Brexit European Union

Just how valid was the 2016 EU Referendum?

Were the writers of TV Drama 'Brexit: The Uncivil War' right to cast the electorate as maleable mindless drones?

Isobel Dunn-Lowes
Naked Politics Blogger

After recently watching ‘Brexit; The Uncivil War‘, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, I cannot help but think that some viewed the concept of Brexit as a game.

The film depicted Dominic Cummings, played by Cumberbatch, leading ‘Vote Leave’ in the run-up to the EU referendum. Rather than campaigning purely on policy, Cummings had the somewhat revolutionary idea of analysing the electorate through the use of social media in order to discover their individual ‘Achilles heel’, then target this to secure their vote.

According to the drama, one area of concern for the electorate was the UK government’s lack of control over our borders and how unfettered immigration could apply undue pressure onto public services and the country’s infrastructure.

The film showcased Cummings in a pub, interacting with the general public to understand what the average person thought about our relationship with the EU. The electorate is portrayed as being easily manipulated and swayed by the media.

STAFFORD, ENGLAND – MAY 17: Boris Johnson MP, Labour MP Gisela Stuart and UKIP MP Douglas Carswell address the people of Stafford in Market Square during the Vote Leave, Brexit Battle Bus tour on May 17, 20016 in Stafford, England. Boris Johnson and the Vote Leave campaign are touring the UK in their Brexit Battle Bus. The campaign is hoping to persuade voters to back leaving the European Union in the Referendum on the 23rd June 2016. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Securing the ‘Leave’ vote was almost shown as an equation. Voter weakness + immigration scandals + the fragile NHS = one more vote in favour of Leave. Many of the statistics from the campaign were incorrect and exaggerated but it seemed to be what people wanted to hear.

The idea of saving money from leaving the EU and reinvesting this finance into the NHS sounds like a no-brainer, yet on a daily basis I hear the words; ‘they never told us we’d have to pay to leave the European Union!’, ‘I thought it was some kind of club, something you could just leave’.

It would appear that the ordinary British citizen undermined how drastic the withdrawal would be and that almost any government would crumble under the immense pressure of the negotiations. So, for lasting this long after taking over from David Cameron, I truly credit Theresa May and her administration. Not to express political alliance, I would support any government organising Brexit.

Moving back to ‘Brexit; the Uncivil war’, at the end of the film, it was revealed that ‘Vote Leave’ was found guilty of breaking electoral law after an administrative error concerning spending limits when it was found that the main campaign shared a resource with a partnered youth group called ‘BeLeave’.

Surely, the targeted approach that Vote Leave took undermines the 17.4 million people that voted to leave the European Union. Arguably, they voted for the most idealised version of Brexit, something that is legally unattainable and explains why the country is so divided.

We were promised an immaculate picture of the withdrawal from the EU. The fact that we are not getting it nearly 3 years on understandably makes politicians and the general public angered.

While the Prime Minister, her government, and the opposition, are under immense scrutiny and pressure from all angles, we haven’t heard anything in the media about Dominic Cummings. Unfortunately, the director of the official pro-Brexit organisation cannot be held accountable in the same way that the politicians can. Arguably, if the UK had stronger electoral regulations, the UK may have never voted leave at all.

The revelations from the film continue to be shocking, and it makes me wonder whether the referendum had further sketchy behaviour in the background. Perhaps, more undercover schemes were taking place?

Not only did the referendum have a turnout of 72.2%, leaving 13 million people behind who did not vote at all, but it was also, arguably, invalid because the electorate did not have a clear picture of arguments from both sides.

The average citizen doesn’t want to wade through political jargon; they want the arguments to be short, succinct and understandable. By plastering slogans such as; ‘we send the EU £350 million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead’, ‘Vote Leave’ and ‘Let’s take back control’; the electorate is clearly being misled!

Not only this, but Theresa May was initially a Remainer! The main person negotiating Brexit didn’t really believe in it from the offset, and neither did our old friend David Cameron – who famously resigned immediately after the vote results were in.

Is this all a game? Or is it simply just too challenging for our government and political system. Above all, for some mythical beastly reason, the major constitutional reform that Brexit is, is apparently still going ahead…

But after all, whether the sketchy undercover mega-genius, Dominic Cummings, is directly responsible for this mess or even relevant at this point, the people have spoken. And that, for the sake of democracy, is fundamental!

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