Brexit. It’s About Freedom, Choice and Democracy.

PEOPLE PASSSION 360 by John PhilpinIf you ask me where I am from, I will tell you England. Not ‘The UK’. England. I also describe myself as an Englishman. Not a ‘Brit’. Certainly not ‘European’. I have always described myself that way. As some wit once had it ….

“There is none so English as an Englishman abroad.”[1]

.. maybe. But I think there’s more. There must be, because I have always said I am English, even when I lived in England. Back in April I wrote this as part of a larger post. It referenced a piece by a gentleman called Simon Wardley. In his writing, about Brexit. this caught my eye.

“To vote to remain, I would be doing the same to my son that was done to me. What would I say when he was older – I took away your power and gave it, without your permission, without thought for your future to unelected bureaucrats for a bit of security, safety and better job prospects?”

–Simon Wardley

I bring it up, because I haven’t seen this position being considered in the material I read. But, I think it has a lot to do with why the vote went the way it did. (Update, this just in from the UK’s Daily Telegraph : “The European elite forgot that democracy is the one thing Britain holds most dear”.

It is a very, very complicated entity. Just look at this for a primer ….

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 7.48.08 PM.. and then it gets complicated.

The UK was, and still is, a member of the EU, It is not part of the Eurozone. It is not part of ‘The Schengen’ (that part of Europe that has eliminated border controls).

Let us also not forget that the EU, despite their declaration that …

“the EU is ‘not merely an economic union’ but is intended to ‘ensure social progress and seek the constant improvement of the living and working conditions of their peoples.”

… is actually not a democracy, lacks transparency and is managed by appointed bureaucrats. I am sure you can provide all kinds of learned articles that prove otherwise or even that it is more democratic than some countries. That isn’t the point. This is what is believed by the general public in the UK (not just England) and other parts of Europe.

That quote probably deserves an article all of its own. As you might know, I believe in the ‘Power of People’ over Corporations. And yet ironically, the one single organization in the ‘free’ world that is not elected is the one that does occasionally hold the rights of people above those of corporations. Go figure.

And so to the vote. It is clear that there are some pretty angry people out there. The ones that voted in the UK on Thursday, and the ones that wrote about it on Friday. These 4 quotes (specifically chosen for not being in the mainstream media, nor part of the ‘tin-foil brigade’) and the arguments surrounding them have a recurring theme. Take a look.

“Yes, part of it was racism, xenophobia, and nationalism.”

Lawyers, Guns, Money, Blog

“Could the same bigoted, emotional, don’t-need-to-know-facts impulses that pulled Brexit over the line actually put Trump into the White House?”

John Scalzi

“The scars of our referendum tell the story of a place divided, where there is bitterness instead of humanity, where prejudice is rife and where simple kindness is lacking while fear and mistrust have won.”

“ … make no mistake: this was a racist campaign that ended up causing both death and disaster.”

Felix Salmon writing on

… and and and ….

The logical takeaway is that 52% of Great Britain are racists. CRAP. WRONG. As the Lawyers, Guns, Money, Blog referenced …

I don’t believe that 52% of the British (and Irish) population are those things (however, they are those who speak the loudest).

True dat.

“It means England (especially the poorer areas) have felt ignored and saying the only reason they voted that way was due to hate, nationalism, racism etc. will make it worse.”

One hundred percent concurrence.

Alas, it is the narrative that the establishment, including the media, have been running with. It emerges because watchers tend to see Nigel Farage at the helm. Is Boris a racist? Is Michael Gove a racist? Are the Scots significantly less racist than the English? When you cross the border into London, does your racism disappear? Of course not. But, the media needs a short cut to explain what just happened.

Even in the US I note commentators (including one of my favorites – Fareed Zakaria), smugly talking about how the UK is not the melting pot that the US is. Seriously? Have they looked outside their doors?

But then the question is, if it isn’t racism, then what is it? Well, the cavalry arrived just in time, in the form of the BBC, who in a ’Monday Morning Quarterback Role’ provided insight to the final result on Friday morning in a piece called Eight Reasons Leave won the UK’s referendum on the EU.

I wrote this as my response to that piece. Spoiler alert – they missed the point and didn’t get to the essence.

Meanwhile, the New Statesman’s John Elledge provided a great list of the 18 ‘people’ to blame for the result. I surround people with inverted commas since 5 of the 18 are actually groups of people ….. ’pollsters’, ‘young people’, ‘old people’, ‘the entire political class’ and ‘the people who voted for leave because they didn’t think leave would win’. That last one got me. I kid you not this is not an Onion report (go on – click through on that one – it’s great), it is true because you just can’t make this stuff up!

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 8.11.03 PMI tweeted on Friday …

I think there its a ninth reason. And no, it isn’t that the UK will now really have it’s own Independence Day.

It is all to do with what I have been writing and talking about for a while now. Why I emphasize my ‘Englishness’ and know what April 23rd means. The data people talk about, treats the UK as a single entity. It is not. And if you want to spend a quick 5 minutes learning more about why that is the case – CGP Grey has a great video:

In other words the UK is a country of countries and then, like Europe, it starts to get complicated.

