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Brexit: The Exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union

Updated on December 16, 2016
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Alun is a freethinking moderate on political and philosophical issues of general interest; some of his views can be found in his articles.

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Introduction

The date 23rd June 2016 will surely be remembered as one of the most momentous in British history since the Second World War. The British public were asked in a referendum whether they wished to remain a member of the European Union. The result of that referendum was a very narrow majority in favour of leaving the Union.

The result will undoubtedly create an upheaval in trade and the economy, and in many other areas of life, and the author has been struck by just how politicians and ordinary members of the public have reacted during the referendum campaign and in the immediate aftermath. Struck, and slightly depressed - and that partially inspires this article.

This is a simplified review of what happened, and the immediate consequences. I know many in countries outside of Europe are not clear as to the key arguments, and why the UK voted 'Leave', so what I am writing is just an attempt at a basic explanation really intended for those non-Europeans and others who read my articles, but who do not know the background to this referendum. It is also an opportunity to express my views. I hope to give an entirely objective appraisal in the main body of the text, although I will give my personal leanings later in the article; that way you can assess whether or not I have indeed been objective :)

This article was written over three days and published on Monday 27th June 2016.

N.B: Please note, all my articles are best read on desktops and laptops

Definitions

For the benefit of those who are unclear about the process of this United Kingdom (UK) referendum and the terms used in this article:

The European Union (EU) is a grouping of 28 nations. It has its own parliament which legislates on many issues separate to the legislation of the 28 national governments. The headquarters - often considered the 'Capital of the EU' - is in Brussels.

There was one simple choice on the referendum ballot paper - to remain in the EU, or to leave the EU. For this reason the two campaigns were known as:

  • 'Remain' - the campaign to remain in the European Union.
  • 'Leave' - the campaign to leave the European Union. This campaign to get a 'British exit' from the EU was popularly known by the catchier title of 'Brexit'.

The next section gives a simplified history of the EU, and gives a clue as to the issues which brought about this referendum. It is as brief as I could make it, but it is still necessarily quite extensive.

The Background to This Vote

Although some unified bodies had already been set up in the early 1950s, it was In 1957, that the Treaty of Rome was signed by six nations to create the European Economic Community (EEC), or ‘Common Market’. The six founding nations were Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The new organisation and the other unified bodies agreed joint control on food production regulations and removed tariffs on trade between the countries. In 1973 the United Kingdom (UK) together with Denmark and Ireland joined the EEC, and in its first ever referendum in 1975, overwhelmingly confirmed its membership of what at this time was essentially an economic coalition (the clue is in the name). Also in the 1970s, the governing parliament of the community was opened to direct elections increasing the legitimacy and authority of EEC legislation.

However, as time went on the European Economic Community began to extend its influence and powers, including the introduction of new environmental protection policies and the distribution of funds to poorer regions. Greece, Spain and Portugal joined in the 1980s, and in 1986 a treaty was signed which would pave the way for free trade across all community borders. This led in 1993 to the 'four freedoms' - free movement of goods, services, people and money across the member states. This essentially is when the European Union (EU) as we know it today, came into being. The process was later consolidated in 1995 with the ‘Schengen’ agreement which would allow all EU members to cross borders without even having their passports checked. Three more nations joined that year.

Greater integration and transfer of powers to the EU was taking place including further environmental policies, as well as security and defence measures. What was considered the next logical economic step was to initiate a common currency - the euro - across all member states. Then, between 2004 and 2007, a major and significant expansion of the EU took place. Twelve of the recently liberated nations of Eastern Europe joined the EU - a move which was seen as encouraging and supporting the emergence of their fledgling democratic governments.

Almost all of these developments could by themselves be seen as beneficial, allowing freedom to trade and study in different countries of the Union, supporting disadvantaged regions, creating a massive trading block and introducing a unified approach to many global problems such as climate change. However citizens in many countries were becoming increasingly disenchanted. In the UK, it was felt by some that the EU was now taking power away from the British government in areas quite separate from the economy - areas which had never been signed up to in 1972. This was increasingly felt despite the fact that the UK had exercised the right to remain out of certain common policies, including the Schengen Agreement and the single Euro currency.

More recently still, global and European events such as the debt crisis which affected several European nations, have led to further worries. And terrorist events have raised fears about the free movement of people across borders, whilst religious extremism and war in the Middle East has led to large numbers of refugees as well as economic migrants arriving on the shores of Europe, including the shores of the English Channel. The EU has struggled to come to terms with this problem and agree a common policy. Most significantly for the UK, the Eastern European nations which had joined the EU in the early 21st century are not as wealthy as the nations of Western Europe - so because of the free movement of citizens across borders, many have chosen to come to the UK for a better standard of living.

So that in a nutshell is the history of the EU. It is clear that the authority and powers of the EU have increased over the decades in many areas besides trade and economics. The intentions throughout have been good, and in many areas beneficial. However, this centralisation of power in Brussels means that inevitably many policies which affect the UK are taken elsewhere, and the UK Government is not always able to countermand them even if they would wish to do so. Many see that as an erosion of British sovereignty. And above all, free movement worries those who believe that too many may migrate to the UK from Eastern Europe, and far too much change may occur too rapidly within our society in ways which were never wanted or foreseen.

