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Analysis of the post referendum situation

June 25, 2016 4:36 PM
By John Castle & Paul Chaplin

Britain has voted in one of the most significant and important campaigns in our history.

Uncertainty

The people of Britain have given a clear instruction to the government and institutions of our country that we should leave the EU and forge a path forward that is distinctively British. At this time there is no clarity around what kind of Britain will emerge in a post-Brexit world, however in the coming days, weeks and months strong leadership will be needed to ensure that we have a clear plan for how we will handle the process of leaving the EU, this leadership is currently not being shown.

The uncertainty mainly exists in two key areas. The first is economic uncertainty. Britain has an economy that over the last 43 years has been deeply entwined with EU. The markets will react to the uncertainty with volatility and pessimism until leadership and stability back up with a strong and credible plan to ensure the success of the British economy in a post Brexit world.

The second area of uncertainty is that of who runs the country. The institutions of state will continue to function and will emerge with plans to ensure that decisions are made and advice is given to political leaders who will need to make decisions over how the withdrawal process is handled. The current government is clearly not able to take this decision given that the prime minister has announced his resignation which will become effective when a new leader is announced at the Conservative conference in the autumn. This creates a power vacuum with the government being paralysed for the next few months. There is also no certainty that the new leader will be able to form a government that commands the confidence of the House of Commons. This level of political uncertainty is not something I have ever seen in my lifetime and until a strong leader with a clear vision for how Britain should handle the exit process and present itself in the world emerges the path forward will remain uncertain.

Divisiveness

The standard of debate during the referendum has been shockingly poor. Those who wished to make an informed decision based on facts and evidence have been let down badly. The result was to leave and a 4% margin is a clear and decisive result.

The two campaigns have carried out a bitter and angry debate that has polarised the country into leave and remain supporters. It is clear that many people wanted to cooperate with our neighbours and maintain influence at the top table of Europe. However, by a majority of just over 1M votes the result of the referendum was to head down a path that is separate from the EU.

The remain group, which has a majority amongst many sectors of society and regions of the United Kingdom, cannot be ignored, Britain needs to heal and unite behind this decision and secure a strong and successful future without dwelling on the previous backstop of division and blame.

Representative Democracy

One of the key negotiations that need to be settled with some certainty is the question of how those who live in the country, but hold EU passports and are not British citizen should be able to participate in British society. The reverse side of the issue is how the EU will handle the British citizens living in other parts of the EU. This needs to be settled quickly after invoking Article 50. It has short term consequences that are far greater than the trade settlement that will need to be comprehensive.

I believe it would be wholly unacceptable to alienate EU citizens living and working in this country and make them feel unwelcome. Until yesterday they had the right to participate fully in the communities where they live, I believe it would do great harm to Britain to not enshrine the same level of democratic participation into British law post exit.

The second area where there is a clear lack of representation of the British people is in Parliament. The result of the 2015 election clearly demonstrates a wide gulf between the views of the British people and the views of politicians representing the people. In a post exit Britain the view of the people needs to be reflected at all levels of government and it is manifestly clear that the current voting system does not deliver.

Impact

The vote to leave the EU is decisive and will have long lasting effects for UK jobs, businesses, and our economy and puts peace in Europe that we have enjoyed since 1945 at risk. The leave triumph will be paid for by their children and grandchildren in the years to come.

Britain now faces a major challenge to secure trading arrangements with not only the EU, but also many other countries. Whether this leaves us better off as leave claim is unknowable, the price of failure will be carried by future generations.

Our belief is that the negotiations will place Britain in a weaker position than currently. The impact will be felt strongest by working people. A real possibility is that in order to remain competitive, we will engage in a race to the bottom, with a bonfire of workers' rights. Britain could easily find itself regaining the ignominious title of the sick man of Europe, only this time we would no longer have the ability to join the EU and cooperate, we would be forced to compete.

The Liberal Democrats can be proud of the positive, principled, and patriotic case we made for the UK to Remain at the heart of Europe.

We hoped that the rest of the country may have been persuaded by our view and that we would have made the case to lead in Europe, to ensure a future of prosperity, opportunity, and collaboration for generations to come.

The Liberal Democrats were the only nation-wide party that was united for Remain, we avoided the mud-slinging, negativity and trumped up statistics - instead we fought an entirely positive campaign, arguing that Britain is an open, optimistic and generous country that would be stronger, more influential and more respected if it continues to thrive at the heart of Europe.

We emphasised that Remain is vital for young people and future generations - it is their future at stake, determining whether they would grow up in a Europe where they would be free to travel, study and work abroad.

We reminded voters that Europe helps give us a stronger economy because we can trade without tariffs, it gives us a greener environment because challenges such as climate change require international solutions, and it makes us safer because we are better fighting terrorism and international crime together.

Legacy

David Cameron's political career has ended in failure. He has acted honourably by announcing his resignation and triggering a leadership election in the Conservative party. However this failure is one that will have wide ranging and long lasting consequences for British people.

His failure to dominate his own party has been clear from the start. He has never been able to impose his will. He has constructed his own downfall. Right from his leadership pitch where he advocated Conservative MEPs leaving the biggest centre-right bloc in the EU party, he has pandered to the right wing of his party. In the run up to the 2015 election he had two threats to his leadership, the first was rebellious right wing Tory MPs and the other was the rise of UKIP. His response was to abdicate political responsibility for the biggest statement of Britain's place in the world and he has failed to deliver his wanted outcome.

We are now faced with a complex situation. The majority of the support for remain came from London, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The rest of England and Wales voted to leave. Labour were almost entirely absent from the campaign. I believe they are too busy fighting amongst themselves to roll up their sleeves and campaign in their heartlands to remain in the UK.

The lack of endorsement from their leader, the lack of engagement in the campaign all shows that Labour do not understand or represent the view of their core voters.