In the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, author Kazuo Ishiguro has called for a second referendum to “define the mandate that comes out of last week’s unfocused result”, while arguing that the country “cannot afford to be ruled by anger or self-righteousness”.
Writing for the Financial Times, the Booker Prize-winning writer expressed his anger at the Leave vote and the decision being made by way of a referendum instead of via parliamentary democracy.
“Since last Friday I have been angry", Ishiguro wrote. "I began by feeling angry towards those who voted Leave, all those who campaigned on that side. Then I felt even more anger towards David Cameron for allowing such a vastly complex, far-reaching, destiny-shaping decision to be made, not through our time-honoured processes of parliamentary democracy, but in a referendum few had demanded, and whose terms and rules (Minimum turnout? Required margin for victory?) had not been debated, so effectively didn’t exist. Angry that one of the few genuine success stories of modern history — the transforming of Europe from a slaughterhouse of total war and totalitarian regimes to a much-envied region of liberal democracies living in near-borderless friendship — should now be so profoundly undermined by such a myopic process as took place in Britain last week.”
However, he maintained that “anger will make a treacherous guide in our current situation, and it is imperative we think and act coolly”.
He said that the in the coming weeks, “what we face is a fight for the very soul of Britain”, arguing: “If I were a strategist for the far right, I would today be rubbing my hands with excitement: never has there been a better opportunity, at least not since the 1930s, of pushing Little England xenophobia into neo-Nazi racism. All of us who don’t wish to see such a development must now do all we can to unite a sharply divided, bewildered, anxious, leaderless nation around its essentially decent heart.”
Ishiguro argued that we should “accept the result of last week’s referendum, and rally around a 'Brexit Light' option: a version that continues to allow free movement of people in return for continued access to the single market.”
He said that a second referendum was necessary “to define the mandate that comes out of last week’s unfocused result”. He said: “This second debate will have to be one that is openly, unambiguously about the trade-off between ending free EU immigration and continued access to the single market. It will be one in which those who campaigned for and voted Leave for non-racist reasons will have the opportunity to stand this time on the opposite side from those who did.
"So we will soon be faced with this question: do we as a nation hate foreigners sufficiently to deny ourselves access to the single market? This might easily be rephrased as: is Britain too racist to be a leading nation in a modern globalised world?"
He concluded: "The Britain I know — and deeply love — is a decent, fair-minded place, readily compassionate to outsiders in need, resistant to hate-stoking agitators from whatever political extreme — just as it was in the first half of the 20th century when fascism rampaged across Europe. If that view has now become outdated, if it has become naive, if today’s Britain is one I should no longer recognise as the one I grew up in, then let me at least hear the bad news loud and clear. Let us find out what we’re dealing with. Let us find out who we are. But I don’t believe it will come to that. We need a second referendum, for or against a “Brexit Light”, that will unite Britain around its traditional humane instincts. And to isolate the racists who today deludedly believe they have won the backing of the country."
Fellow author Philip Pullman has aired comparable criticisms of the referendum process, saying it caters to "raucous populism".
- Industry chiefs call for calm in the wake of ‘Brexit’ vote
- Peter James condemns 'lying' politicians behind Brexit 'tragedy'
- Ishiguro plans seven-city tour for The Buried Giant
- Ishiguro archives bought for $1m by Texas University
- Atkinson, Hawkins and Ishiguro longlisted for €100k Dublin Literary award