That’s the way to do it! Let’s take a moment to admire David Cameron’s work: thanks to him, the United Kingdom has voted, by a majority of 51.9%, to leave the world’s largest trade bloc and become a political outcast in Europe. It’s parting gift – not just to itself but to the whole world – is a potential financial crash, the foremost victims of which will be British savers. Of course, if the British Prime Minister had pulled it off, we would have been praising him. But he did not.
This win for the Brexit camp is not a victory for intelligence. By promising a referendum that he thought he would never have to hold, and then holding it because he thought he could never lose it, David Cameron has gambled with the fate of his country and that of Europe, just as he gambled his underwear at strip poker during his privileged youth at Eton College.
Nor is it a victory for the intelligence of the leaders of the Leave Campaign, former friends of the prime minister from his Conservative Party, who have given a sheen of respectability to the racist, wild and unfounded ideas they have adopted from Nigel Farage, and have knowingly lied to voters baffled by the excesses coming from both sides.
The United Kingdom is now in a terrible mess of its own making: a selfish and idiotic isolation sold as a great leap forward for freedom and sovereignty.
For the first time during a public statement, David Cameron’s voice quavered as he announced his resignation. It is the least you would expect from a prime minister who will doubtless go down in history as the one who has organised his country’s decline with a methodicalness equalled only by his recklessness. Offering his resignation in front of the television cameras gathered in front of 10 Downing Street, Mr Cameron vaunted the greatness of the nation whose grave he has just dug.
It was not as if he had not been warned. His 27 partners in the European Union had warned him that blackmail by referendum risked coming back to bite him and his people; that he would not get much in the way of the preposterous exemptions to the fundamental principles of the EU that he had promised his voters and party; and that the meagre concessions he eventually did obtain would be of no use to him in a referendum campaign. He paid no heed. The genie had to come out of the bottle and out it came.
The people are always right, so it used to be said, although that is very difficult, nay nigh-on impossible, to recognise, given the stupidity and madness of which they are capable. The British people were right about one thing, however: David Cameron took them for a ride, so they punished him severely. Despite parliamentary democracy not having done the UK so badly over the last few centuries, Mr Cameron gave the people the final choice, to then try to convince them that one of the choices on offer amounted to suicide. So, the people concluded, quite rightly, that either Cameron had lied in offering them the referendum, or he had lied in predicting the company’s collapse.
Enough about Mr Cameron. The leaders of the remaining 27 EU governments and of the European institutions would be well-advised not to consider the problem just a British one. While Cameron has undeniably made a hash of his business, this referendum is the most comprehensive punishment possible that a people –or a good half of it, at least – can inflict on its ruling classes. Everywhere in Europe, not just the UK, large parts of society feel misunderstood, mistreated, cheated, scorned or simply ignored. It matters little whether such frustration and anger is justified (often) or not (sometimes). The decision the UK has just made for Brexit should be understood as the latest call for recovery, for a fundamental review of the social contracts on which our societies should be built. That needs to be done as a matter of urgency. The work must be done at European level, but it absolutely must not be limited to that. It is not just new institutions and organisations that Europe and each of its members need, but new ideas and new projects on which to rebuild social cohesion at national and European level. It is a Herculean task; in fact, it is an impossible task, for which we are constantly saying we no longer have the necessary leaders. The alternative is worse: Brexit, but – we dare not imagine how – at the level of the whole European continent. The only people available to take up that challenge are the EU’s leaders, and they must do so now.