Posted by: aboutalbion | February 28, 2017

EU referendum vote (11)

It seems that insider accounts of the EU referendum campaigns point to some uncomfortable conclusions.  There seems general agreement that Tim Shipman’s account is the place to start.  [Tim Shipman (2016) All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class.  Collins.]

First, it is clear that the Prime Minister’s view that the referendum debate would be all about jobs and the economy (and that his approach to this topic would prevail) was a mistake.

Second, it is clear that the ‘Vote Leave’ slogan of “£350 million a day for the NHS” connected emotionally with undecided voters (and seemed to answer concerns about jobs and the economy).  At the time of the campaign, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority described this NHS claim as potentially misleading in correspondence with ‘Vote Leave’.  It is noteworthy that key people of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign have now re-named themselves ‘Change Britain’, dropped the NHS claim, and now claim the EU budget savings  are available to support “continued funding for farming, science, universities and poorer regions of the UK”.

Third, there is the strong suspicion (articulated by Alan Duncan) that Boris Johnson secretly wanted Britain to stay in the EU and that he just wanted the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign to lose narrowly.  For him, such an outcome would allow him to position himself as the heir apparent to the Prime Minister, and at the same time enable the Prime Minister to seek further concessions from the EU.

To my mind, these kinds of conclusions help me to understand that the actual referendum on Thursday, 23 June 2016, was a choice between reality and fantasy.  And somehow, fantasy won … narrowly.

Against those who subsequently have claimed that the result was clear and decisive, it should be noted that the ‘Vote Leave’ director, Dominic Cummings, has referred to the referendum outcome as “the close result”.

I have also noted that Sir Alan Duncan (currently a Foreign Office Minister working under Boris Johnson) has warned that the UK is entering “a period of deep instability and uncertainty”.  [And this view has been echoed in recent days by two former Prime Ministers using more colourful language.]

So if fantasy is the order of the day, what about the United States becoming the next associate member of the Commonwealth of Nations?

Are reports of this future development fantasy … or the way forward?  Why shouldn’t the US eventually join this informal grouping of 53 nations (only 16 of which have the Queen as head of state) in order to advance its interests?  And, for that matter, why shouldn’t the UK encourage some European states (who want to) to join the Commonwealth of Nations?  What if …?

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