It was in this climate that growing resentment towards the EU began to develop in the UK. A eurosceptic party - UKIP - had been set up in 1991, and after decades in the wilderness, now began to increase in popular support. In recent general elections they attracted as much as 13% of the popular vote, and although this had not translated into parliamentary seats won, Prime Minister David Cameron decided in the face of growing disenchantment - even within his own party - to hold another referendum, a way of allowing the people to directly determine a major constitutional issue. Should we remain in the European Union, or should we leave?

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The Key Points of the Debate

I think that although the issues were obviously complex, there were for most ordinary people a few issues of overriding importance.

I think the two main reasons people supported 'Remain' were:

  1. A feeling that as part of a very large democratic community of broadly like minded views, Britain has far more influence and more power in the world within the EU, than if we go it alone.
  2. Economically we benefit from free trade and free movement within the Union and we will suffer considerable trade upheaval and a short or long term economic downturn if we leave.

I think the two main reasons people supported 'Brexit' were:

  1. A feeling that we no longer have full sovereignty or control of our own destiny in the UK, as so many decisions are now taken in Brussels (EU headquarters).
  2. A desire to curb immigration, notably from Eastern Europe. Whilst we are members of the EU, any EU citizen who wishes for a better living standard, can immigrate into Britain, and we cannot prevent them from coming.

These are just two reasons but I believe they represent the main arguments in the mind of voters as they went to the polling stations.

The next five sections look at the vote, and reactions to the vote.

The Ballot Paper

Source
COUNTRY
TURNOUT
% LEAVE VOTE
ENGLAND
73 %
53 %
WALES
72 %
53 %
SCOTLAND
67 %
38 %
N. IRELAND
63 %
45 %

The Results and Analysis of the Voting Figures

The overall turnout was 72% of those eligible to vote. A simple majority, however small, was sufficient for one side to secure victory. In the event, of those who voted in the referendum:

  • 51.9% voted Leave
  • 48.1% voted Remain

The key figures from the four 'nations' of the United Kingdom are presented in the table. In England and Wales 53% voted Leave. In Scotland and Northern ireland, a sizeable majority voted Remain, But it should be emphasised for non-UK readers, 84% of the population lives in England, and so the relatively small majority in favour of Leave in England has a far greater influence on the end result than do the voting statistics for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The turnout figure is also presented in the Table, because it was always believed that Leave supporters would be more passionate than Remain supporters, and more likely to turn out and vote. So it seems to be - the turnout in pro-Brexit England and Wales was significantly higher than the turnout in pro-Remain Scotland and Northern Ireland. This also helped contribute to the narrow victory.

The Breakdown of the Vote

There were clear differences between different sections of the community. It is believed that young voters overwhelmingly supported Remain, whilst a majority of older voters supported Leave. And older people were more likely to turn out and vote. Graduates tended more often to vote Remain. Above all there were regional differences. Almost all of rural England, smaller towns and much of the industrial north voted Leave, whilst some of the bigger city conurbations - notably London - overwhelmingly voted Remain,. And as we have already seen, England and Wales generally had very different attitudes to those of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Immediate Impact on a Divided Nation

The result and the breakdown of the vote described above shows how the nation was divided on this issue, and that may have very significant implications for the future both within political parties and across the United Kingdom. Quite apart from the certainty of implications for trade, free movement of citizens and much other legislation, there were seizmic effects in the first 24 hours post-referendum which amply illustrate just why this was such an extraordinarily important decision.

1) Prime Minister David Cameron announced his intention to resign before the next Conservative Party conference in October. That means a new Prime Minister will have to be elected, the mechanism being put into motion almost immediately. Mr Cameron had come out strongly in support of Remain after negotiating some concessions from the EU earlier this year.

2) Moves were undertaken in the opposition Labour Party to oust their leader Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Corbyn, like most other Labour MPs, had stated that he was pro-Remain, but he was never thought to be committed to the cause and his apparent lacklustre enthusiasm will be blamed by many pro-EU Labour MPs for the Brexit victory. On the other hand, one aspect of EU membership of which he wholeheartedly approved was free movement and increased migration - but that undoubtedly alienated many Labour supporters who voted Brexit.

3) Scotland - never an enthusiastic member of the United Kingdom - voted for Remain in all regions, and yet got the result they didn't want. The leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, Nicola Sturgeon, has already strongly indicated that she will soon call for another referendum on Scottish independence from the UK.

4) Predictably the money markets slumped on hearing the news. Most major financial institutions had supported Remain, and stock exchanges fear change and the unknown. As a result on Friday 24th, the pound dropped in value to its lowest level since 1985, before recovering slightly. The UK stock market slumped too, but recovered most of its strength by the end of the day.

These were immediate consequences of the vote on the very first day, any of which on any other day would dominate the news broadcasts. But on this day, they were mere bit-parts in the story. And since then, on Sunday 26th June, Nicola Sturgeon hinted that she might defy the Brexit vote and try to veto the UK's exit from the EU. Lack of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn has already led to eleven resignations and one sacking from his Shadow (opposition) Labour cabinet. And online petitions have been organised to try to get a second referendum on EU membership instigated. We seem to be up the proverbial creek without a paddle and no leadership to say which way we should steer.

