The Brexit vote was the biggest single democratic revolution the UK has experienced in decades. In hindsight everyone saw it coming, but at the time the news when it trickled through in the early hours after the close of polling was a seismic shock. It still is. That was because the reasons were so deep and the distance between sections of our country a now obvious chasm. Complexity plus complacency were the causes of a Brexit tsunami that was decades in the making.
In the 27 months that have followed, no systemic political analysis has been made to get to grips with the reasons for Brexit, let alone the cures. Anthony Barnett, almost alone, has written a terrific book, The Lure of Greatness, which gets under the skin of the national political mood, but where is an ambitious and coherent national response?
Theresa May feigned some interest the day she took over as PM, but then almost immediately turned Brexit into a political football by trying to divide Labour from its heartland seats. Because of these very real divisions between many of its voters and members, Labour has so far found it hard to construct a meaningful approach to Brexit. Its 2017 election manifesto addressed some of the issues, but there has been no coherent or significant attempt to look at the causes of Brexit and the possible cures.
It is a vacuum that needs to be filled. While most debate centres on how Brexit should or should not happen, the reasons for the shock vote still need to be fully investigated and responded to – regardless of what happens with Brexit itself.
Compass is hugely grateful to the Open Society Foundation and the London office of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung for making the publication possible. We are equally indebted to the authors for their contributions, wisdom and experience.