Brexit’s Lost Children

EuroCité is a civic engagement think tank, promoting awareness of European issues. We support peaceful and effective cooperation between European nations. The political situation in the UK is a source of great concern in this regard.

Indeed, the EU referendum campaign in 2016 was fraught with partial presentation of data.[1]Occurrences of racist altercations in the public space increased during the campaign, culminating with the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, a lifelong left-wing activist. Since then, death threats have been commonplace against MPs, prompting several to address the issue in the Commons

The 2016 referendum was a non-binding consultation. The narrow margin of the “leave” majority (52%) makes the result vulnerable to fluctuations in opinion trends and social dynamics.[2]The official referendum campaign for “Leave” was charged with breaking campaign finance rules by a UK court of law and ordered to pay a substantial fine, denting the legitimacy of the result. There have been recurring inconsistencies in positions taken by the UK government, including many instances when its leaders demonstrated a very limited grasp of EU-UK relationships.[3]The 2016 campaign did not, therefore, allow for a free and fair democratic debate, and data required for an informed decision to be made only became partially available, drowned in tabloid-driven anti-EU propaganda and fake news. As a result, the UK parliament and public are divided, confused, and a majority seems out of reach. The deadlock is such that the independence of state institutions is threatened, held hostage by the incompetence of its leaders.

Democracy must operate fully, and the British people express an informed opinion on this crucial issue. One possible exit option, defended by the Liberals and the centre-Left, would be to call a second referendum. The Labour Party, profoundly divided, has settled at its annual conference for a deliberately ambiguous position: an extension to the current exit deadline (31 October), followed by a general election. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn seems to believe that he can renegotiate a deal and deliver a “Labour Brexit”. Meanwhile, moderate conservatives want Theresa May’s deal to prevail, with the backstop option keeping Northern Ireland in the Customs Union. This would likely be the favoured option in Brussels and most European capitals, as it is most practically workable. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, currently ruling with a clique of neo-cons straight out of the 2016 “Leave” campaign, wants an immediate general election followed by a no-deal Brexit. He’s far ahead in the polls, but Parliament will not let him have his election.

« Brexit » has become a running political sitcom and a continental laughingstock, turning a once glorious nation into daily ridicule. The risk is real that democracy may suffer beyond repair as a result of the constant partisan twists in this unglorified modern tale. It is now high time for politicians and the general public to adopt a mature attitude, leaving fallacies aside to confront the real challenges of our time: global social and environmental issues.


[1]Including the infamous (false) claim of350 million GBP/week paid to the EU, on the side of a bus.

[2]E.g. the fact that many young people who were not allowed to vote in 2016 could do so today and might vote remain.

[3]On Tuesday 16th September, Mr Juncker reported that for the first time, “Boris Johnson understood the meaning of the single market” in a lunch withLuxembourg PM Xavier Bettel :


29 September 2019

Pierre Carène

Consultant en relations internationales. Expert sur les questions d'éducation et de développement durable.