The Referendum: Mea Culpa sed Laus Deo

The Referendum:
Mea Culpa sed Laus Deo
By Sean Gabb
(24th June 2016)

I was wrong about the European Referendum, and my colleague Keir Martland was right. I said it would be lost. I said it would be badly lost. Instead, England voted to leave, and many parts of England voted crushingly to leave.

I assumed many things. I assumed that Mr Cameron had a card up his sleeve – that he would come back near the date with real concessions from Brussels. I assumed that the awfulness of the official Leave campaign would keep people at home. Above all, I assumed that the English people were no longer up to wanting to live in an independent country. I was wrong. I am not complaining. I am not disappointed. But I was wrong.

This being said, we need to accept that virtually all the problems we face as a nation are only incidentally connected with membership of the European Union. During the past forty years, almost everything bad done to us has come from our domestic rulers. All the European Union has ever really wanted is our money.

But I have rehearsed all this at great length elsewhere. What matters at the moment is that we may find ourselves once again in a position where we have no doubt who is ruling us, and who is responsible when things go wrong. The next time they mess up a foot and mouth epidemic, or allow the rivers to silt up, or if they try to metricate the road signs, our own politicians will not be able to shift the blame to the European Union. There is a danger – and I repeat that I have written about this at length – that these people will run mad, now they no longer need to agree their oppressions with another 27 ruling classes. But leaving the European Union simplifies the dynamics of power. We know who our masters are, and they know that we are watching them, and that we may be inclined to sack them.

Winning the Referendum is not the end of the war. We need to make sure that we do indeed leave. Above all, we need to make sure that, once we have secured it, we can live up to the measure of our ancestors in deserving our independence.

But the Referendum is won, and those of us who feel inclined can give praise to God for that. It may be that He has not deserted us after all.


  1. I disagree thoroughly, but not for any obnoxious reasons.

    1. First, you are being too harsh on yourself. You may or may not be aware that Farage himself declared it for REMAIN at the start of the night. He then withdrew this. That just goes to show everybody was getting it wrong. No mea culpa necessary. I helped a local Leave group a little bit and they were not optimistic. Anecdotally, the impression I have is that most informed or politically-active people thought it would be Remain. The “uninformed”/unsophisticated public have taken us all by surprise.

    That said, I must add that it was clear to me within a couple of hours of the polls closing that Farage had called it wrong and Leave had won. It wasn’t just the raw figures – Leave were returning much higher than Remain – it was also Dimbleby and his guests. It was written on all their faces and it was figuratively ‘between the lines’ in everything they said.

    2. Second, there was merit in your criticisms anyway. The Leave campaign was a mess, though personally I think you were also harsh in not taking into account that it was hastily put together and without much mainstream/Establishment support. A campaign that has the preponderance of media opinion against it will always be made to look creaky and amateurish – look at the way the BNP was portrayed over many years. In the event, I think this worked in Brexit’s favour. The public have grown tired of ‘political politics’/professional politicians.

    3. Third, I have a fundamentally different understanding of the EU and the way it works and why. I see it as an agglomeration of executive power. When a Brussels official speaks, he is not doing so on behalf of a Brussels-based elite, but on behalf of the national governments. It is their way of circumventing the normal democratic processes. This executive supranationalism has now been weakened by the referendum result, but it is not finished completely, which brings me to my fourth point.

    4. I think you are underestimating the ability of our politicians to shift blame and responsibility for unpopular measures on to external culprits. British politicians can still go on blaming the EU because whether we are in or out, most of British industry will still be informally subject to the strictures of the single market, as they will want to make products that are consumable/usable there. They can also blame global institutions, for which the EU simply acted as a regional intermediary.

  2. Yes, you were wrong (thank God)– but mea culpa? You might as well sing mea culpa for picking the wrong numbers in a game of roulette. All of the indictors we were directed to pay attention to indicated “leave” was a loser – such is the power of the lapdog media. That the British voters were able to sort their way through the propaganda tsunami was a surprise to (almost) everyone.

  3. We here are hoping that it is a trend toward disassociation down to a manageable level. Out of curiosity, do you think there is any real possibility that Ireland and/or Scotland (redux) will introduce their own initiatives in the same spirit?

    • The SNP will certainly try for independence again. Their problem is that they want a source of subsidies to replace England. They only want to leave the UK because they are not so much a nationalist party as an Anti-Tory party, who think the Tories are not generous enough with government spending. So, they want if instead from the EU.

      The problem is that while the UK was a net contributor to the EU, Scotland alone would be a net cost. With the UK gone, it is questionable whether the EU would want another costly client state to fund. They’ve got enough trouble with them already.

      If the EU even survives of course. We’ll have to see if anyone else runs for the door now we’ve kicked it open.

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