And the Immediate Impact in Europe

Of course it was not just in the UK that reverberations were felt. There was an overwhelming sense of shock and more poignantly - sadness - in Europe. It may be that they never considered that this day would come; believing the daunting prospect of Brexit upheavals would be just too much for the UK to accept. Perhaps if they could have foreseen this vote, then further concessions would have been made to David Cameron when he tried to negotiate a better membership deal for the UK in February. Or perhaps they had given all they felt they could without compromising the whole ethos of the EU.

The immediate efffect in Europe - just as in the UK - was big falls on the European stock markets. Within 24 hours, independence movements in several nations such as France, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands indicated they would also now push for referendums to exit from the EU. Longer term, there may possibly be a domino effect if other nations do indeed seek their own referendums.

European Council president Donald Tusk said after the referendum 'this is not a moment for hysterical reactions'. Angela Merkel the German Chancellor, called the decision 'a great regret', and said Europe should remain 'composed and calm and not act hastily'. She said that it marks a turning point for Europe. French president François Hollande called it a 'sad choice. Europe cannot be like it was before'.

Many Poles work in the UK, and the Polish foreign minister described the decision as 'bad news for Europe and bad news for Poland.' And the Greek Prime Minister said 'we urgently need a new vision for Europe.'

There were positive, conciliatory messages too. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission said that he hoped for the UK 'to be a close partner of the EU in the future.' The Irish Prime Minister also said that a 'strong and close relationship will continue.' And there has been a call in Germany for a new free trade agreement to be reached with the UK as soon as possible.

The next four sections look at the campaign which led to this result. Why did Brexit win, despite overwhelming expert opinion in favour of Remain?

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Brexit - Why Did It Happen?

Very few people really believed at the start of this process that the end result would be a Leave result. David Cameron clearly didn't. Even many of those who voted Brexit didn't. And yet it was never as unlikely as people thought given the closeness of the polls conducted throughout the campaign and the unpredictability of voting demographics in a referendum for which there were no precedents.

So why did it happen? It seems most likely that Brexit won due to a combination of fears over jobs due to immigration, combined with a feeling that sovereignty was being lost to Brussels. The strength of feeling on immigration was well known but was not adequately addressed by politicians of either of the two biggest parties - the Conservatives and Labour. This was partly because for many years opposition to increased immigration was equated at best with an insular, inward-looking attitude and at worst with racism or bigotry. It was almost politically incorrect even to raise the issue. That frustrated many people.

As far as sovereignty is concerned, that's not a concept which plays a major role in General Elections, so the strength of feeling that sovereignty was being eroded was seriously underestimated and only became apparent during this referendum.

But regardless of public opinion on these issues, the Remain campaign - and almost everyone else - undoubtedly thought that when the crunch came the public would still shy away from such a radical step as Brexit. Instead, it seems many saw a Leave vote as a statement of optimism in the future, a fresh start. Boris Johnson, one of the leaders of the Brexit campaign, had used the rallying call that 23rd June would be 'our Independence Day.' I think a lot of people saw it in those terms.

A View of the Campaign - Untruths, Exaggeration and Negativity

What had been the effect of weeks of intensive campaigning on the final result?

Unfortunately the campaigns of both sides only enhanced divisions which existed in the minds of people across the country. And it really became difficult to uncover a few drops of truth from amongst an ocean of half truths, exaggerations and misrepresentations. Nothing could be relied upon from either side.

To be fair to Brexit, they couldn't actually ever promise anything (even though it sometimes sounded like they did) because they were not a party of government - merely a movement to leave the EU. Nobody should have taken anything they said as a promise, but only as a statement of what could be achieved. Nonetheless, there were numerous implied commitments and scares which were blatantly false. For example fears of an early mass immigration from Turkey, which isn't even yet a member of the EU, and over-estimations of the amount of money which would be available to us after Brexit.

On the Remain side, there were perhaps fewer deceitful statements but even more irresponsible scaremongering and threats, notably the suggestion that there would have to be a 'punishment' budget after Brexit, to prevent a cataclysmic economic collapse, and even the implication that Europe would be at greater risk of war.

The result of this was that the public found it increasingly hard to know who to trust, because it was impossible to get accuracy from any of them. I suspect in the end, it did not matter what any politicians said - people stopped listening.

Of course there were neutral observers who could inform the public, and of these the best established and most influential is the BBC. I do believe that the BBC and other broadcasters did their best to provide impartial advice, but their very striving to be seen as neutral creates its own problems. The desire to give equal time to both sides in a debate means that if there are ten good arguments for one side on a particular issue, and one lesser point on the other side, the BBC will nonetheless attempt to give equal prominence to both; laudable, but not always helpful.

I think the net result was that people tended to vote either on the single issue most important to them, or on hunches and intuition. One's self-interest, and one's fear for the future or pride in the nation, were at least as important as facts.

But even allowing for the absence of reliable facts from either side, there was one other factor which should surely have favoured Remain - the sheer weight of expert authority figures in support of the EU. Why did the public ignore what most in the establishment advised? The reason I think can be found in the next section.

