the UK out of the EU, and Scotland out of the UK.”

Again speaking of the leave voters changing their mind as a certainty and claims that it has happened so far.

Although it is still argued over wether that is true or a media narrative.

Which is very interesting when you look at the next part, point 3:

“3. There are the beginnings of a new political landscape taking shape in the UK. One of these moves could change the game. If Corbyn wins the Labour leadership, then a new Centrist party could splinter off from both the Labour and Conservative parties and run in an election on a Remain ticket. Or Labour could implode leaving no effective opposition to May. She could win the next election with a landslide by default, changing her mandate and sense of security.”

Here he uses the proper language, could, would etc. to present something that could happen or not.

You can see pretty clearly here, that he can present things properly but chooses not to in the first two, as he is biased against them.

He does not want them to happen, so he presents them in the darkest terms possible and presents these as assured.

That is not proper scientific writing, that crafting a narrative.