Meeting: ‘Brexit: Let’s Get a Grip, Defend Democracy and Shape The Future’.
15th July 2016, Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
On Friday 15th July a meeting was held in Unity Works, Wakefield, West Yorkshire to discuss the Brexit vote result and the response to it. It attracted people from across the political spectrum and people who had no political background. It included people who had voted to leave and those who had voted to remain.
The second person to arrive was Shinsuke Takahashi, the London Correspondent from Kyodo News, the Japanese equivalent of Reuters. Shinsuke wanted to know why 66% of people in Wakefield had voted to leave the European Union despite the many warnings that this would be disastrous. His articles will be published across the mainstream press in Japan this coming week.
A number of issues were discussed.
Firstly, it was generally acknowledged that whichever way people voted, the Brexit decision has to be accepted. Arguing for a second referendum was seen an undemocratic and a ‘told you so’ attitude will do more damage than any fall out from Brexit itself. People discussed the danger of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by continuing the pre-referendum arguments about failure.
Those who voted for Brexit saw the result as an unprecedented democratic event. Unlike general elections, where only a small percentage of the population affects the result, everyone’s vote counted equally. Each individual could judge the issues, work out what they thought was right and participate on an equal basis. People who don’t feel represented by political parties voted for the first time. A record 72% of people voted in Wakefield. In some areas that usually see a small turnout, the engagement was higher. Every council ward in Wakefield had a majority voting for Brexit. If it was an election, it would have been a landslide. It was a truly democratic event.
Secondly, people voted for a variety of reasons, but the main motivator for Brexit was a belief that we should shape our own future and, despite the uncertainty, we can do it. The reaction to the Brexit vote was seen as damaging and hysterical. The attempt to brand the majority of people in towns outside London and the main cities as racist was seen as a mixture of misunderstanding and an attempt by some politicians and the media to tarnish the Brexit vote result.
There was a heated discussion on whether the government’s delay in invoking Article 50 is to evade the referendum result. Should Article 50 be invoked immediately or is it reasonable to delay? It was understood that negotiating to leave is complex, but this needs to be balanced against the establishment pressures to kick Brexit into the long grass. This question was unresolved.
Lastly, nearly everyone in the meeting believed that the EU Referendum generated real debate about the big political issues for the first time in a generation. People who don’t normally involve themselves in political discussions were debating the issues daily in workplaces, homes and on social media. The result sent shockwaves through the political establishment. This means that everything up for debate and there is a renewed feeling that politicians need to be accountable to us.
Although we didn’t agree on every issue, we all agreed that this is the real spirit of democracy and it must be built on. To tackle the big issues we face, ideas must be tested in public debate. To take the country forward, ordinary people must be involved and engaged. We need to seize the moment and ensure that this democratic moment becomes a real movement.
One phrase seemed to capture the spirit of the meeting “My Cross Counts”. So, we have set up a campaign with that name. We have agreed to set up a Yorkshire-wide group, called ‘Invoke Democracy – Yorkshire’
If you would like to get involved,
We will be organising initiatives over the coming months. If you believe in real democracy, please get involved.