Brexit: Simplified

By Maia and Sruti

Brexit has been a huge event in British History. The vote took place on June 23rd 2016, allowing voters from the age of 18 from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to vote. The UK originally joined the EU in 1973 in a referendum. The vote was 67% in favour of joining the EU, a much wider margin than the more recent vote to leave the EU which was close at 51.9% leave and 48.1% remain. The referendum turnout was 72.2% with 30 million voters turning up to vote. This is especially high compared to only a 66.4% turnout in the 2015 general election. The vote in 2016 was the first proper opportunity the British public had to express their opinions and thoughts about Brexit freely since the initial EU entrance in 1973.

Why did the vote even take place?

With the rising popularity of the UKIP party, the Conservatives were threatened by UKIP as they were worried that either UKIP would take their seats or that they would take enough of the Conservatives’ votes so that Labour would win the election. Cameron responded by trying to appease UKIP, who were stressing the need for a tougher line with Brussels. The Conservatives demanded that Cameron give them a weapon to fight off this competition. This was the referendum. This made sure that the Conservatives had their seats as the anti-EU voters would have a say in Britain’s future with Europe. David Cameron made sure there would be an EU referendum if the Conservatives won the 2015 election.

Once they won the election, Cameron started negotiations. The list he provided was non-specific as the concerns of those pro and anti EU would have to be met. Releasing the demands would have perhaps informed everyone about the benefits and disadvantages of staying in the EU and they would have more time to think about their choice. David Cameron also promised that if the UK ended up leaving the EU, he would step down from his position as PM.

If people aged 16 to 17 could vote (like the Scottish Independence referendum), everything may have changed as 75% of young people (aged 18 - 24) voted against the idea of Brexit. In a survey of 128 young people 105 said immediately that they wanted to remain with only 23 saying that they wanted to leave. They believe that this decision impacts their future, and education and career opportunities. A second referendum was not planned, however if it was, people who had changed their minds would be able to make that known and make a decision.

What happened after Brexit?

Northern Ireland have considered re-joining Ireland. This would allow them to remain in the EU. Scotland are seriously considering another independence referendum as the EU was an important argument in the decision to remain as a part of the UK. Nicola Sturgeon has said that her “focus has been on trying to find an agreement with the UK government that would reconcile the UK wide vote to leave with the Scottish vote to remain.” Right after the result was announced, the FTSE 250 (A capitalisation-weighted index that contains the 101st to the 350th largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange) suffered an 11.4% fall. However, it is slowly rising– so some people who supported Brexit have said this is a show of Britain’s independent strength. The Leave party had promised that the money being spent on EU membership would be spent on developing certain areas of our country, especially the NHS (that's another issue). However, after they won, difficulties in pursuing this were revealed.

What will happen now?

The negotiations made by the Prime Minister related to Brexit appeared inadequate to Nicola Sturgeon, representing the Scottish National Party. She plans on holding the vote between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, but will be open to any satisfactory last minute concessions the UK should offer at the time.

The Queen has signed Article 50 (the plan for any country that wants to leave the EU) into law, and that will clear the path for Theresa May to start talking about leaving the European Union. This should take approximately 2 years and we should finally leave the EU in 2019.