An Anti-Establishment Vote?

The success of Brexit may be worrying for some. Not necessarily for the vote - that depends on which side you support - but for what it may say about the disconnect between the 'establishment' and the public. All major party leaders in mainland Britain (except UKIP's leader Nigel Farage) supported Remain. Nearly all Labour MPs and a smaller majority of Conservative MPs supported Remain. The majority of significant world leaders, and also international businesses and financial institutions, supported Remain. And yet the public voted Leave. Superficially, that suggests that anti-establishmentarianism won the day.

The lack of willingness to believe these authority figures stems from a distrust of what they say and why they say it. Mistrust of what home-grown politicians said has already been mentioned, and it applied across the board. World leaders, including even Barack Obama who is much admired in the UK, were seen by many as interfering when they made their views known. As far as economic institutions are concerned, there may have been a feeling that after 40 years of membership, big business has vested interests in the EU, whilst financial institutions don't like instability and uncertainty of whatever kind. Their judgement therefore (in the public perception, I emphasise) may be clouded.

It should not be this way, and that is why I say it is worrying for some that this disconnect apparently exists. But when all is said and done we are in uncharted territory and one can only hope that the vote was not an anti-establishment protest at all, nor a sign of deep lack of trust in their integrity, but rather a simple indication that the public believed nobody could truly predict the future - not experts, not politicians, not anyone. They ignored them.

A Summary

So there we have it. The public voted with a small majority in favour of Brexit, but it wasn't a clear verdict, and certainly not a verdict which was uniform across the country. It was not a verdict which had been anticipated in Europe or the corridors of power in the UK. All kinds of opinions have been expressed on why the British people took such a momentous decision. I've given my view above, as to why the weight of expert opinion was ignored, and why many voted Brexit. But in the next two sections I will give my own opinion (hope I haven't made it too obvious so far!) about whether the decision was the right one, and give a view of the future together with an appeal for calm.

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My Personal Views

I had no very deep feeling for either side. I strongly suspected that there would be an economic downturn if we left the EU, though I felt that as the world's fifth largest economy, trade agreements would be renegotiated and we should be able to make our way in the wider world and soon recover. In the end I took a longer term view on the issue of sovereignty, and favoured Brexit, even though I found many Brexit bedfellows to be less than appealing in their philosophies and behaviour.

With no great enthusiasm and huge amounts of trepidation due to the anti-Brexit warnings by many in authority, I was glad to hear the result. Nonetheless, that gladness was also tempered with a great sadness. Why? Sadness in part that so many people, including friends, seemed traumatised by the result and fearful for the future. I hope that fear is eventually replaced by hope.

But more than that there is a sadness that it had come to this. Intuitively, I was a supporter of the European Union as it once existed, because I think the concept of democracies working in close harmony with free trade is a great one. The problem for me was that the community was moving closer and closer towards a 'United States of Europe' in which national identity and culture was becoming increasingly suppressed. I hasten to add we were still a long way from the end result of that scenario, and some provisions were in place to protect British independence in some decision making processes, but I did feel that the longer this seemingly irresistable process continued, the more difficult it would become to extricate ourselves and determine our own destiny. I felt therefore that if we were going to reassert our self-determination, it really had to be done now, before too much of our society had changed to an irrevocable degree.

That may be a wrong view - I pride myself on my objectivity and ability to see both sides - but I had to choose one side or the other, and I was obliged to do it now.

I just wish it had been possible for a mechanism to be put in place whereby in the event of a very close vote, Brexit could have been put on hold, and a second and hopefully more decisive vote could then have been held five years in the future. Because in the interim, maybe the jolt to the system of a 'Leave' vote would have woken our leaders in the UK and in the EU to the extent of very real dissatisfaction with the way things were going, thus triggering a significant change of direction. But that was not done either because of intransigence and complacency on the part of the EU, or simply because it was felt impractical for the EU to work without those policies which have proved so controversial in the UK.

World Prosperity

I will present one more statistic, not in support of Brexit, but rather as part of my plea that people should not panic. Irrespective of whether Brexit is good or bad, it certainly need not spell disaster. The Legatum Prosperity Index is an indication of a country's wealth and economic growth, as well as its world status on criteria such as education, health and quality of life. It is produced annually by the private investment firm Legatum, and in 2015, the five most successful nations in the world based on all these criteria included Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden. But the top two were Norway and Switzerland - two European nations, neither of which is in the EU. Don't panic!

The Future

Since the referendum result was announced some leading politicians have maintained a divisive tone, one at least on the Brexit side expressing too much triumphalism (the leader of UKIP), and several on the Remain side expressing not merely a natural disappointment, but intense anger and a sense of injustice. And on both sides, many still see only bad intent in the campaign of their opponents, and nothing bad in the conduct of their own campaign. And I have seen social media posts which pursue a very divisive tone - even a petition for London, which voted Remain, to declare independence from the rest of England!! Presumably that was not with serious intent, but it is very destructive in the sentiment which it expresses - that the majority of one community should not accept the majority wish in the United Kingdom as a whole.

