EDITORIAL – ‘Let’s vote on it …’ No, let’s not!

The people of the United Kingdom have spoken: They want out of the European Union.

At least, that’s what a 52 percent majority of voters, divided along geographic and demographic lines, said during last Thursday’s popular referendum on “Brexit.”

Given the prevalence of anecdotal news reports about voters’ morning-after regrets, the immediate negative reactions in the marketplace and the realization of warnings about short-term job losses — we can’t help but wonder if last Thursday’s “Leave” result would be the same if the U.K. held a “do-over” referendum this coming Thursday.

It’s one of the many dangers of governing via referendum. People’s minds, and their moods, change on a daily (perhaps hourly?) basis. A referendum election, much like a telephone opinion poll, is only accurate inasmuch as it records the pulse of the population at a given moment.

If the officials who call a referendum do so with the intention of establishing what people think, here’s our short answer: Most people don’t think. They feel.

The widespread response to Brexit from many in the intellectual class in the U.K. and the EU has been to characterize the result as an “unthinking vote,” and further to denigrate the victorious voters as being xenophobic, reactionary or outright racist. We consider those explanations to be too facile, elitist and even offensive.

Rather, the reasons why most British voters — particularly English people living outside major urban centers — cast their ballots for “Leave” include that they felt dissatisfied with the EU and its immigration policies, the net financial outflows from the U.K. treasury, and, especially, the accumulating forfeiture of U.K. national sovereignty to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels and their ever-expanding reams of regulations.

Our issue isn’t with the outcome of the referendum (although editorially we supported it), it’s with the referendum itself.

Considering the magnitude of the issue, its impact over generations, and the international/intergovernmental nature of the U.K.’s relationship with the EU — the Brexit decision should have been made by the U.K.’s elected representatives, not by individual voters in polling booths throughout the nation.

In choosing to call the Brexit referendum, while counting on its failure, Prime Minister David Cameron committed a colossal and cowardly political miscalculation that will be read about in history textbooks for ages to come. For the sake of his own political career, and the myopic interests of his party, Mr. Cameron wagered the future of his nation — and personally lost. Mr. Cameron and U.K. officials should never have ceded responsibility for such a dire decision to “citizen-experts.”

Here in the Cayman Islands, there is a pervasive misperception that the people have the right to “micro-vote” on each and every issue that crops up between general elections. That is not so.

We do, however, have the absolute right to speak up and speak out on the issues that are in front of our elected decision-makers. That’s why we have free speech, and the free press.

The real “referendums,” if you will, should be the regularly scheduled general elections.

As opposed to the “direct democracy” of classical Athens lambasted by Plato, the whole idea of representative democracy is that individual citizens do not have to be experts on, nor even be involved in, the decisions being made by their elected government.

That includes “one man, one vote” or the adoption of the 2009 Constitution in Cayman, the issue of same-sex marriage in Bermuda, or Britain’s relationship with Europe, which, thanks to Thursday’s “Leave” vote, now remains in an uncertain state, somewhere between strained and severed.


  1. the Brexit decision should have been made by the U.K.’s elected representatives, not by individual voters in polling booths throughout the nation.

    Here in the Cayman Islands, there is a pervasive misperception that the people have the right to “micro-vote” on each and every issue that crops up between general elections. That is not so.

    It is very convenient to have the privilege of an editorial opinion; we all have the right to one.

    The first sentence expresses an opinion that is not shared by the vast majority of the British population and on which the British electoral process is not based.

    In Great Britain, a government must have a mandate to govern and that mandate has to be renegotiated on issues of major importance where the question of the public’s confidence in the sitting govt. is up for debate or where the government has lost the support of the majority of its House of Commons elected members on any one issue.

    For example, if this was Great Britain, as in Cayman where the Progressive Govt, led by Premiere Alden McLaughlin has lost the majority of his back-bench coalition, the Govt. would have to step down and call new elections; this government could not hold on by the slimmest of majority members by including the Speaker of the House as a voting member of the government.

    Britain is a working democracy as an interactive relationship between the elected politicians and the population and there is a reason for this.

    The British population is by no means the passive, submissive population that you are used to here in Cayman.

    The population in Britain is a cantankerous, rebellious lot who have no problem taking to the streets in large and aggressive numbers over matters with which they are not pleased; it happens all the time and riots are not un-heard of when the matters are considered deadly serious.

    Which brings me to my second point, which is that the assertion made in your second quoted sentence is entirely mistaken.

    One of the major complaints heard around Cayman constantly over the years is a lack of say with the govt. once they have been elected; the Cayman population know that they don’t get to ‘micro-vote’ on anything, except in the newspaper letter coloumns and the radio talk shows.

    Your view that the population should not have had a chance to referendum vote on the EU issue would NEVER be accepted in Great Britain.

    In GB, the govt. generally does as the people wishes on very important matters or they are forced to step down.

    David Cameron needed this mandate to stay in power as the issue of EU membership was a increasingly contentious point of discussion within the population even before he came to power, thus his promise to hold a referendum on the issue.

    Losing this referendum has lost him the mandate to govern so he has done the right thing by stepping down

  2. You should have more faith in the people. Representatives have too many influences on them not the least of which are money, favors owed, power promised and so on to represent the people in an issue like this one. The Remain camp had the advantage of organization and strong support in London. Despite being poorly organized, Leave prevailed. Had they been organized better, they would have won by more and once the current dust settles, more and more will be on board. It is unlikely this outcome would have been gained without a referendum. The long term result of removing yet another layer of government can be nothing but good for the UK.

  3. Taking the time to read Ricardo’s comments; I think he has said it all, and I would encourage all Caymanians to take time and read the comments of his report.

  4. Cayman Compass in my opinion you are not correct in the Editorial , but you have made a valid debate on this Brexit .
    I have to think that Mr Tatum is right in his comment , because the people in Cayman is too passive , and the Government just takes advantage of this .
    I have to agree that people need to have a bigger voice in matters that effect them in the Cayman Islands .
    In the Cayman Islands we could have an incompatent / dishonest / and corrupt government, the people should be able to bring a referendum concerning this .

Comments are closed.