The UK will vote either to remain or leave the European Union today. The referendum is considered the country’s most significant in half a century. No matter what the result will be, it is going to mark a significant obstacle to the EU-UK relations in the near future. Over the past month and a half in the EU study abroad program, Brexit has always been our biggest concern. We have had many opportunities to talk to different politicians at national as well as EU level on site visits and hear their perspectives on the issue. Like many of the speakers, I really hope the UK remains in the European Union. However, this is one of the most unpredictable referenda in the history of the European Union as the poll has shown an approximately equal amount of votes between “leave” and “remain”. The referendum result will not come out until 10 pm today or maybe even tomorrow morning; therefore, I would like to make some remarks based on my reading and what I have learned from site visits.
It is exceedingly difficult to say whether the UK will remain or leave the European Union. According to Financial Times database, the poll has shown almost a tie of 42 percent between “stay” votes and “leave” votes since January this year, and around 15 percent of votes is still undecided. Just a week before the referendum, polls showed an enormous shift of 10 percent towards Brexit. As reported by the Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard newspaper, an approximate 53 percent of votes decided to leave, and the rest is going for remain. The reason behind such a significant shift exactly one week before the referendum was that the Remain campaign is losing support from citizens on the issues of immigration and contributions to the European Union budget. Demographically, polls show older voters supporting Leave, whereas the young immensely desire to stay in the European Union.
Source : The Economist
Many people believe the UK is having a referendum because of Mr. David Cameroon’s promise under pressure from his own Conservative party. However, I find it very convincing that the reason behind it is the root of British Euroscepticism. The British still wanted to stick with the Common Wealth after seeing the reconciliation between France and Germany, which shortly led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and the European Economic Community in 1957. Only later in the 1960s did they tried to join as they were impressed by the continent’s stronger economy. Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain’s application to join the Common Market as he believed they showed a lack of interest in it. The British finally joined in 1973 after Charles de Gaulle was out of office. Since then, British membership has been seen as “costs and benefits”, not as an “emotional commitment.” (Beddoes) Furthermore, the British have always been dreaming of absolute national sovereignty. The former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, states that Britain does not fit in the European Union parliamentary sovereignty. The ambition to gain back control becomes even clearer when Mr. David Cameron pulled his effort to get Britain exempted from the idea of “ever closer Union” despite the fact that he wants Britain to stay in the EU.
I remember our discussion with the MEP Mr. Richard Corbett in the European Parliament a few weeks ago. According to him, there are three reasons why Britain should stay in the European Union: “idealistic, pragmatic, and selfish.” Those ideas refer to the purposes behind the creation of the EU, cooperative interactions between the EU countries, and a Britain with economic and financial benefits. The last rationale has the most relevant point of view since Britain has won many internal and external trade deals in the European Single Market system. During the discussion titled “Brexit/Bremain: what is at stake for the UK and the EU” on May 24th at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Dr. Mario Telo, former president of ULB-IEE, stated in his panel discussion that the value of the pound sterling will drastically decrease, and British citizens will become poorer if “Brexit” really happens. In fact, this argument is also expressed by many experts from all over the world. For example, Guntram Wolff, from the director of the think-tank Bruegel has pointed out many interesting facts to support this idea. If “leave” wins, many international companies such as Hitachi might move some of their business outside the United Kingdom. Also, the European Union is the UK’s main trading partner, perhaps future trade negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union will not reach an agreement. Another reason I find very convincing is the potential detriment to the 27 European Union member states if “leave” succeeds. This will negatively affect many European Union citizens’ view towards the United Kingdom. Many EU countries have been warning the UK on Brexit: “If you leave, you leave. And we won’t grant you the benefits of the single market. You won’t move to an à la carte membership.” (Erlanger) As a consequence, it will be difficult for the United Kingdom to set up a special relationship with the European Union in the future.
Recently, the murder of MP Jo Cox has raised many concerns over today’s referendum. According to the POLITICO analyst Francesco Guerrera, this incident has completely changed the dynamics of the referendum campaign. It seems that the death of Ms. Jo Cox has reconciled the conflict between both sides as “MPs were united in genuine shock and sadness at the loss of the 41-year-old mother of two little girls, aged three and five.” (Mctague) Many experts believe that this incident will strengthen “Remain”.
As a student who studies about Europe, I definitely wish the United Kingdom stay in the European Union.
Barker, Alex. “What a British Divorce from the EU Would Look like – FT.com.”Financial Times. Financial Times, n.d. Web. 19 June 2016.
“BBC ON THIS DAY | 27 | 1967: De Gaulle Says ‘non’ to Britain – Again.”BBC News. BBC, 27 Nov. 1967. Web. 19 June 2016.
Beddoes, Zanny Minton. The Brexit Briefs: Our Guide To Britain’s EU Referendum. London: The Economist, June 2016. PDF.
Erlanger, Steven. “Britain Asks If Tone of ‘Brexit’ Campaign Made Violence Inevitable.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 June 2016. Web. 19 June 2016.
Erlanger, Steven. “E.U. Countries Warn Britain on ‘Brexit’: You’ll Pay If You Leave Us.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 June 2016. Web. 20 June 2016.
Guerrera, Francesco. “POLITICO Morning Exchange: UK Vote Bloodied by MP Killing — Germany vs ECB — Helicopter Money.” Politico. N.p., n.d. Web.
Mctague, Tom. “Jo Cox Death Unites Britain’s Warring Politicians in Sorrow.”POLITICO Jo Cox Death Unites Britains Warring Politicians in Sorrow Comments. POLITICO, 16 June 2016. Web. 19 June 2016.
“Jo Cox Death Unites Britain’s Warring Politicians in Sorrow.” POLITICO Jo Cox Death Unites Britains Warring Politicians in Sorrow Comments. N.p., 16 June 2016. Web. 19 June 2016.
Stone, Jon. “EU Referendum: Poll Reveals 10-point Swing towards Brexit as Campaigns Enter Final Stages.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, n.d. Web. 19 June 2016.
Wolff, Guntram B. “The Three Dangers of Brexit | Bruegel.” Bruegel. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2016.