Nobody knows what will happen in the future - not me, not you, not any politician. That's a fact. Who knows how strong the UK economy will be in ten years time, or more pertinently, how content our population will be. Who knows what the state of the EU will be in ten years time and how many members it will have? Will it be thriving or will it have fragmented further with other West European democracies leaving? Will the UK and EU be estranged and bitter divorcees or will we be in a casual loving relationship? There is no precedence to judge these matters upon.

All we can do is accept the decision which has had to be taken and work to make the outcome a positive one, in which the UK has a good relationship with Europe, but also with democracies throughout the world. And one in which all current and future residents of the UK - black, white, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, East European, whatever - can feel welcome.

There is just one thing that can be said with confidence about the referendum result - it will definitely make politics interesting over the next few years! :)

Best wishes to all of those UK citizens and all of those in the rest of Europe, who have civilised mindsets.

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© 2016 Greensleeves Hubs

I'd Love to Hear Your Comments. Thanks, Alun

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      Greensleeves Hubs 2 months ago from Essex, UK

      Catherine Giordano; Thanks Catherine. It is a shame. The fundamental principle of democratic nations sharing common values and working together is something I can identify with, but the feeling of many, including myself, who voted for Brexit was that the ultimate goal of the European Union was total integration - an end to soveriegn states and an end to national cultures.

      There was an intransigence to that goal, which makes it quite unacceptable to many in Britain. I think it may become more unacceptable to people in other European countries as time goes by. That could spell the ultimate demise of the EU, or at least a drastic overhaul of its principles.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 months ago from Orlando Florida

      You have done an amazing job of explaining the Brexit vote. I'm a U.S. citizen, but I think the problems of being part of the EU could have been addressed. I it better to have autonomy or to be part of something more powerful (a United Europe). I guess the people have spoken.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 8 months ago from Essex, UK

      jo miller; Thank you Jo. At the time when the referendum was held, I thought the Remainers would probably win, but there were always only 2 or 3 percentage points in it. I was pro-Brexit with reservations, but I've actually come to believe more in it since then. I would definitely not change my vote.

      I don't really know how to explain to you, but almost none of the Remainers would quite go along with what you suggest. They were happy with the level of integration there is at the moment, but they would not have wanted it to go much further. However, movement towards further integration seemed inexorable to me, and that's why I voted out.

      Would you as an American be happy to enter into an agreement whereby decisions on American justice, trade and immigration are taken by politicians in a different country? In Ottawa or Mexico City? That's what happens in the EU. Or if America ceased to exist as a nation, to become the United States of North and Central America? That is effectively what would happen to Britain if the EU became a United States of Europe. Besides, change was happening too rapidly, and a human society needs more time to adjust to radical change.

      I should point out that I think similarities between Brexit and the U.S election have been greatly overplayed, not least by Trump himself. Brexit is not about clinging to the past, and it's not about being anti the British establishment in the same way as many in the U.S seem to hate the Washington establishment - far from it. It is about keeping sovereignty and the right to decide our own affairs, including the pace of change. We just want our government to recover the authority which has been lost to the EU over the past 20 years.

    • jo miller profile image

      jo miller 8 months ago from Tennessee

      I'm reading this right after our election in the USA, so it has great significance. It's also very well done.

      Once when my husband and I were traveling around the UK a few years back, I said 'these people should just put a wall around this country and call it a National Trust' because of what I saw as a tendency to cling to their 'national and cultural identity', one of your motivations, you say, for going with Brexit. I found this tendency endearing but also a little frustrating.

      I see these tendencies now in the States, that clinging to a life that's past and not accepting globalization, which I think is here to stay. Diversity and change can be good. What is so bad about a 'United States of Europe'? I sometimes think nationalism is overrated.

      May I ask, do you ever regret your vote? And, were you one of those voting for Brexit who thought it might not pass?

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      Greensleeves Hubs 12 months ago from Essex, UK

      William Holland; Thanks Bill. There was a lot of scaremongering about the economy during the referendum, and it's frustrating because scaremongering can have a self-fulfilling effect - leading to a reduction in confidence in the markets, deterring people from investing etc. However, I suspect in a few years time people will be wondering what all the fuss was about :)

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      William Holland 12 months ago

      It's a fascinating time, for sure. Many were predicting the total collapse of England....I just don't see that happening. Change happens...we adjust...we move on...more change happens. England will emerge, eventually, strong and in control...at least I hope so!

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      Greensleeves Hubs 12 months ago from Essex, UK

      Nell Rose; Thanks Nell. I'm glad too.To an extent all the dire warnings about Brexit hit home and made one worry about the future, but it's not as if the whole of the rest of the world is in the EU and we're isolated on the outside. If we can't make it on its own with our economic strength (5th largest economy in the world), our infrastructure, our strategic location between Europe and America, our historic relationships as represented by the Commonwealth and our language - English - then nobody can. It shows how far we've diminished that people felt so fearful about 'going it alone'. I think it had to be done.

