Although I’m not a UK passport holder and have only lived there for ten years, events in the island are always of my interest. Watching the Brexit news unfold is a surreal experience, a piece of history being made before my eyes in such an unexpected, yet dream-like inevitable way.
In my field view, populated as it is with The Guardian and left-leaning twitterati, there are plenty of disappointments and despondency. Some of the more extreme views regard the Leave victory as a historic defeat for the age of liberal progress. Living on the other side of the world, it’s difficult for me to articulate or pass judgement on what this means for the UK, even if I can speculate plenty.
What is clear even from distance is that an impressive majority (72%) of the voting population has participated in a democratic exercise to decide an important issue for the country. The background to that exercise was by all accounts full of discord and complacency, but a choice has been made nonetheless and in a procedurally sound manner. This was actual working democracy on display, and that should not be underestimated or dismissed because it yielded ‘the wrong choice’. Questions of whether the referendum had to take place now, or whether the Tories or Labour could have done more to sway the outcome are all valid ones, but also pregnant with partisan presumptions about what the ‘right outcome’ should be.
Democracy, with all its infuriating shortcomings, is the best form of government that humanity has come up with so far. And the thing is, still very few countries can claim to have real democracy. Two years ago Scotland showed the world how to exercise it properly (and they will probably get to do it again soon). The result of that referendum was not universally admired, but the way it was conducted was. Many people around the world are shocked by Brexit, but the speed, efficiency as well as the sheer turnout of the referendum is another credit to the UK’s democratic process. Now it falls upon everyone in the country to make Brexit work, in whatever form it may take. I am reminded of Al Gore’s famous words when the US Supreme Court awarded in favour of George W. Bush on the issue of the 2000 Presidential Election recounts: ‘Let there be no doubt: while I strongly disagree with… the decision, I accept it.’