Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Final Thoughts on Brexit and Democracy

The dust is starting to settle after the result of the referendum was announced last Friday and everyone is starting to come to terms with the new reality - in a little over two years, Britain will cease to be a member of the EU.

Of course, it’s tough to accept, or even believe for the millions of people who voted for and fully expected Remain. Large areas of the UK voted Leave - indeed some areas in the Midlands and North were over 70%. However, equally many areas voted in swathes to Remain - most of London, all of Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as some cities such as Liverpool and Manchester.

Some breakdown of the data with more detailed analysis has been done and reported recently on the BBC.

Of the 30 areas with the fewest graduates in the UK, according to the 2011 census, 28 backed Brexit.

By contrast, 29 out of the 30 areas with the most graduates voted Remain, including the City of London (where 68.4% are graduates)

Of the 30 areas with the most elderly people, 27 voted leave and of the 30 areas where most people identified as English, 30 voted leave


In the aftermath of this historic vote, some people are calling foul - surely it should have been a 2/3 majority needed to leave; some people voted leave as a protest but did not really mean it so there should be another referendum; young people who have to suffer the consequences longest have been denied a future in the EU by the older voters, London/Scotland did not vote to leave etc.etc.

Well thank God we live in a democracy - every adult has one vote, wherever they live, whatever their social background or level of intelligence (assuming this is measured by whether you have a degree or not).

The magical thing about democracy is that it doesn’t give some people extra voting power if they are rich or well-educated or live in a particular part of the country. It’s the ultimate great leveller.

I live up north, I did not have the benefit of a university education, left school with a few ‘O’ levels at the age of 16 and worked hard for the next 40 years. I do not regard myself as better or more deserving compared to anyone else. I am not an intellectual as any readers of my blog will surely have gathered. But equally, whilst I may be foolish at times, I am not stupid.

I have read some comments recently branding Brexit voters as confused individuals who do not realise what they are doing. The older voters are self-centered and have no thought for the youngsters.

Whist I can accept that much of this comes from a feeling of disappointment and despair, I also think it is misguided and unfair. There are surely many complex reasons for coming to a decision of such importance. Yes, some people - maybe many, would not fully understand the consequences (either way) but for me what is most important is not so much the outcome of the vote but the process called democracy by which we resolve such issues.

It is democracy which underpins the entire fabric of our society and preserving this is far, far more important and precious to our way of life than any particular vote.

The day the vote of the common man or woman, however disadvantaged, low intellect, poor or just unlucky in life's lottery, counts for less than others would be a very sad day indeed.

Although I voted to leave last Thursday, I have no sense of pleasure or joy at the result. I expected it would go the other way and I would have accepted that outcome if it was Remain.

At the end of the day, whichever side we supported, whatever the merits, the nation has spoken and I was pleased to hear David Cameron say yesterday in parliament that the will of the people must be accepted. The argument between leave or remain is now settled and it’s time for everyone to move on, accept the decision and trust that the majority 17 million people have made the right choice for the nation.

We will not know for sure for quite some time but whilst the future may be uncertain outside of the EU, I know with certainty that we are all better off living in a robust and healthy democracy - I hope we never take it for granted.

This is essentially a blog about my investment journey so this will be the final post about the referendum! Back to business as usual next article.


  1. Non-binding referendums don't outrank sovereignty of parliament in our democracy... Not sure this is done & dusted....

    1. Our sovereign parliament set up the referendum by Act of Parliament which passed through the various stages of both Commons and Lords and came into force in December 2015.

      Denial does not change the outcome.


  2. Well said, Mr DIY Investor. I also voted to leave the EU. Yesterday, when trying to have a rational conversation about the subject, I was called a "tosser" because my views didn't match those of a Remain voter. What a wonderful world we live in!


    A Brexit voter (HND, BSc (Hons), Msc, CEng)

    1. Sorry to hear about your experience Soulsurfer. I suspect there are many people who are struggling to come to terms with this referendum result and some will express their feeling in an angry and unpredictable manner.

