Late in the night of June 23rd (for us Americans), the United Kingdom announced their final tally to leave the European Union. With 51.9% of the 33m+ votes, the Leave campaign can hardly call it conquering the Remain campaign. I won’t pretend to be an expert in UK politics, or politics of any nation, but I will extract as much as I can through the media.
Whilst looking at demographic charts provided by BBC, here are some facts that can be seen:
- London (59.9%) and Scotland (62%) were the largest areas to vote to Remain in the EU
- West Midlands (59.3), East Midlands (58.8%) and the North East (58%) were the largest areas to vote to Leave the EU
- The majority of the older generation (45+ years old) voted to Leave the EU
- Notably, all parts of London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Manchester and Cardiff voted 60%+ to Remain
- Almost 130 voting areas voted to Remain; however, over double that voted to Leave
- Almost 30 voting areas were within 1% of either direction
After voting, Google announced that there was a 250% spike in the search “What happens if we leave the EU?” Other searches that spiked were
- “What is the EU?”
- “Why did Britain leave the EU?”
- “Getting an Irish passport”
Obviously, we need to get schooled a little on what is actually happening.
What is the European Union?
According to The Telegraph, the European Union was the cumulation of 28 countries that promotes the freedom of movement between nations; freedom of trade of goods, services and capital; and human rights protection. The European Parliament, European Commission and European Council essentially draft, pass and enforce new laws. The European Court of Justice ensures each nation applies the laws equally. Each nation must pay to remain in the EU, which goes towards employment, administration, security, environment, trade and the economy.
In a single line, the EU “operates a single market, which allows free movement of goods, capital, services and people between member states.”
How Was The Referendum Brought Up?
The “Brexit” vote to Leave means Britain will ‘exit’ the European Union. It was promised by Prime Minister David Cameron to his Conservative Party if he was reelected in 2015. Cameron was a strong advocate for Britain to Remain, but following the unforeseen outcome, he resigned his position.
What Happens Now?
First, Britain needs to officially tell the EU that it wants to opt out, using Article 50 to do so. Article 50 will state that Britain wants out of the EU, and to start a 2-year process and negotiation for the ‘political divorce.’ The 2-year process will only be extended if there is an unanimous decision to do so. There’s a small hope for the Remain campaign that the British government won’t take the ‘advisory referendum’ and remain in the EU, but that’s politically unrealistic.
With the outcome of the referendum, Scotland and Northern Ireland needs to decide whether it would stay with England and Wales, or seek a separation from them through independence. Other countries may also want to start thinking about leaving the European Union as well, notably Greece, France and Spain.
Impacts of the Vote
Instant impact is seen as the British Pound decreases in value (1.37GBP:1USD). Having been the lowest plunge in value since 1985, investors fled to the USD and yen. In terms of economy, the New York Times stated
American shares were down 3.6 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average sank 611 points, its biggest drop since August. British stocks were off 3.2 percent, while broader European shares dropped 8.6 percent.
The governor of the Bank of England announced that the central bank had earmarked 250 billion pounds to stabilize the economy. It’s been said that Britain’s economy had dipped one spot in the world’s top economy, ranking 6th behind France. However, as many group the countries in the European Union as a unit, Britain would be leaving the world’s largest common market.
An eventual impact of the vote would mean that if a citizen of the UK wants to work in an EU country, there would be more processing that occurs compared to when the UK was in the EU. Overall, traveling will not differ; however, prices in and out of Britain may fluctuate as fees are added.
What Won’t Actually Change? Why did people vote Leave?
The Independent has voiced 8 misconceptions of the Leave vote. They are the following
- We aren’t going to see a fall in immigration levels.
- We aren’t going to have an extra 100 million pounds a week for the NHS
- We aren’t going to be able to stay in the single market
- We aren’t going to get our sovereignty back
- We aren’t going to save 350m pounds a week
- We won’t remain a world leader in research and development
- We aren’t going to save 2 billion pounds on energy bills
- We aren’t going to be a greater Britain
There were many promises that the Leave campaign had said, which the public took as fact. The British believed that many of the immigrants from other EU countries are taking their British jobs. They believe that the money paid to the EU could be allocated to the NHS and other British causes. The British also believed that voting to Leave would disconnect their lawmaking from Brussels and bring back that control to Britain. These are either half-truths or full-out falsities.
What really will change will be seen in the upcoming months, when variables settle down and become defined.
The most common American reaction to the vote is “The British have spoken, and we’ll deal with it.” President Obama and both presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, expressed this opinion in so many words. Trump and Sarah Palin especially voiced a positive reaction to the Leave vote.
However, most celebrities in use of the social media frowned at the news. Some jested about the vote, others sneered, others ‘deeply saddened,’ and others voiced their disbelief. The Scottish J.K. Rowling was particularly pissed, tweeting:
As a ‘under 45 years old,’ I assumed that Britain would vote to Remain in the EU. I am a Midwestern American that doesn’t have a stock portfolio, or even live in a large financial district to see any immediate (if any) impacts of this vote, but as a novice traveller, I thought of what Cady said about Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls:
“She knew it was better to be in the plastics, hating life, than to not be in at all.”
Talking to Perseus (a Welshman), he verified my thought by saying his family was voting to Remain in the EU. Looking at the polls, his voting area was one of the few in Wales that voted Remain (even if barely). However, it looks like most of Wales voted otherwise.
As a foreigner to the UK, I try to think of how it would be different to me whilst traveling in the UK. Britain will still have the royals, still have Parliament, still have the museums and the landmarks and Dame Maggie Smith. I will still need to use the British pound currency and still need to fly into the UK with my passport. I might need to pay a bit more to travel through Dublin to the UK, but it can’t hurt that bad, can it?
Being American and not a member of the EU, I will still need to jump hurdles if I wanted to work or live in the UK. I couldn’t openly take advantage of the NHS. Britain being in the EU has no effect whatsoever on me as an American.
However, I understand that the British wanted the change. The fear of immigration taking jobs is similar to Americans’ scare of Mexicans. The fear of foreigners leading our country is similar to Americans wanting Obama to release his birth certificate. And the craving for more money and the stimulation of healthcare is also seen in America, with Obamacare and tax cut promises.
Every country has the same problems, and we can each identify and relate to each other. Perseus said that the country seems to be in shock of the Leave outcome, that nobody really thought it could happen, but it did. It was fueled by fear and by the desire for a change, because the grass is always greener on the other side.
If you are applying it to American politics, as some people have (Forbes and Piers Morgan), Trump has a fighting chance to win the American Presidency. As the Forbes article states, Trump is seen as more ‘authentic’ and more outspoken about some things that we may secretly believe in the depths of our brain, while Clinton may be saying what we want to hear but does another. The idea for a real change, rather than a limb off the current tree (Obama), may seem more appetizing when the public’s in the voting booth.
It was weird how the British reacted to a seemingly devastating vote. Sure, there were some harsh words and sour sentiments, but that’s apparently a very British way of handling things. It’s going to be a total shitfest when the presidential election occurs, because our candidates have nourished an environment that created animosity towards the opponent. It feels weird for me to not see such calamity.
All I know is, whether Trump or Clinton wins, I’ll be ready for half the population to go ape-shit.