Chatham House Paper; Brexit: initial reflections: Commentary

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A very interesting paper on the BREXIT Referendum. There have been so much analysis done on the subject and I suspect there will be continued debate about this, and in my view rightly so purely based on lasting ramifications for this decision-whether or NOT we reach a D-Day. But beyond the actual decision I am actually quite fascinated to know how we got here, both because it is interesting and because it is great opportunity to learn some lessons in Politics-this year in particular there seems to be a congested assignment list on the subject. Anyway, I hope you have a chance to read this paper and come up with some conclusions of your own, but here I brief mine in a few points which I believe bears the thrust of the article;

  1. A Debate-Long Time Coming: It is very clear going through the history of the UK’s membership in the EU and the Maastricht Treaty there has been a section of the population quite opposed to any form of integration that goes beyond the single market/economic boundaries. This opposition was embodied in the form of the Referendum Party (1994-97) led by businessman Sir James Goldsmith (someone I am actually growing to respect having seen some of his interviews online, though disagree with him wholeheartedly on many issues) to the UKIP which was founded in 1993 by a group called the Anti-Federalist League formed in 1991 to campaign against the Maastricht Treaty. So one can say that the Leave camp had an advantage because it did not start from scratch but already had a solid support base since the early 90’s. This was compounded with the failure of subsequent UK governments to make a proper case for EU integration. In actual fact when considering this aspect alone, it makes you wonder how in the world was the win margin so low.
  2. Failure to Make Case for Remain: Here we need to drill down to sub-elements to make it easier to follow (I hope);

a) Failures of PM Cameron

      • Lack of credibility of his move in position from potential Brexiter to committed campaigner for Remain
      • Failure to point that UK already enjoyed special status
      • Rather than challenging sceptics in Conservative party he pandered to them to the point of claiming he would reconsider EU membership if renegotiation demands were not met.
      • Failure to mention renegotiation proposals/results indicating that even Remainers had little confidence of results holding post Referendum.
      • Failure to correct the record when disinformation was used by the Leave camp to distort the facts.

b) Failures of Labour;

      • Lack of Commitment to the Remain campaign efforts by Jeremy Corbyn and his unwillingness to collaborate with previous Labour leaders, mainly Tony Blair.
      • A split in the party between Remain supporters by those who welcomed free movement and those who wanted to restrict it.
      • Lack of unity/commitment in supporting Remain campaign caused 1/5 Labour voters to be unsure of party’s position on Referendum

c) No strong Cross-Party Unity/Campaigning for the Remain camp

d) Media bias; 41% of Newspapers (with high circulation) supported the Leave campaign as opposed to 27% of (low circulation) newspapers

  1. A Lesson in Campaigning; The Referendum from what I have read so far even beyond this Chatham House paper, has been certainly an excellent lesson how to (and how NOT to) develop/manage a political campaign. It is clear from the planning & execution of the Leave campaign that there was plenty of talent on the team. A team that saw it fit to travel to the US to understand how election campaigns work and utilise similar techniques; “Hispanics for Obama” -> “Muslims for Britain”, developing easy messages, building multiple websites to get online traction, mobilise business voices and most important make the case for Leave in simplified figures/data. So “Kudos” to them because they played it well.
  1. Kickback on Globalisation/Political Establishment; It seems we already knew this was happening but no one was aware how far it has reached. Consider the fact that a large percentage of the people who voted for Leave are ones who are not normally politically active and have not-or rarely-voted before. These are people who have been left behind in this push towards globalisation and seen neglect by central government that crippled their previously prosperous/thriving areas.

Anyway, beyond all the politics of this it will certainly prove to be a wealth of data, like the US elections, in terms of how to build a support base by campaigning and the dynamics that come into play in the process so that context for these efforts is established/adapted.

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