David Attenborough: Brexiteers “probably don't understand” facts

The celebrated naturalist warned against the rise of nationalism. 

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Brexiteers like Michael Gove who dismissed expert warnings "probably don't understand" the evidence and have reacted in a knee-jerk fashion, David Attenborough has said. 

In a video interview with Greenpeace's investigative and news platform, Unearthed, the 91-year-old broadcaster and naturalist compared Brexit to "spitting in each other's faces" and called the referendum "an abrogation of parliamentary democracy" because of a lack of facts. 

Recalling Brexiteer Michael Gove's claim that "people in this country have had enough of experts", Attenborough said: "That's a cry from somebody who doesn't understand what they're saying - that's what that means. 

"That's when someone has told them something which they don't like, and which they probably don't understand."

He added: "It's a knee-jerk kind of thing but it doesn't bear examination for a micro second."

He repeated his claim - first made in 2016 - that the government had subverted parliamentary democracy by leaving EU membership to be decided by a referendum. “The decision to call a referendum was an abrogation of parliamentary democracy in my view because we didn’t know the facts," he said. 

Attenborough acknowledged he wasn't an economist, but said: "Philosophically I would rather the people embrace one another than spat in one another’s face.”

The broadcaster also warned of the "alarming" rise of nationalism. 

Referring to the Paris climate change agreement, which the US plans to leave, he said: "The optimism about Paris was that here for the first time nations were getting together and doing something. That's internationalism.

"So anything that interferes with that is against what I wish was happening. We need more internationalism, not less."

Attenborough did not rule out meeting President Donald Trump, but said: "I would want to know on what basis we were talking and why it was that he wished to see me."

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.