Who’s to blame for Brexit?

It’s genuinely upsetting to witness the triumph of a Leave campaign fronted by reactionary figures likes Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson in last night’s referendum (what occurred yesterday conceivably marks Britain’s sharpest shift to the right since 1979, a fact upsetting enough on its own…). But I’m seeing far too many examples today (admittedly from the predictable sources) of people taking out their anger, fear, and confusion on Leave voters – who keep being caricatured as a feral rabble (“old, angry, white people” – Esquire).

I understand the impulse to blame “democracy” for the result of the vote, but this isn’t constructive or accurate. People living in the northern and eastern parts of England, who overwhelmingly backed Brexit, have seen their living standards fall, the quality of their political representation decline, and their jobs disappear for the past three decades. Many of them may be misguided in believing a UK independent of the EU will give them a better deal, but they have a right to be angry and it would be hugely surprising if they weren’t.

The British establishment – encompassing the Westminster political class, financial elites, and much of the media – offers these people very little and frequently tries to manage their concerns for its own opportunistic ends rather than actually address or represent their needs (Cameron promising the referendum in an attempt to stave off the threat from UKIP and his own hardliners is evidence of this). It’s these people, not those in Yorkshire or the West Midlands, who deserve the blame for the referendum and the ire of those upset about its final result.

Right wing populism of the kind which carried the Leave side to victory last night flourishes in societies that have become unequal and unfair, where most of the wealth and power is monopolized by small groups of self-replicating elites.

In other words: Brexit is not the product of “too much democracy”. It’s the product of not enough.


2 thoughts on “Who’s to blame for Brexit?

  1. V says:

    What – not a single word of criticism for EU bureaucracy themselves? Surely they deserve at least some of the blame (or credit).


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