Brexit a victory of emotions and sentiments

I agree with Assistant Professor Scott Anthony that "we will not know exactly what Brexit means until a new government is formed that is invested in shaping a post-EU future" ("Brexit due to class divide, not xenophobia"; last Friday).

To me, 52 per cent of the British electorate voting for Brexit was a victory of emotions and sentiments, rather than reasonableness and pragmatism, and the observation that "it was an act of popular rebellion against the establishment - with 'Outers' tending to be less educated, older and poorer, and more likely to be from the provinces than those who voted to remain" is a vindication.

While ideally voters in a referendum should be driven by rational thinking and logic, in the light of all available information pertinent to the issue at stake, this was not the case in Brexit, with voters emotionally hyped up by a campaign strategy that embraced sensitive anti-immigrant feelings.

Mr Nigel Farage's influence - the ideology of the anti-immigration UK Independence Party - on the weaker portion of the electorate mattered a lot.

I was on a student visa in Britain in the 1960s and, for being a Commonwealth citizen, had voting rights there. It was a time when Sunday was a day of compulsory rest for county cricketers because of the law preventing outdoor sporting activities on the Sabbath; when the soap opera Coronation Street, which depicted class divisions, was a popular television series; and when discrimination on the basis of class, gender and colour existed.

Since then, Britain has progressed from being a very conservative and exclusive society to being more liberal in many ways - one was its membership with the European Union. And today, there are more than 400,000 foreign students pursuing higher education in Britain. Arguably, Britain plays a major role not only in the development of science and technology, but also in international sports.

The question as to whether a new referendum, with regard to forming the new British government, is needed has cropped up among the activists for democracy.

This, in turn, has raised the question as to whether democracy (rule of the majority) should be practised at any and all cost.

In the meantime, I wonder if billionaire Peter Hargreaves' expectation that Brexit will push Britain to emulate Singapore will materialise, for the political and industrial cultures - such as democracy, freedom of expression, the role of unions and the behaviour of unionists - in Singapore are different from those in Britain.

Britain is, regardless of the referendum, a great country and I sincerely hope it will remain liberal, inclusive and prosperous.

S. Ratnakumar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2016, with the headline 'Brexit a victory of emotions and sentiments'. Print Edition | Subscribe