David Cameron created the EU referendum because he wanted to appease the Eurosceptical members of his Conservative Party and neutralize the electoral threat of UKIP. However the naivety of the government in thinking that Brexit would never prevail left them unarmed and unprepared in the situation, this caused universal embarrassment for Britain.
The central problem with the EU referendum was the façade of its simplicity. Not only on the ballot paper but also the presentation to the public. Possibly the worst propaganda presented to the public from team Brexit was ‘We send £350 million to the EU each week; let’s spend it on the NHS instead.’ By using the NHS and making it seem so simplistic, the party touched on the soft spot and immaturity of the nation and emotionally blackmailed them for the vote and as well as lying about how much money they actually pay as a membership fee, this led to the population being blindsided by all the bad implications of Britain leaving the union.
If I had the opportunity to redesign the referendum, I would ensure that the country understands the complexity of the issue, although I understand the need to exaggerate in order to win votes, the extremes which the campaign went to mislead the public astronomically which makes people question the legitimacy of the win. I would voice to the public that the positives outweigh the negatives, such as although European businesses invest billions in UKs public and private sector, by leaving there is more money available as we don’t pay membership fees which we can in turn invest in our economy to replace their investments (however it is not £350 million).
It is a convention in government that all constitutional changes are put to the public, via a referendum, before being voted on by parliament. However the lack of experience from the public not only in understanding the concept but also political experience makes the outcome slightly debatable. Should the question have been put to the public at all? I think yes. The public were shown campaigns which were ultimately unrealistic and exaggerated; this is the fault of the leaders not the voters. They should have given the public a better understanding of the subject rather than the opposition waiting for the outcome of the vote and then arguing that people have a lack of knowledge and shouldn’t have been put to them in the first place, they need to hold a sense of accountability. It is also only fair that the population get a direct voice in a change which will change the country so much.
However on the other hand, you cannot argue with the political experience and awareness in both houses of parliament, which the population doesn’t have. The vote being given to the public also undermines representative democracy. In the UK we vote for MPs to represent our opinions using their experience of politics. Surely this system is most prevalent when deciding on complicated and technical issues which in comparison to them we don’t fully understand. However I would still not change the public vote but rather change how well informed they were prior to holding the referendum.
If there was one aspect of the referendum which I could have changed it would have been the preparation of the government if the leave campaign won. Instead of waiting for the outcome and then taking action after, I would have implemented a vague agreement with the EU about what the deal would like, in order to then inform the public of what they are facing. David Cameron was aware of Conservative party members who were passionate about Britain leaving the EU. I would have worked with them to form an adjustable agreement with the EU in order for the country to feel more confident in facing the vote. The lack of preparation led to the resignation of a Prime Minister, a failure of another and then a stumble onwards by a mediocre other who is currently still in office. This could have all been prevented if the government were more realistic about the outcomes than simply optimistic.
In conclusion, I would still have used a referendum to pose this question. However I would change the admin behind it. First of all by creating informative campaigns which would allow the public vote to be legitimate about what the country wanted and secondly by creating a composed government when facing the vote with a vague idea about what Britain without the EU would look like.