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“People had no idea what they were voting for”

“People had no idea what they were voting for” “People had no idea what they were voting for”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Nora Berg

Second Brexit referendum debate

The big screen above the stage in the lecture room at UCM displays the question “Do people deserve a second chance?” . “Yes,” say fourteen people in the room. “No,” says the one other participant. And how about the British? Do they deserve a second chance? “Yes”: seven votes; “No”: eight votes. The first debate of the month-old student organisation BridgeEurope in Maastricht promises to be a good one.

The title of the event: Second Brexit Referendum - A Betrayal of Democracy? “The evening is not about agreeing with each other, it’s about getting to know new perspectives,” says Jan Kleinheinrich, founder and president of BridgeEurope in Maastricht. That’s what the new organisation is all about: the meeting of as many different points of view as possible, “to get people out of their filter bubble,” Kleinheinrich says. The “golden rules” of the evening: listen carefully, don’t interrupt, critique the perspective, not the person, and every person speaks only for him- or herself.

After a fifteen-minute presentation with an online quiz and some facts and figures, it’s time to start the debate. The crowd agrees that leaving the European Union was not a very good idea. Opinions about a second referendum, however, are very diverse.

Information is an important issue throughout the debate, perhaps the most important. The proponents of a second referendum would only be in favour of a new one if this time there were more information. And more importantly, only if the information was correct. Because that was not the case during the first one, according to the majority of the audience. “I know a woman who voted for Brexit because she wanted to keep her kids in school,” a British student says. “People had no idea what they were voting for. A lot of British voted on the basis of sentiments, not facts.” “A new referendum on more and accurate information may heal the polarized United Kingdom,” another student adds.

“More information is not the solution,” a participant responds. “There is plenty of access to information. People are just not able to filter the information. The current school system doesn’t teach people to think critically. If we had a smarter society, half of the problems we are dealing with nowadays, would be gone in a couple of years.” Later he continues: “On top of that, most people don’t care about politics. That’s why referenda shouldn’t be allowed at all. We chose politicians with degrees who know what they are dealing with. Let them do their job. They know what’s best.”

All in all, “I’m very happy with this first event,” Kleinheinrich says afterwards. The number of participants was a little low, “but the attendees participated very well. There was more discussion than we hoped for, the moderator hardly had to intervene.”

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