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 8.16.42 PMBack to the vote. This graphic from The UK’s Daily Telegraph is telling.

The three regions that voted ‘Remain’ are all properly ‘represented’. And by that I mean the Scots, the Irish and London all have their own Governments that work to ensure that their citizens are looked after. I do accept that the ‘Greater London Authority’ (created 2000) is not quite the same as The Scottish Parliament (created 1999) or the Irish Assembly (created 1998).

True, it doesn’t explain the Welsh vote. Wales does after all have its own assembly, but still they voted ‘Leave’. Maybe I will dive into this another time.

But the fact remains that England voted unequivocally ‘out’ and …

There has not been a government of England since 1707, when the Kingdom of England ceased to exist as a sovereign state.


England has been asking for their representation for years. And …. ‘crickets’. Good grief, it was only at the end of 2015 that there was even a majority in Parliament who agreed that only English ‘members’ should be able to vote on English laws. The idea of an ‘English Parliament’ is nowhere on the agenda. Meanwhile Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have theirs. I have no idea why the English would feel disenfranchised!


Let’s call it ‘National Identity’. And that is not about being racist or insular or not moving with the times – it is about belonging. It is about democracy. It is about choice. It is ‘People Power’.

As the world accelerates towards globalization, political leaders form alliances like ‘The EU’ which we have already established is not simple. Meanwhile, other ‘similar’ trade regions like APEC, NAFTA and ASEAN are all designed to help the world view of easier trade, necessary for the model of capitalism as we know it to continue. All good. All important. All needed.

In parallel, the Balkanization of regions is being driven by people who want to maintain their identity and have a voice. Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, the British Commonwealth, not to mention the push of The Scots for independence, the Irish for reunification, the Basques and the Catalans, the Tamils …. as fast as the establishment moves to globalization the people move to breaking it all down. To be recognized, counted, and heard. And yes race is sometimes at the core of the breakup. But so is culture, economics, politics and religion. The common thread? People don’t feel they are being heard.

As I said right at the beginning … “for too long ‘The English’ have been ignored”. The vote on Friday is the start of English people standing up and being counted.

The first step was to get out of the EU. It will likely be painful. In turn the establishment will move to ensure pain. But it is just the start. Let’s watch for the next steps. In the short term we are going to get bored to death by the ongoing analysis and life will roll on. In the long term – I would return to that quote in the first link at the beginning of the article.

“To vote to remain, I would be doing the same to my son that was done to me. What would I say when he was older – I took away your power and gave it, without your permission, without thought for your future to unelected bureaucrats for a bit of security, safety and better job prospects?”

–Simon Wardley
[1] (Sorry – I cant recall who wrote that, but as I tried to find out – came across two great sets of ‘english’ quotes you might enjoy at Goodreads and Great Quotes.)


John Philpin
John Philpin
JOHN'S career spans 30 years, 2 continents, and organizations as diverse as Oracle, Citibank and GE. A Mathematics graduate, John moved to California in 1990. He helps technology companies create, develop and deliver their story for fund raising, market development and influencer programs. He also works with businesses to ensure they understand, and are ready, for the ever accelerating changes that technology is bringing to their industry. John is a co-founder of Expert Alumni and gleXnet and long before futurists and industry watchers were writing about the impending challenges that industries were going to be facing, they predicted a perfect storm of issues like skills gap, declining work forces, the gig economy, people trained to do work no longer needed, demographic shifts, economic and social change, market upheaval and rapidly changing ways of doing work. From the beginning they have promoted the idea that massive change was coming to how organizations should think about their workforce, with a singular focus on simplifying the interface between people and their work. Understanding the challenges ahead of the curve, the solution was built to arrive at a better understanding of the greatest restraint to business operations - competence, not capital. gleXnet provides unparalleled insights into an organizations people and operations by flipping the problem from the perspective of people, not the business.

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  1. I don’t claim to be an expert on the Brexit issue, or it’s many facets and possible causes. But, I do have a question. Did the UK originally go into the EU without understanding that some independence would be lost, or did the EU bureaucracy expand and change after the UK became embroiled in it?

    I certainly agree that the results of the recent vote were to a large degree a statement on the dissatisfaction of the electorate with government in general. We see much the same feeling being expressed in the US with the support of B. Sanders and D. Trump.

    • ken – thanks for the comment

      as some one who isn’t an expert either – I feel highly qualified to answer :- )

      bottom line EEC formed in 58 – UK joined in 73 (why so long? Because we were blocked twice from joining … in 61 and 69).
      Since then it is fair to say that the EU has continued to evolve and into areas that weren’t even on the table in 73 – eg the euro – which we didn’t join either then or since, despite blair taking us very close … and so much more than a comment would allow … including an increasing encroachment on the sovereignty of the various countries. the latest for example is this one …

      which cameron poopooed prior to the vote … it remains to be seen as to how serious it is.