A panel of contributors—including Justine Greening and Kate Hoey—share their opinionsby Prospect Team / June 24, 2016 / Leave a comment
Yesterday, Britain voted to leave the European Union by 52 per cent to 48. The result—which was a huge shock to campaigners and pollsters—became clear in the early hours of this morning. David Cameron, who fiercely campaigned for a “Remain” vote, announced his resignation earlier today. He said: “I think we should have a new Prime Minister in place by the start of the Conservative conference in October.”
The vote—decided upon by a huge turnout of 33.6 million voters—has shaken Britain. Along with Cameron’s resignation, a no-confidence motion has been submitted against Jeremy Corbyn, and Nicola Sturgeon has said that a second Scottish independence vote is “highly likely.” The pound has hit a 30 year low.
Just what is behind this momentous result—and what happens now? Have the catastrophic effects of Brexit been exaggerated—or are we in real trouble? Below, a panel of contributors offer their thoughts.
We must try to make a success of this
Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development and MP for Putney:
It was right to hold this referendum on our membership of the European Union, delivering a key manifesto pledge on which the government was elected only a year ago.
The referendum outcome of Brexit is not the path I—and indeed almost half the voters, especially many young voters—wanted for our county. Nevertheless, it is now our duty to overcome the serious challenges Britain will face as it leaves the EU, and in doing so, to try to make a success of this decision. It’s vital that a Britain outside the EU still delivers jobs and opportunities for our young people.
I hope a lasting legacy of this referendum will be a brand new generation of new voters taking their place in our democracy. In doing so they can make it stronger to cope with whatever lies ahead.
I am proud of Labour supporters
Kate Hoey, Co-Chair of Labour Leave
This is an historic day for the United Kingdom. The British people have voted to take back our independence from the anti-democratic EU. Now we can determine our own destiny and I am confident that we will be able to trade and co-operate with the the rest of the world, and that we will be able to end the discrimination against migrants from countries outside the EU—including the Commonwealth. I am so proud of all the Labour supporters who held their heads high and voted to Leave.
Time to pray
Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democrats
There is a prayer that goes like this: “Lord, things are serious. This time, please come yourself. This is no job for a boy.”
I think “Project Fear” is about to become “Project Fact.” The consequences of this are likely to be extremely grave. But I think that the British people have spoken and we must do the best that we can to apply their decision.
We live in an age where you have the populist takeovers of political parties. You have the two great political parties at stake, who have dominated our parties for 100 years, and they won’t be able to contain the varying voices within them. There is now a desperate need to provide a home for the homeless: decent, progressive, modern progressives, centre left, centre right, voices that have nowhere to go.
In the face of the shift in British politics towards the two extremes, in the face of the threat to the culture of our democracy, tolerance, the tendency to compromise, do we think tribalism at this stage is more important than coming together.
There are many reasons for this defeat. There were strategic misjudgements made, I think the Prime Minister bears a heavy responsibility himself for this. And Jeremy Corbyn: I have no doubt whatsoever that his half-heartedness meant that many Labour voters didn’t know how they were supposed to vote. In the end this was lost by labour voters.”
A people’s revolt
Kwasi Kwarteng, Conservative MP for Spelthorne
It was a remarkable victory for Vote Leave. It was particularly noteworthy to see such diverse areas as Fareham in Hampshire, Sunderland, my own constituency of Spelthorne in Surrey, Basildon in Essex, Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire and much of the North West and North East, as well as Wales, vote to leave the EU.
Brexit was a people’s revolt. Millions of people feel detached from their political leaders. Immigration was also a serious concern. A country whose population has increased nearly 20 per cent in a generation is sure to feel the strain on public services and relations between communities.
One person said to me that he didn’t know whether Brexit was a clever or a stupid thing, but at least he knew the British people had cojones. There was a strong national sentiment, especially in England, which swept Vote Leave to victory. This was ironic, particularly because the same feelings were perceived to have helped Cameron and the Conservatives in 2015.