      I also largely agree about Angela Merkel. She behaved with compassion to refugees and immigrants, but her 'open door' policy has been reckless in the extreme with consequences across Europe. We can't turn the clock back unfortunately, but at least we can stop the trend and control our own future.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 12 months ago from Essex, UK

      Robert Sacchi; Thanks Robert. Hope it helped explain the issues. Next time I'll have to try to fit anti-DISestablishmentarianism into an article - that has quite a different meaning and it's one of the longest words in the English language :)

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      Nell Rose 12 months ago

      Interesting to see it laid out like this. I for one am so glad we got out. In a nutshell, Europe together was great to begin with. Intelligent countries working together, opening borders and trading, but sadly two things happened, one was mad Merkel and her guily verdict of 'what we did in the war was bad, so now I am making up for it', meaning lets allow thousands of terrorists in after isil said they were going to send them over, and two, with the borders open every single person wanted to come to England! so we did what we always have done in history, we closed the doors, windows and drawbridge, and said, no! thank goodness! lol!

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 12 months ago

      I read your article with great interest. It is good to get a view from a "Person in the street" rather than the politicians and pundits. Also thanks for using anti-establishmentarianism, it is one of those words I never thought anyone would use in a sentence:-)

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image
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      Greensleeves Hubs 12 months ago from Essex, UK

      Jennifer Mugrage; Thanks Jennifer. Regarding racism, like you, I do find it frustrating. Given that my girlfriend is a Thai Buddhist, my closest friend in the UK is black, and I have numerous friends who are Christian, Hindu or Muslim, of African, Asian or Middle Eastern descent, I think I can safely regard myself as not racist and non-prejudiced :)

      Many years ago, being called 'racist' would have been a truly nasty slur and insult, because it implied race hatred, or a belief that one race was in some way better than another. It was clearcut. But nowadays the term seems to be all-embracing. Any mention - however insignificant - of a person's race, or any reference - however benign - to a person's culture, can lead to accusations of racism. That makes the term almost redundant - a 'catch all' term - which fails to distinguish between genuine bigotry and evil on one hand, and a simple acknowledgement of races on the other. It shouldn't be so.

      Regarding your second point about Brexit, although I can't speak for or against the American welfare state, the way you describe your dilemmas, certainly sounds similar to our's over Brexit. Alun

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      Jennifer Mugrage 12 months ago

      Hi, I'm back. I sympathize with your motivations in writing this article. In the U.S. as well, pretty much all that needs to be done to shut down discussion is to brand a certain opinion - or its proponents - "racist." It's very frustrating. Nobody wants to be a racist, so people tend to shut up. Others will look no deeper into the issue, not wanting to give a moment's credence to something that might be racist.

      The situation you find yourselves in ... Remain or Leave will both cause serious harm ... is similar to the one we find ourselves in with our welfare state in the U.S. If we keep going with it as it is, the system is going to fall apart. If we try to back up, it will also cause a lot of hardship and unrest.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 12 months ago from Essex, UK

      Deb Hirt; Thanks Deb. I much appreciate what you say. We will need a bit of luck, plus resilience and astute future negotiating on trade deals! :)

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      Deb Hirt 12 months ago

      Add This article is valuable in that it is written well and completely unbiased, allowing the crux of the matter to emerge. Well done and best of luck to Britain!

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      Greensleeves Hubs 12 months ago from Essex, UK

      bdegiulio; Thanks Bill. It was only in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote that I decided to put an article together. I knew from Internet forums including HubPage forums that - quite understandably - people in other countries might not be aware of all the issues, and when very negative 'bigotry' comments about the Brexit vote started appearing, I felt I had to write to explain the dilemmas about how to vote.

      It was a real dilemma for everyone and there were always going to be very serious consequences for the economy if we voted Leave, and for the future sovereignty of the nation if we voted to Remain. Either way, there were bound to be tears! Since the result, it's just been chaotic with political resignations left, right and centre, as well as threats by the Scottish nationalists to seek independence once again. There's a need for everyone to just calm down a little :) Cheers as ever, Alun

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      Greensleeves Hubs 12 months ago from Essex, UK

      MsDora; Thanks Dora. Annart made the point about racism which was also one of the reasons I felt compelled to write the article. In view of the fact that immigration was one of the key issues, there has been a perception on some Internet forums that the Brexit vote was racism or bigotry driven, which of course is a horrible impression to give out. It was important to make clear that the great majority of those who voted are not opposed to all immigration, and certainly not on a racial basis - but merely wish to regain control of the situation and reduce the increasing levels of economic migration that annart mentions. Cheers as ever, Alun

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      Bill De Giulio 12 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Alun. An excellent, well written article on the whole Brexit issue. Many of us here in the US, while we were aware of the vote, certainly did not have the insight that you provided. I now clearly see that the reach and control of the EU over its member countries was extending beyond the original intent. I'm sure things will work themselves out over the coming months. Best of luck and thank you for the education.

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      Dora Isaac Weithers 12 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for this detailed explanation of this issue, on the reason and the breakdown of the votes. Good presentation! Annart's comment help us understand the insider's perspective.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      lisavanvorst; Thanks Lisa. I'm really glad if you found the article helpful. It's certainly going to be a rollercoaster ride for a few months and maybe even years, though I suspect it'll calm down a lot sooner than some fear. Alun

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      Lisa VanVorst 13 months ago from New Jersey

      I appreciated this article. It was very informative, as I did not understand what this meant and why many Americans were saddened and shocked by the vote. I hope things to turn out for the better and not the worse. Thanks again for the education.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      Rock_nj; Hi John. Thanks for that. Yes, some have been speculating on whether the referendum vote is binding, or whether there are legal loopholes which can be exploited. Technically, it may not be binding, but the political parties at Westminster - whatever one may think of them - do have a sense of what is democratically acceptable, and I don't think there's any way in which they would vote to deny the public their will. It would just be deemed totally wrong.