      Hopefully the majority will find a way to accept this before long and we can concentrate on moving forward to find the best solution for the UK.

  3. Ciao DIY,
    Not sure I agree with you, what we are seeing with this Brexit mess shows that democracy is a great thing but not everything that the "people" decide is inherently good. You guys voted for some MPs to make difficult and complex choices, being in the EU is one of those. Frankly speaking seeing Farage and Johnson backtrack on a lot of the populistic promises a few hours after the vote was really sad, because from a foreigner point of view the decision was made mostly on gut feelings rather than objective thoughts.
    As I am not an expert of international politics and trade I vote for someone who I believe can do a better job than me, and I really don't like the idea that he asks the people on technical issues (because the EU is a technical issue) mostly because I do not feel that "the people" have the tools to make a good choice. Ok for referendums on ethical issues, that's up to the single individual.
    Allow me to be provocative but why not holding a referendum "advise" (because it was a non-binding vote) the government on wether to accept or not the conditions on which the UK is exiting the Euro block?
    It was a highly divisive vote, both for age and proportions, I wouldn't want to see my nation socially and economically shattered for democracy' sake.

    Ciao ciao

    1. Stal,

      In our general election last year, there was a clear manifesto promise by the Conservatives led by David Cameron to deliver an in/out referendum on Europe.

      To his credit, Mr Cameron kept to his word after the Conservatives won an outright majority.

      You may not agree that a referendum is the best way to resolve these issues but as it was promised, I think it is fair enough that it was delivered.

      The question on the ballot paper was simple - basically, do you want to stay or leave. Most people who voted in the referendum voted to leave. I suspect that everyone who voted did so on the understanding that the majority result would be implemented.

      In the longer term, the decision may turn out to be a disaster - as you say, not everything we decide is good. But I would trust 'the people' more than I trust politicians or experts so I am hopeful the nation has made the 'right' choice on this important decision.

      Good to hear from you Stal - hope the turbulence may have thrown up a few interesting opportunities for you!

  4. Ciao DIY,
    Still follow you on every post, it's just the blogger engine that makes it TERRIBLE to post comments... Sometimes it uses my name (as it's google) sometimes it deletes my comments, honestly hell...

    Cameron lived to his word and went for the referendum, good chap. The image that we have of this man is that he used the referendum to clear some internal problems in the Tories being sure to win it. He lost, his face, his position and at least in the short run wrecked all the years of austerity that you guys had to go through to retain triple A ratings in 2 days. Good job!

    The other part of the fence, still from the foreigner prospective, did the only thing possible. Attacked on immigration and expenses (not mentioning that the UK gets MORE money than it gives to the EU, but we'll leave that for another discussion). They were so sure that they wouldn't win that they do not have a "plan A", they were caught off their feet and quickly had to hurry going back on the electoral promises that speak to the guts of many people i.e. the money to NHS (classic interview there Farage!), and the impossibility of stopping immigration. Either than that they don't know what to do, they are "taking time", "when the time is right", "when we are ready"... What do you mean "when you are ready"?!?! Don't you have a plan, you're making it up now? Good job here too.

    From a foreign prospective you voted out because England is England and you guys love to think that when there is fog in the channel you are not in Europe. But that's pub's talk! I respect the pride that English people have, we Italians don't have half of it, but it seems to me that this nationalistic pride got you carried away a little too far...

    As I wrote in my post on Brexit, I am not worried about UK and the economy, they will get better in time, I am worried about the social message that passes through with this election, the division that creates in your society, and that is quickly exported to other countries as well. It's a step back for humanity, made by one of the most advanced nations that I had the luck to meet in my life (and trust me, I travel a LOT). I don't like to go back to the dark ages, or even worse to the 20's when nationalistic movements did what we know they did...

    Sorry for the rant, I am really disappointed at the decision made, of course I respect it, but...

