History put a gun to David Cameron’s head – but he decided to pull the trigger

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June 23, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith


Published today – available from here if you want a signed book and to donate to the Latymer Upper Bursaries appeal, direct from me if you know my email, or you can also buy from here and here

A year ago, a Year 12 pupil asked me why Britain had voted to Leave the UK. Although I had tentatively predicted it in a blog, I felt that I wasn’t able to answer it well enough. So I set as my summer reading project an attempt to get a proper understanding of the biggest political earthquake of our lifetime.

Rather than looking at the campaign, I looked back in history, starting with this masterful set of lectures by Professor Vernon Bogdanor. I quickly came to the realisation that Britain would have voted to Leave whenever the referendum was held.

Whilst driving our daughters to Peppa Pig World on the south coast, I had an argument about this with Sky News Senior political correspondent Jason Farrell, who had followed the campaign and thought it had made the difference. We agreed to write a book together to settle that argument. It is published today.

I believe that because Britain hadn’t been there to shape the creation of the EU, what we joined required uncomfortable political and economic contortions. When we did join, the referendum to rubber-stamp that decision was devoid of a proper conversation about sovereignty and no-one could predict the amount of political and economic union that would happen.  Britain’s history in Europe is full of missed opportunities, miscommunication and non-cooperation, leading to us being part of a two-speed Europe instead of a two-destination one, with all of the institutions set up to support the track we aren’t in (the eurozone). No British leader had ever properly sold the vision of European Unity to the British people, so trying to do it in a few months up to the referendum was impossible next to the simple slogan of ‘take back control’ applied to our laws and our borders.

But did David Cameron HAVE to call the referendum? Could he have won more concessions in the negotiations? How were the Remain and Leave campaigns led? Could Jeremy Corbyn have done anything to change the result? How significant was Boris Johnson’s decision to join the Leave campaign? Why did ‘Project Fear’ not work? Those are also important questions. This book answers them by linking back to the history of European Unity and comes up with an important conclusion:

History put a gun to David Cameron’s head, but he decided to pull the trigger.

‘How to Lose a Referendum: The Definitive Story of Why Britain voted to Leave the UK’ is a book that is neutral on the rights and wrongs of Brexit. We seek to explain how it happened. Whether you are a exasperated Remainer or an ecstatic Leaver, or someone in the middle who wants to know more, this book is for you.

There are no simple answers as to why Britain voted to Brexit. If anyone tells you there are, please tell them to read this book!


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