      I suppose another possibility is that if there were to be a radical change of direction within the EU in order to forestall further referendums by other countries, then there could be a rethink. In other words if the very reason for Brexit ceased to exist due to significant changes in EU policy, then maybe another referendum could be called in those new circumstances.

      But that seems unlikely. The biggest sticking point is free movenment of people across borders, and the EU regards that as a basic principle of their raison d'être.

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      John Coviello 13 months ago from New Jersey

      A well written Hub about the Brexit vote and the background behind the vote.

      Interestingly, there are a number of people that appear to be working to undo the will of the British people by ensuring that Brexit never actually occurs. Some are saying the Parliament should not follow the voter's will and should reject a Brexit. This Brexit vote is surely a test of democracy in the UK. Will the elites find a way to negate the will of the people?

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      Jennifer Mugrage; Haha, thanks Jennifer - perhaps I was TOO neutral! I was very sure about the way I'd vote even though it was with a lot of regrets that I had to take a decision against the EU.

      If I'd voted Remain I might have been happy with the state of Britain today, but in 5 or 10 years time, our nation would have changed even further and perhaps irrevocably, in ways I wouldn't have wanted. It will still change in many ways, but now at least it will be entirely under our control, and that's what matters. Alun

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      Jennifer Mugrage 13 months ago from Columbus, Ohio

      Good to hear an analysis from someone who actually lives there.

      Your background information was so "neutral," that by the time I embarked on the reading the opinion part of your piece, I really expected to hear that you were strongly in favor of Remain.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      jtrader; Thanks for your comment jtrader. It does seem that the future direction of the EU is uncertain. Of course the huge chaos currently occuring in the UK, may deter some other nations from taking a similar daunting path away from the EU, though clearly in many countries there are 'independence' movements which will only get stronger if the EU doesn't heed this Brexit lesson.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      Zakmoonbeam; Thanks so much Michael. That's really nice. I've seen a few reports on British news broadcasts about Sweden's relationship with its EU colleagues, and it's clearly a complex relationship, which is going to lead to some interesting developments in the future. And it's interesting to hear your perspective that you think maybe it's right for Britain to do this, even though it may have effects on your citizenship of the UK and / or Sweden. I hope as far as that's concerned things work out in a way which is satisfactory for you. Both nations, I think, are good ones to be citizens of!

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      grand old lady; Thank you very much Mona. Appreciate the compliment. It makes the article worthwhile if it has helped make the issues a little clearer for readers in other countries. The repercussions of Brexit are going to have some trade / stock market effects in nations across the world, but hopefully long term it will benefit economies such as the Philippines.

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      jtrader 13 months ago

      If I were British I would have voted to leave too. I completely agree with the apparent loss of sovereignty. Looking on from within another nation, this is clearly what is happening to many nations that are apart of the EU.

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      Michael Murchie 13 months ago from Parts Unknown

      Brilliantly balanced and thoroughly researched article, nicely done!

      For the record, I believe that it's time for Great Britain to stand on its own 2 feet, but trying times are ahead. Especially as the country is so divided.

      As for me, I am an Englishman living in Sweden, so it will at some point affect me. Also, Sweden has really clamped down on immigration and changed a law just last week regarding rights of residency. That law change combined with the Brexit means that I now must seriously consider giving up my British nationality and become a nationlised Swede.

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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 13 months ago from Philippines

      Thank you for this very informative hub. It showed both sides of the story, and included your own reflection as well. I had been reading titles of articles about Brexit but never knew what it was about until now. It is most convenient to get the whole story from just one article. That may make me a lazy reader, but I'm thankful for a hardworking writer like you.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      The Indexer; Thank you John. I can understand your concerns and as you will be able to appreciate from the article I do sympathise with many of them. I would make two points however:

      1) Yes, a fragmented Europe cannot easily reach consensus. But in the ever expanding EU it is also becoming increasingly difficult to reach a consensus which satisfies all from Greece to Germany, from Italy to the Netherlands. I can certainly agree on the specific point of climate change however, which needs agreement across the world.

      2) Some would love to see a United States of Europe, but I think the great majority in all countries do not. 'Nationalism' is a very strong term because of the connotations which it brings with it. A desire to protect a sense of national identity and traditional culture - or at least to see a less rapid societal change to which people can take time to adjust - would be a kinder way of expressing the sentiments of most on the Brexit side.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      pramodgokhale; Thank you. I do not pretend to be an expert in international trade, but I would not expect this to damage India long term. Short term there is big uncertainty and that affects the stock market. But long term, maybe it will benefit India? India will be able to negotiate with the EU, but also with the UK, and choose the best trade deals for India.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      alancaster149; It does seem a bit like a dream doesn't it! A bit unreal. Certainly there is over-reaction. It isn't the end of the world and there is no need to panic. The UK can survive and renegotiate deals. But it will take time and there will be uncertainty.

