Has the EU referendum left the United Kingdom a more divided country?

Source: Getty

Brendan O’Neill, editor of spiked, says Yes.

The drip-drip message of the Remain camp has been: “politics isn’t for you little people.” With their beatification of experts and sneering at plebs who lack PhDs – for whom the EU is “too difficult” an issue, says Richard Dawkins – they’ve split the public into know-alls and know-nothings. They demand that we heed cool experts over the passionate public, seemingly unaware that this was the snooty cry of every anti-democrat in history. Even worse, they’ve started ringfencing politics, colonising it for themselves and their wise mates and effectively expelling those judged too dumb or knackered to take part: the working classes, the old, the poor – many of whom are anti-EU and were ridiculed horribly by Remain journalists. The impact of their elitist fury could be the splitting of Britain into Philosopher Kings who are clever enough to do politics and paupers who aren’t. The chasm between the political class and ordinary people just went from huge to unbridgeable.

Tim Worstall, senior fellow of the Adam Smith Institute, says No.

One of the joys of a referendum, as opposed to the more normal party politics, is that it doesn’t produce divisions. Certainly, people will have different ideas about what the correct answer to the question being asked is, but that’s fine. We get to discuss our different opinions, vote according to them, and then we get to celebrate, or mourn, as we realise we have or have not convinced others. This is very much more attractive than the more typical election where people are voting for something between the mood music and their tribal affiliation. That will always be the case because a general or other election covers so many different subjects. It’s not possible to even consider all the issues, let alone be expert upon them. I consider referenda much less divisive than normal politics, exactly because we’ve a precise question in front of us the answer to which is yes or no, remain or leave, rather than the more usual “Red or Blue rosette for the next five years then, Guv?”. We should thus, like the Swiss, govern ourselves more through such referenda rather than our divisive and tribal politics.

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