On Friday, 1 July 2016 the Institute was fortunate to host Dr Bernard Cadogan for a public discussion on the United Kingdom’s decision (via referendum) to vote to leave the European Union. Dr Cadogan’s talk was followed by a Q&A session and refreshments. The discussion was filmed and is now published on our YouTube channel.

Key points from Dr Cadogan’s talk

  • Young people in Britain did not get the opportunity to discuss the benefits and negatives of a decision to leave Europe; we need to have more spaces for public discourse to take place. A degree of electoral corruption happened, as young people registered to vote in their university areas were denied the ability to vote when they went home. Young people were essentially cheated – and no one is taking responsibility for this.
  • Brexit challenges citizenship rights. Can people who were born into the EU before the referendum on June 23 2016 have their EU citizenship taken away from them?
  • As a result of the referendum and the ensuing contest for the Conservative Party leadership, two camps have emerged within the Conservative Party: those who wish to leave the EU as fast as possible, regardless of the consequences, and those who do not like the EU (as it tends not to be actively liked by the Conservative Party), but identify with it on a purely utilitarian level.
  • As a result of Brexit, something has come into the world that did not exist prior: an English political consciousness (which has not existed in the international scene for 309 years). But at this stage, nobody really knows what that is – it is essentially a newly hatched chick. Whether the Union (i.e. the United Kingdom) will survive Brexit remains to be seen.

Dr Bernard Cadogan engages with attendees at the discussion on Friday, 1 July 2016

  • The lack of a plan for Brexit derives from a particular strand of Conservative thought: a desire to attain power first, and then deciding and enacting what will happen next by excising limited reason (due to a reluctance for what it sees as the over-involvement of government in social and economic affairs).
  • If Brexit does eventuate, Britain needs to leave the EU in a pro-European way, rather than an anti-European way. If Brexit does happen, the ‘Leavers’ need help of the ‘Remainers’ in order to happen successfully.
  • The EU referendum is the most polarising one ever seen in an OECD country. This is demonstrated by Lord Ashcroft’s poll statistics, which highlight the polarising results particularly in terms of education level, class and age. Overall, the results are disturbing.
  • Lord Ashcroft’s polls also revealed three interlocking narratives which ultimately led to Brexit:
  1. A desire to ‘take back control’ – sovereignty, although this is not the word used by ordinary people;
  2. Immigration, and control over Britain’s borders; and
  3. Fears over the accession of the Balkan nations to the EU, especially Turkey.
  • Britain has three major problems which the referendum results highlighted:
  1. Failing governance model – its domestic institutions (i.e. the NHS, welfare, police) are not configured to deal with the reality of being in the EU (compared with their equivalents in France and Germany);
  2. As English is the world’s second language, Britain is an attractive place for migrants to go; and
  3. Britain is a viscerally class-ridden society, with ordinary people and those in the regions aware that they are despised and looked down upon by the so-called elites.
  • The referendum saw ‘no politeness, no compromise, no transparency, and no pragmatism’ – all of qualities which are seen as typically British. The referendum revealed that, compared with New Zealand and other countries, there is a low level of civility and civicism in Britain.
  • In response to Brexit, New Zealand needs to recover a sense of love, affection and friendship for Britain, show authority and professionalism.
  • For future scenarios similar to Brexit, we need to ensure the world is better informed when making substantial political decisions. This will come about by, amongst other things, ensuring access to public discussions, a robust media sphere, and enabling the voices of the young to be heard


Dr Bernard Cadogan
Dr Bernard Cadogan was educated at the University of Otago, later graduating from the University of Oxford with a Doctor of Philosophy. He has served as a political advisor and consultant at the New Zealand Parliament. Cadogan held a post-doctoral fellowship at the Stout Centre of Victoria University of Wellington from 2011 to 2012. His studies specialise in constitutional thought and race relations reconciliation, and in the history of the political ideas relating to imperialism and colonisation.

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