    As to investments I have been playing a lot with options recently, but did not made any move in stocks in the last few days... I am learning to wait in the sidelines... AND I am still looking at all those funds of yours because maybe sooner or later... :P

    Ciao ciao


    1. Stal,

      Sorry to hear the problems you have with blogger - I have had similar problems on other sites and now copy my comment just in case it disappears when posting - annoying!

      Our PM was confident he would win but this was always a high stakes gamble - he misjudged the strength of feeling for Brexit and paid the price.

      Agreed the Brexit camp did not really think they would succeed and did not have much of a plan prepared and still do not as far as I know.

      As for the underlying reasons for the result - there will be many many shades of opinion on this. I suspect at its heart for many would be sovereignty and a strong feeling that our parliament rather than Brussels should have the final say combined with the problems brought about by the concept of free movement of people.

      Of course there will now be other counties whose populations are experiencing similar discontent. They will now be looking at the possibility of a referendum. That's not to say they will get one or if they do the majority result will be to leave.

      The political leaders need to pay great attention to this question as it could lead to a collapse of the EU experiment. They need to look at the reasons why the UK decided to leave the ship and work out if it is a sinking ship and if so, can it be repaired quickly.

      I remain optimistic long term although undoubtedly in the coming weeks and months there will be much to sort out.

  5. Dear diy.

    Congratulations on a wise post.

    I remember being unable to vote in 1975. I do remember everybody believing the politicians as to how wonderful all was going to be.

    No one disputes the fact that the public were duped then and perhaps this results puts right an injustice made all those years ago.

    It is noticeable the day after everybody claiming handouts and grants. Now they will have to stand on their own two feet.

    1. Cheers Louis.

      I remember the miner's strike, the oil crisis and the 3 day week in the 70s but cannot recall the vote to join - must have had other things on my mind.

      I do remember a year later buying our first home for under £7,000 - they are now valued at ~£150,000.

      Most people who bought in the 60s and 70s will have done well but I guess there have been some big changes in the past 40 years or so.

      Graduates are leaving uni with debts of £50,000 - many could not afford a first home and renting is probably the norm, certainly in London and the SE.

      I hope we can soon move on to working on a new deal with Europe and everyone can make the adjustment to the new reality. There may well be a couple of years of uncertainty but I believe in the long run, the decision of the people is correct and it will work out.

      Good to see the bounce in the markets these past two days! Hope the investments are going OK.

  6. The EU referendum was undemocratic and must be discarded.

    The basic assumption is that every person has one vote, regardless of his/her intellect or understanding of the issues involved. A moron has one vote. A 90 year old with Altzeimers has one vote. A manic depressive has one vote.

    So why was my 17 year old daughter, holding 10 GCSEs and 3 A levels, disenfranchised?

    1. Chris,

      I think most people know you have to be 18 yo to vote. At some point it may be reduced to 16 and I would probably support such a move as there are many intelligent and sensible young people who are well informed. It seemed to work well for the referendum in Scotland recently.

      Even if these people could vote in the referendum, the question remains - WOULD they?

      It seems that less than 40% of 18 to 25 age group bothered to register their vote. Of those that did vote, the vast majority voted to remain so if a higher number turned out on the day they may possibly have swung it the other way.

      There are many complex reasons why people choose not to vote or just can't be bothered but as they say, its a free country and nobody is forced to vote. But if hey do not, they have to live with the consequences.

      Obviously I cannot agree that the referendum was undemocratic. It would however be undemocratic to ignore, discard or overturn the clear decision of the majority of people who voted.

  7. Whether people decide to register, or cast their vote, is irrelevant here.

    In summary, you make the case that: "it does't matter if he/she understands the issues, he/she has a vote regardless". And that is the essence of democracy. I agree.

    But it is then entirely illogical to say under 18s can't vote becuase they don't understand the issues. And undemocratic.

    1. So, who said "under 18s can't vote becuase they don't understand the issues"?