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      John Welford 13 months ago from UK

      I was very disappointed by the result, because I cannot see how a fragmented Europe is going to be able to arrive at consensus policies on such momentous issues as climate change, which can only be dealt with at a supranational level.

      Nationalism is a dangerous and outmoded concept that needs to pushed to one side in the future world. That is why I favour "ever closer union" and would love to see a United States of Europe with Britain being part of it. Unfortunately that is now unlikely to happen, and the world will suffer because of that.

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      pramodgokhale 13 months ago from Pune( India)

      Sir,

      I am an Indian and not much aware of consequences post BREXIT .Indian stock exchanges reacted and our index has fallen by 900 points. Investment by Indian corporate s in UK and British companies in India will it affect trade relation and deals?

      you mentioned of sovereignty and destiny of UK but once joined a group of nations so some restrictions and protocols affects? the How?

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      Alan R Lancaster 13 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Sounds like Corporal Jones, the butcher in 'Dad's Army': 'Don't Panic!'

      Here we are, standing at the crest of Beachy Head looking down at the foaming sea below. Watch your step, there might be somebody behind with his hands outstretched.

      It's just a dream, isn't it. We'll wake up tomorrow and it'll be the 23rd all over again like a cycle of events - you know, like you see in the sci-fi films.

      On the other hand it's a way out, the 'Pass Go' square only the Monopoly board is now marked with 'Brussels' and 'Strasbourg' instead of 'Community Chest' and 'Go To Jail' and we can only hope the 'Electric Company' and 'Water Works' are no longer owned by EDF or Eau Francaise/Deutsches Wasser.

      We'll look back on this episode in months to come and laugh, wondering why we teetered at the brink instead of strapping on our paragliders. Like the song says, 'The Only Way Is Up'. Confidence will return, and ignore the strange bedfellows - shut your eyes and they'll be gone as in a dream.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      always exploring; Yes, I guess there will be fluctuations in the stock market now and periodically in the future as contracts are lost or negotiations get underway for trade deals with Europe or with other countries in the world. There's a lot going to happen over the next year or two!

      Thanks very much Ruby, and I appreciate your best wishes. Maybe we'll need all the good wishes we can get! :)

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      Ruby Jean Fuller 13 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I think, now that I've read your article, I understand the reasoning behind the vote more clearly. It has effected the stock market and people with 401k's lost money the first day, but there was a resurgence the next day. I hope all will be well with the UK and the other countries involved. Thank you..

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      FlourishAnyway; Thank you very much Flourish. Much appreciated. I've never heard the term 'scope creep' before, though it is certainly descriptive and I fully understand and agree. Gradually the European Union has extended its influence, each step seemingly justified, but the end result has alienated many who fear how much further it was going to go. The result was the Brexit referendum. Alun

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      FlourishAnyway 13 months ago from USA

      I didn't understand much about the history because US news outlets do a poor job of providing boiled down foundation information on complex issues. However, you have admirably done so. Very well presented hub. I think it boils gown to scope creep and organization building with the EU ... an overreach of the original terms and intent.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      Jodah; Thanks John. I'd seen a few comments on forums which made it clear that - quite understandably - people from outside of these shores may not know all the issues of what is a momentous vote. I guess it could well affect nations like Australia in the future - trade deals and such like.

      Right now no one knows what the impact will be on domestic politics. The Conservatives will certainly survive, though are currently split on the merits of Brexit. But the Labour Party is in freefall at the moment. Even more have resigned from the Labour shadow cabinet since I wrote this article!

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      John Hansen 13 months ago from Queensland Australia

      A very balanced and fair-minded article, Alun. Thank you for explaining what "Brexit"stood for. I have seen it mentioned all over the place but not explained that it stood for "British Exit".

      Who knows what the consequences will be for not just Britain and Europe, but the world. This could actually be a precursor to what happens in our Australian Federal election next weekend. It is expected that there may be a big shift away from the two major parties. A very interesting article.

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      Greensleeves Hubs 13 months ago from Essex, UK

      annart; Thank you so much Ann. What you say is very gratifying. Any political issue is potentially very controversial, but I do always try to be both objective and accurate in my assessment, even if I come down on one side of the issue. It was the extreme divide in the nation, and the sense of panic which has resulted since the referendum which inspired me to write this. The public and politicians seem in danger of tearing ourselves apart over this, and a degree of rationality is required. Thanks so much for your support. Alun

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      Ann Carr 13 months ago from SW England

      What a refreshingly moderate and well-balanced article about this issue. I agree whole-heartedly. I voted Leave and I did so because I don't want to be governed by Brussels, by people without faces who are unelected. I don't want our borders to be open to those who are purely economic migrants (I'm not racist and I do not wish that we refuse worthy immigrants). The EU promised all sorts and didn't deliver and Europe is obviously looking towards a Federal state which is not what I support. I am pro-Europe but not pro-EU politically. We originally joined an economic community, for trade; that was good. It has changed its face dramatically. Also, their accounts have not been balanced in any year since they began! I can't support that.

      Congratulations on your well-presented article and views.

      Ann

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