Even though the UK leaving the EU would result in democratic unaccountability (because we would inevitably end up being subject to EU rules without a democratic say) and economic decline (basic free market economics says when you put up barriers the economic activity will reduce) or collapse (cliff edge Brexit means much economic activity will simple cease) many people have told me that it should still be carried about because there was a democratic referendum in 2016 where a majority of the people voted to leave.
This is incorrect for a number of reasons, but it is worth stating the reasons again as they seem to have passed many people by:
- Restricted franchise. The franchise used by the UK parliament is grossly undemocratic with many UK residents unable to vote because they happen to hold the wrong passport. For a referendum on EU membership it is extremely important residents who are EU citizens but not UK citizens get a vote. But they did not. That 16 and 17 year olds did not get to vote either just shows how obsolete the UK level of government is compared to modern democracies. If either of these had been fixed the vote would have gone the other way.
- No manifesto from the Vote Leave campaign. This official campaign from Dominic Cummings, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson et al never once said what they expected the relationship to be between the UK and the EU. The Electoral Reform Society called the campaign “dire”. They have still not explained what the relationship is to be between the UK and the EU. They have run down the government of Theresa May with their illogic. They will shotrly be running the government from the top.
- Lies from the Vote Leave campaign. The figure used on the bus was a lie as an amount of money but more importantly it was a lie because it suggested that the money spent by the EU level of government was spent on something other than services for the population and it would not need to be spent if the UK was no longer in the EU, this is obviously nonsense the same money will need to be spent on much the same stuff just in a far more inefficient way. It wasn’t just the suggestion that it could go to ‘the’ NHS instead which was a lie but the misrepresentation of the money in a weekly unit. We never talk of government spending in weekly units, we talk of it in yearly units. Giving an incorrect large figure out of context suggesting the spending would no longer be needed was a lie on many levels and I’ve never seen anyone point out all those problems. Boris Johnson was taken to court over this lie, a misuse of public office but so far the English courts have refused, good luck to the puruer on the appeal.
- Stolen data. This is organised crime by technology companies thinking, and knowing, they can get away with crimes to make money from targetted advertising. Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to steal our data and make money from it. The campaigns were happy to use that crime to their advantage.
- Targetted secret contradictory Facebook adverts. Facebook is quite open about how they can be used to persuade people of political opinions through advertising. We ban political advertising on television because it is too easy to persuade people to a cause through the emotive effect rather than rational arguments. But that law doesn’t exist for online advertising. On top of this the online advertising allows targeting people with individualised messages. Whereas a poster campaign for a political cause will receive some amount of scrutiny from the public at large that is not possible with the secret adverts done on Facebook. The Leave.eu campaign used this to their advantage. They still do.
- Dark money through the DUP. Political campaigning costs money and the more you have the more successful your campaign will be. That is why politics in the US is often won by whoever can collect the most donations. In the UK we have spending limits during election and referendum campaigns to limit this problem. But those rules are only for the 6 weeks before a vote and there are ways around them. Nobody knows where the money came from. It could have been benevelent millionairs like Aaron Banks but it could also be disinformation campaigns from the Russian government, we simply don’t know. The DUP got £435,000 in donations from Richard Cook who got it from unknown sources. That was spent in Great Britain where the DUP has no pretense so someone deliberately gave a donation through a route it knew could not be tracked. The worse part is the law allows for a change in the rules so it can be tracked but Theresa May’s government chose not to.
- Dark money through Leave.eu. The non-official campaign got an £8m donation from insurance company owner Aaron Banks. This is the largest donation to any political cause in the UK ever. The money came through tax havens. We do not allow money to come from outside the UK for political causes in the UK because it should be up to the residents of the UK to decide our politics. It’s not clear at all whether the £8million was earned by Aaron Banks in the UK or whether it was donated by, say, a Russian government disinformation campaign. The Electoral Commission worries it might be the latter and passed it onto the police. The police have refused to investigate, maybe they are corrupt or maybe just incompetant and scared. Good luck to the MPs who are taking them to court to force the case.
- Illegally Coordinated campaigns. The Vote Leave campaign got large donations which took them beyond the spending limit. But this is a free country and anyone can start a campaign for the referendum and spend money on promoting the same cause. So they gave money to someone called Darren Grimes who had made some videos promoting leave. They then coordinated with Grimes to spend the money on the exact same stuff anyway, which was mostly Cambridge Analytica adverts on Facebook using stolen data. This is criminal and lead to illegal overspending.
I’ve heard people argue there was bad practice on both sides. And indeed on the remain side Lib Dems and Open Britain didn’t keep track of its paperwork
But the bad bookkeeping by the remain campaigns is nothing compared to the scale of criminality of the leave campaigns. The main problem with the remain campaigns is they were crap, they made no good arguments for the cause, did not work with the existing groups and parties and did nothing to inspire people like me who wanted to be politically active.
So both sides were crap. One side was massively criminal. That was not a valid exercise in democracy.
The Tory party has since had entryism from radicalised former UKIP members and they will shortly be selecting Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. He claims to want no deal which will mean social and economic collapse come November. Labour is led by someone who wants to break the rules of functional economies in a false argument about it being in the interests of the people so he is also happy to leave the EU and will block attempts to do otherwise. Hopefully parliament can have a vote of no confidence in the new PM and block that but it’s very uncertain. We live in dangerous times.