How we arrived at the mess we are in over Brexit will be debated for many years by political commentators and historians. Central to the story will be the referendum two years ago and the suggestion whether another referendum should happen before we finally decide.
Just to be clear at this point; Cyrenians has no view on this issue. We know Brexit is a mess and we have already seen some of the impact on our staff, volunteers and the uncertainty it has brought both individual businesses and other organisations as well as the economy generally. But we don’t take a view on the debate about whether or not we should have second referendum.
Much of the early exploring of why the Brexit referendum went the way it did suggested, I think correctly, it was for many Leave voters an expression of anger, which had grown out a great sense of alienation from power and a sense of no longer mattering, of economic and cultural change happening over which folk felt they had no control or influence.
Again for clarity; these comments about the motivation of some leave voters are neither pejorative nor universal. People voted leave for many reasons, motivated by many different experiences. These comments are my attempt to explore the motivations of some leave voters without any value judgement in any way about those motivations.
One of the arguments for a second referendum is that it would allow people to express their voice in a way which was more informed than two years ago. That may be true but there is also a danger of making many folk less willing to express their voice because they will be not so much angry, as scunnered with the first referendum result not being respected. Especially if how they voted was born out of anger at their sense of alienation, or loss of identity. On the other hand, many of those who want a second referendum do so because they feel there was a high level of duplicity in the agreements of the winning side and what is now being offered was not what people were voting for either. They too could be scunnered by there not being a second referendum.
The Scottish philosopher David Hume argued reason should be the slave to the passions; so we should let ourselves experience the world through our emotions and then decide what our rational response having thought about why our experience inspires the those emotions in us. Scunnered is a wonderfully Scottish expression which is more nuanced emotion than anger though it is within the same space. It describes a very powerful emotion, but it’s not the same as anger. It is something that often has a consequence of what might be described as apathy, but is actually rejection; a deliberate choice to no longer engage. Given the dog’s breakfast both of the main parties have made of the post-referendum decision-making, scunnered with them all is not a surprising response.
Somehow we need a completely new space for this conversation. Sadly, it’s not coming anytime soon. Instead we have more delay, more tribalism and more uncertainty. If we don’t find this space soon, the legacy of Brexit could be far deeper and far more emotionally difficult than simply any economic impact. It could leave us not as the highly engaged nation the turnout in the 2016 referendum suggested, but as a nation scunnnered, which would not be a good place to be.
28th February 2018