The 23rd of June is a date that will go down in the history books of our time: defying expectations and Prime Minister David Cameron’s hope, the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) yesterday. Shortly after, Cameron – once the golden boy of 10 Downing Street – announced his resignation. As waves of shock and uncertainty swept across the globe, Google Trends reported that the second top question searched inside the UK was ‘What is the EU?’
What does this mean? Could it be that many voters were actually not informed? Today, we stand in unchartered waters, and it appears that the very people who engineered Brexit have just jumped ship or had no idea that drilling holes in their boat would be a bad idea.
What next, Trump for President of the United States taken seriously? (Wait a minute– )
We’ve put together a sort of CliffsNotes that may come in handy in case your next 20% group project is on Brexit. (You are welcome. We accept chocolates and/or Gong Cha as payment.)
What was the referendum about again?
The Referendum of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union was voted on 23rd June 2016. It was a simple yes or no question.
“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”
Unfortunately, our inference from the various interviews done by the BBC seems to be that many probably misread the question to be: “Should I kick Cameron out or nah?”
Who voted and what were the results?
Memorise this ratio: 48.1% (Remain) to 51.9% (Leave).
These numbers will be repeated over and over for the next decade, at the very least, to iterate the reason for Britain’s imminent economic and political turmoil, both domestically and internationally.
There was a 72.2% voter turnout for Thursday’s referendum, or 33.6 million UK citizens, the highest turnout since 1992 (72.3%). The reason this number isn’t higher is because voting is not compulsory in the UK. An additional barrier to this is the requirement for the electorate to register to vote, though this only takes a couple of minutes on a computer with decent Internet connection.
Breaking it down, the UK (perhaps United no more, given Scotland’s angling for another referendum to leave the United Kingdom) voted: England (53.2% Leave), Scotland (38% Leave), Wales (51.7% Leave) and Northern Ireland (44.3% Leave).
Many data crunchers (such as YouGov.co.uk) have also revealed that the majority of voters aged 18-49 across the UK voted to remain, while the 50-65+ camp voted largely to leave the EU. This is extremely worrying because essentially what we have is the older generation voting for a future the younger generation will have to live out.
Why was there a referendum in the first place?
It’s all Cameron, baby. We’re not pointing fingers, because Euroscepticism has existed in Britain for years, even considering a Briton’s general tendency to be skeptical at everything. But Cameron promised this referendum then to the British public amidst growing unhappiness in the country if they reelected him in 2015. Lo and behold: Cameron (much to his surprise) was reelected for another term.
The referendum was promised under the pretext of reducing anti-European sentiments that dogged his election campaign. Heck– there were even Eurosceptics in Cameron’s own party and in high level positions to the boot who pressured Cameron to hold the referendum. In February, Cameron had a series of talks in Brussels to renegotiate his country’s position and he came out pretty happy. His critics? They rolled their eyes and said they had to squint to find any changes made.
So Cameron decided enough was enough, and set the referendum date way earlier than his 2017 deadline. He knew he’d win (because duh, experts unanimously agreed that ‘Leave’ would definitely cause economic upheaval and political turmoil and people would obviously be aware of potential repercussions and crises and vote accordingly! OBVIOUSLY). Cameron also knew this move would silence his critics and allow him to continue his political tenure in peace.
Well. Might have jumped the gun a bit there, mate!
So why did the UK kanchiong?
Everybody seems to be asking this question. Ironically, probably even the Brits who voted to leave the EU don’t know the answer to this question.
Here are some reasons we tried to infer:
“They are not going to live to see the consequences.”
The rants online by British millennials have come harsh and quick. As mentioned above, the pattern of voter results by demographic indicated that the older they were, the more likely that they voted to Leave*.
Throwing in the hard truth that the younger folk were less likely to go to vote**, Brexit reflected a generational Civil War at the polls that the younger folk lost. The Leave camp were swayed by loud, emotional campaign slogans to make Britain “great again” (that Trump déjà vu, SHUDDER) and the older generation fell for it. They are now clinking dusty ale bottles in the counties, while the younger folk living in the cities are helplessly watching the pound take a pounding***.
*75% of 18-24 year olds voted Remain. 59% of 24 to 49 year olds voted Remain. 44% of 50 to 64 year olds voted Remain. 39% of those aged over 65 voted Remain.
**In the 2010 UK General Elections, only 50% of men between 18 and 24 and 39% of women voted. Compare this to 76% of men and 73% of women over 55 who voted.
***This is only our imagination.
“Cameron is no longer #squadgoals. Should I kick him out of office?”
The British were getting increasingly sick of Cameron and EU red tape, so given the choice, many considered it to be a vote to kick Cameron out - instead of the ACTUAL important picture of the UK's future.
Having just landed in Scotland as the Kingdom confirmed their exit, Donald Trump stood on his new golf course and congratulated Scotland on leaving the EU. Trump was sadly misinformed as Scotland actually had the highest vote share for ‘Remain’ among the three countries in the UK. Trump, however, correctly attributed the decision to leave the EU to immigration woes.
The UK’s immigration woes stem from the EU’s Single Market mechanism that allows EU citizens to move freely. Since the 1980s, immigrants from Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East have been flocking to the UK, as well as other affluent European countries – this has led to disrupting the jobs of the working-class; straining the public healthcare system; and burdening tax payers due to the increase in dependence on welfare and social safety nets. From 1993 to 2014, the migrant population in the UK doubled in size. So by Europe’s 2015 migrant crisis, many Britons were flipping tables and cursing politely (they ARE British after all). The ‘Leave’ camp only had to fan the flames.
“My money, not yours”
For the next couple of years, you will find a flood of research papers debating on whether the Euro crisis spurred the Brexit. If you hadn’t already heard, Europe had something of an economic Armageddon and hopes for it to be restored to its former glory and heyday are yet to be seen on the horizon.
The ‘Leave’ camp argued that if the UK remained in the EU, it would be akin to being “shackled to a corpse”, having to pay for its palliative care (the UK’s net financial contribution to the EU) via £188 million (S$348.1 million) a week and £5 billion (S$9.26 billion) in bailout for failing countries (which was paid back by Ireland and Portugal). In the end, only time will tell whether Brexit was a decision worthy of Scrooge McDuck or Warren Buffett.
But hold up. There’s more! By leaving the EU, Britain also unceremoniously tore up 40 Free Trade (FTA) deals. Now, they have no trade negotiators and cannot sign new trade deals until it has fully left the EU (the paperwork and messy divorce of which is projected to take up to two years) – plus, they will also have to deal with Scotland’s referendum for independence.
Since no country has ever broken from the ranks of the European Union alliance, the world is tentatively holding its breath to see what happens next. In uncertain times, we should perhaps look to our leaders. Former London mayor Boris Johnson who seems poised to be the next Prime Minister, has since announced that Brexit “does not mean that the United Kingdom will be in anyway less united nor indeed does it mean that it will be any less European”.
So now, we wait.
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