David Attenborough on his Brexit concerns – and why we DO need experts

"Do we really want to live by this kind of referendum?" the BBC naturalist asks in the new issue of Radio Times

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Sir David Attenborough has voiced his concerns about “the mess” of Brexit, questioning whether the referendum was the best method to decide Britain’s future relationship with the European Union.

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In an interview with Emily Maitlis in the new issue of Radio Times, Attenborough also said he was worried the “catastrophic” disregard for expert opinion is damaging to democracy.

“There’s confusion, isn’t there, between populism and parliamentary democracy,” he told Radio Times. ” I mean, that’s why we’re in the mess we are with Brexit, is it not?”

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In the interview, Attenborough cites politician Ken Clarke’s new book, in which the Tory MP claims that if people were asked whether they’d like a National Gallery or a funfair they’d vote for the funfair.

“Do we really want to live by this kind of referendum?” Attenborough asked. “What we mean by parliamentary democracy is surely that we find someone we respect who we think is probably wiser than we are, who is prepared to take the responsibility of pondering difficult things and then trust him – or her – to vote on our behalf.”

The need to believe that politicians are indeed “wiser” is why Attenborough says he is concerned by Michael Gove’s EU Referendum claims that the British people have had enough of experts.

“That’s why politicians getting up an saying, ‘We’ve had enough of experts’ is so catastrophic,” he said.

Attenborough is set to present Planet Earth II, the follow-up to his landmark 2006 natural history series, beginning Sunday 6th November at 8pm on BBC1. The series will also include an episode focussing entirely on wildlife in urban areas, as Attenborough attempts to show how human habitation impacts on the natural world.

In a recent event with fellow naturalist Chris Packham, Attenborough said he feared for humanity’s future, but added that he was optimistic that the world could find a solution to some of the most pressing environmental issues.

“I am quite sure that almost every one of us in this room has seen a better world than any of our grandchildren will do,” he said. “The world is going to be poorer, and more crowded; the weather is going to be more extreme; the seas are not going to be as productive. But I hope humanity will come to its senses in a global way to handle these problems and I believe it can be done.”

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Read the full interview with David Attenborough in this week’s issue of Radio Times, in shops and on the Apple Newsstand from Tuesday 1 November. As an added bonus, every reader will be able to claim a special Netflix gift subscription to mark the start of new royal drama The Crown.