Trust in politics will fall yet further
Philip Collins is an Associate Editor of Prospect
There are many casualties from last night’s tempest and no real winners. The Conservative party has decided to slaughter its Prime Minister and the best politician it has, for a magnificent and ill-defined fantasy future. The Labour party has been unable to turn its vote out for the position advocated, albeit reluctantly, by the leadership. The country has embarked upon an escapade to it knows not where.
But perhaps the biggest casualty of the evening, in time, will prove to be the already dim faith in politics. It is crucial that British politicians understand the mandate they have been given. It is a mandate, in essence, to reduce immigration. That in its turn means a host of other things. It means improving the life chances of people in neglected places. When (and it is when rather than if) this implicit promise to improve the lot of the poor is not redeemed, trust in politics will fall. Even lower than it is today.
A thoroughly bad day
AC Grayling, philosopher
In other European countries, the EU flag flies beside the national flag. Not here: most people do not understand the value and significance of the EU project and what it means. This represents a devastating failure of leadership.
The EU is a grand and idealistic project, which like everything human is imperfect and needs effort to nurture and grow: but the the British populace, unable to work patiently and willingly towards those ideals, has led it not only to shoot itself in the foot, to make the break-up of the UK itself inevitable (Scotland should have its own internal referendum as soon as possible, so that it does not get caught up in the mess of the next few years of divorce: I say this as one who once campaigned to keep the UK together) – but has sent a wrecking-ball against the EU as a whole, with its hopes of co-operation, peace, prosperity, shared values, and the benefits of scale in a world where economic giants such as the US and China wield influence. The EU is currently equivalent in clout to them economically, but with the UK’s departure and its own likely diminished economic and geopolitical status, the EU will diminish too.
It is a thoroughly bad day. The “Remainers” were the great majority of economists, business people, academics, scientists, the more educated, and the young. The “Leavers” are their opposites. Cameron should never have promised a referendum to the Tory right as a way of shutting them up in the last government: he obviously did not expect to win the general election. Labour has lost its own voters, demonstrating an equivalent failure of leadership there too. It is, in all, a mess of historic proportions all round. And it is heartbreaking.
The divorce process will be amicable
Craig Mackinlay, Conservative MP for South Thanet
Britain’s EU membership was the issue that sparked my interest in politics 25 years ago, so I am obviously delighted at the EU referendum result with my home county of Kent polling strongly for “Leave.” This is just the start of a process of an amicable divorce which will be perfectly possible, and desirable to all. I won’t air in detail the benefits of the momentous decision we have taken further than summarise the obvious dividend to our democratic health, the potential to open up international markets, and of course the cash savings to the taxpayer. All will need to be negotiated carefully and calmly; I want an improved relationship with our EU friends and partners, because geographically we’re not going anywhere.
The celebrations have been tinged with a personal sadness that David Cameron has decided to resign as Prime Minister. He has delivered significant change and restored the UK economy and with it significant jobs growth and opportunities for all.
What does this mean for the euro?
Percival Stanion, Vice-Chairman, Pictet Asset Management
The metropolitan bubble has been well and truly burst. The City which normally conflates its own interests with those of the rest of the nation has been shocked to discover that the provinces do not really care about its financial leadership of a greater European superstate. The trickledown of wealth beyond the Cotswolds has just not been enough. In the very short-term we will see the markets gyrating today on very low volume as investors struggle to make sense of the outlook. But with very wide Bid-Offer spreads it is likely that little actual trading will take place.
The first question to be answered is who will lead the UK in the negotiations to redefine our relationship with Europe. This will have to be resolved in a matter of days. Then there is the very serious question of whether Europe itself will be in any fit state to negotiate with us. Yesterday’s vote was a repudiation of the whole EU political establishment. Rejectionist forces are already very strong in Europe—in Italy, the Netherlands and Finland—while euroscepticism has made huge gains in France.
The biggest question for the medium term is can the European project survive in its current form and specifically can the euro withstand the huge pressures created by the disjunction between Northern and Southern Europe. Although Sterling is an early victim of the British vote, Italian bond yields will now be under pressure. Other risk assets in Europe, like equities, are also likely to fall. Meanwhile, for Asian or Russian buyers, London property just got ten per cent cheaper.