The decision of voters in the UK to leave the European Union is a momentous one. It will have major consequences for our constitution and democracy. There is no road map for the journey we are now on. The breakup of the UK itself is a real possibility. Nicola Sturgeon has already announced that a second independence referendum for Scotland is “very likely”. Northern Ireland’s future status is uncertain. An open border with the Republic of Ireland is both an essential part of the Good Friday peace deal but also a daily necessity for people on both sides. Will this be possible when NI is the UK’s land border with the EU or will there be a border poll on unification with the Republic of Ireland?
The only thing that is clear is that there will uncertainty for many months to come.
As with all elections and referendums people were voting on a wide range of issues last night, some of which weren’t to do with the EU. While some leave supporters were passionately against the EU, others simply felt left behind and ignored. They were rejecting the cosy consensus of a political elite telling them to stay as much as the institutions of the EU. They have been failed by a political system which didn’t engage with them, failed to understand or represent their struggles but is nonetheless left reeling from the rejection.
The referendum result has spelt out very clearly that we are a country divided. This was only exacerbated by the campaigns themselves. Leavers were dismissed as being racist while Remainers were accused of being remote elitists who didn't know what the real world is like for ordinary people. The referendum campaign showed British politics at its worst. Both campaigns have relied on misinformation to paint increasingly apocalyptic images of a post-referendum Britain. Politicians on both sides must now work together to rebuild public trust in our political system. Supporters of Unlock Democracy have been proud and passionate supporters of both sides of the debate and now we have to find ways to come together, to build a better more representative politics and to fight for our democracy at home.
The most positive aspect of the campaign is that people have started talking frankly about how our democracy works. The Leave campaign put power and accountability at the core of the referendum campaign. The simple message to “Take Control” clearly resonated with people who feel they don’t have a voice in our society. We must now work to ensure that politicians follow through on the promises made during the campaign.
The vote to Leave the EU will send shockwaves through our political system. We now have a once in a generation opportunity to rethink how democracy works here in the UK. We’ve seen our politics at its worst but what could our best look like? There’s no shortage of unelected, unaccountable politicians in Westminster. What do you think our next steps should be as a campaign and a country?
Here are some of the questions that we think the government should answer. But what do you think? Let us know if you think they are important by ranking them below, and if you have any more questions add them in the comments.