UK Vote For Brexit


Stay or go.As it turned out Britons voted by a slim margin to leave Europe despite the uncertainties and attendant risks. Pundits say Britain will break up with Scotland, even Northern Ireland walking out of the UK. There could even be a recession, writes SURYA GANGADHARAN

The see-saw opinion polls were an indicator of how divided Britain was on the issue “Remain” or “Leave”: In the end the referendum result reflected the clear view of Britons that they wanted out of the EU despite the obvious pitfalls:

Britain would lose its trade barrier free access to the European single market; it would have to renegotiate and re-work trade treaties signed with countries across the globe; the EU too lost a Security Council member with a veto, a powerful army and its nuclear weapons. Add to that a sixth of the EU’s total economic output.

Prime Minister James Cameron declared his intention to quit by October. “I do not think it would be right for me to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination,” he said in an emotional address outside 10 Downing Street. Many blamed him for the result: There is nothing in the British Constitution that calls for a referendum. This was Cameron’s idea to stave off the challenge posed by Nigel Farage’s UKIP. Cameron paid the price and could well end up seeing his country break up. Scotland may want another vote on separation, Northern Ireland may follow suit.

At one point prior to the murder of pro-EU lawmaker Jo Cox, an online poll by YouGov for The Times showed Leave ahead on 44 percent, up one point, with Remain on 42 percent, down two points.

Did Cox’s murder swing views the other way? It would appear so but there’s also little doubt that the Leave constituency, which many felt had not presented its case convincingly, had in fact done its job. They had hammered away at pressures on public services and jobs created by high immigration levels that could not be reduced due to EU freedom of movement rules.

Britain would lose its trade barrier free access to the European single market; it would have to renegotiate and re-work trade treaties signed with countries across the globe; the EU too lost a Security Council member with a veto, a powerful army and its nuclear weapons

Leave tactics did raise some hackles. A poster showing refugees walking through a field in Europe was obviously designed to appeal to fears of being swamped by Arabs fleeing Syria and Iraq. But it also put off Asians, as SayeedaWarsi, formerly co-Chair of the Conservative Party said. She was initially on the Leave side but moved to Remain after seeing the poster.

The odd thing here is the vision of a broader EU was Britain’s. So there is a mixture of puzzlement and anger in other parts of the EU over Britain debating the pros and cons of staying on or leaving. France, which voted no to the EU constitution in 2005, sees Britain’s presence in the union as positive. But as Sylvie Goulard, a French centrist MEP (Member of European Parliament) pointed out, there was an element of exaggeration in the campaign for BREXIT.

Goulard was quoted in The Guardian as saying: “I admire the way British democracy functions and there are many elements to be proud of, but sometimes exaggeration seems to be the normal way of arguing – and where Europe is concerned, even more so.”

Others felt that Britain was having the best of both worlds. It had one foot outside Europe since the pound remains the national currency, not the Euro. Nor is Britain in the Schengen Zone (26 countries with a common visa policy and no border controls).

In Germany, the view was one of irritation, that Britain has been “cherry picking” through the EU treaties, only picking what suited its interests. The entire debate in Britain seemed only focused on what was in Britain’s interest not on what would help the EU as a whole.

Katarina Barley, general secretary of the Social Democratic Party, noted that “We can’t have a scenario where one country gets all the advantages out of the EU but doesn’t shoulder any responsibilities. You can’t have free movement of goods while opting out of free movement of peoples.”

The view in Greece was muted given preoccupations with its own woes. But on the street there was sympathy for BREXIT. “They’ll do very well if they vote leave,” said KleanthisPapazoglou, an unemployed factory worker. “Every day Europe is becoming a little bit more fascistic. The euro has failed. Much better, each to their own.”

But others say Britain by remaining in the EU, would offer a credible counter and balance to Germany. Leaving would mean a small group of countries gathering around Germany with the others relegated to the periphery and irrelevance. What about India? South Block’s concern centred on the nearly three-million strong diaspora of Indian-origin UK citizens. Also the large moving population of Indians who come to Britain ever year as tourists, business people, professionals, students, spouses, parents and relatives.

Would BREXIT change the rules of doing business, or of access to higher education? Would it create new barriers for work visas or the visitation rights of relatives who have families here? The CII commissioned India Tracker report 2016 warned: “…Brexit may have a bearing on both the UK economy and on Indian companies’ appetite for investing in the UK, particularly those seeking access to the European market.”

Others warned that border free access to Europe was one of the key drivers for Indian companies setting up operations in the Britain. Tata Steel told its employees to give “careful thought” to the referendum “because the choice you make on 23 June will make a difference to your working life”. The memo stated that access to the EU market is “fundamental to our business”. Clearly, not many were convinced.


  • Britain has opted to move out of the EU despite the risks of such a vote
  • Right wing politicians were able to tap into large sections of Britons outraged over immigration
  • For India Brexit means new concerns about the three million strong Indian diaspora
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