Democracy in name only: Is there a third way for Brexit?

Caroline Watson
7 min readSep 6, 2019

I was in Beijing with my China team on that fateful day when the result of the June 2016 referendum on Britain’s proposed withdrawal from the European Union took place. I’ll never forget the reaction of my Chinese colleague when I sat there, shocked and devastated, “ Well that’s democracy for you!” she said.

I was born in Hong Kong and have lived and worked in China for over half my life. It is common to be asked the question by fellow Europeans as to whether China will ever become democratic. For anyone who has ever spent any serious amount of time in China, and observed the sweeping changes taking place in the country, and the extraordinary industriousness of her people, it often seems like a very naïve question. China has one of the most educated populations of any country in the world, and it has been extraordinary to both witness and experience the opportunities that have emerged for individuals to raise themselves up from extreme poverty to take their place in the burgeoning affluent middle class. If our systems of government should be designed to support the maximum well-being for the maximum good for its individuals, China might well be a contender for first prize. But China is far from politically democratic as we all know.

I now live in France and am, and always have been, a passionate Europhile. Having lived outside the UK for nearly 20 years, I was unable to vote in the referendum due to the 15-year rule that prevents British citizens having lived abroad for this length of time being able to vote. Disenfranchised for having lived abroad for most of my life, the situation has, on more than one occasion, caused me to question the dynamics of a democratic system that cannot adapt to suit the changing needs of ‘populations who move’. This is but one of the many reasons we need an overhaul in the system. But I digress. Had I been able to vote, I would most certainly have voted Remain but my reasons for doing so have little to do with a vested interest in keeping my freedom of movement (although that is important to me) but more to do with my experience of living and working in China and seeing the evolution of this new world power.

To my mind, we can debate the failings of the European Union for as long as we like (and I’m not talking about the accusation that Brussels…

Caroline Watson

Empowering the potential of the world’s current and future leaders. Entrepreneur, consultant, speaker, facilitator, actor