“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” This is the question that British voters will be asked to answer on the twenty-third of June when they vote either for or against the policy known as “Brexit.”
Those in favor of leaving argue that the institutions governing the European Union challenge the influence and sovereignty of the U.K. with their ever-expanding bureaucracy and increasingly severe regulations. They are also concerned that if their homeland remains a member state then immigrants from the continent will increase substantially in the coming years, something which supporters of Brexit believe will damage the domestic labour market and pose a threat to national security. Even more troubling to Leave supports is the fact that Britain pays a lot of money to be a member of the E.U., estimates say that ₤180m go to Brussels each year.
On the other side of the argument are those who are against a Brexit and who support Britain remaining a part of the E.U. bloc. For the most part, Remain voters believe that doing so will allow the country to exercise greater influence in European and global affairs, and that they will in fact be safer because of the resources provided by the other members states. They also cite the fact that leaving could have potentially devastating effects on Britain’s economic well-being.
The issue over whether or not Britain should leave the European Union has been around for decades but it only recently came to the forefront of mainstream political discussion during the 2015 general election. Prime Minister David Cameron—who at the time was running for re-election—promised voters that, if elected, he would hold a referendum that would decide the matter. This was done largely to appease certain factions of the Conservative Party as well as members of the far-right party UKIP (U.K. Independence Party). Of course, when he originally made his promise to allow for a referendum Cameron was probably not expecting that Brexit would receive such widespread support from the British populace. In fact, it seems as though a lot of people are shocked that the race between the two sides has been as close as it is.
A poll conducted by Ipsos MORI and released in the Evening Standard on Thursday shows that fifty-three percent of citizens plan to vote “Leave” while forty-seven percent have plan to vote “Remain.” This poll excludes those who say they are not sure what they will do come June 23, thereby adding an extra element of uncertainty to the whole situation.
Despite what the recent polls show, it is almost certain that the British will vote for their country to stay in the European Union for the following 8 reasons:
- Betting Markets – When it comes to predicting future events like elections and referendums, betting markets tend to be a lot more accurate than most polls. As of June 16, the markets say that there is only a forty percent chance of a Brexit occurring—this is up from twenty percent a few weeks ago. Now, in all fairness, this number is not as low as many people would want it to be but it does indicate that the Remain camp will get its way.
- Doubts – Pollsters have reported that a significant portion of voters who say that they will choose Leave in the upcoming elections believe that Brexit will not actually occur. Thus, it may be the case that these individuals are on the fence about the whole issue and will actually vote Remain in the election. They may just be saying that they support Britain leaving the E.U. because it is a popular position at the moment.
- Undecided Voters – Thirteen percent of voters say that they are still undecided. Usually, whenever people are undecided they tend to go for the safest options which, in this case, is to stay. In the few weeks leading up to the referendum the Leave camp has pushed its ideas heavily in newspapers and on social media, thereby making their position more popular amongst the people of Britain. Some speculate that most undecided voters are concerned with what others will think of them and, as a result, they will not reveal the fact that they will vote Remain but that is in fact what they will vote for at the polling station.
- Past Results – Political scientists Stephen Fisher and Alan Renwick have studied previous referendums that have been held in Britain and they have found that seven out of the last ten have voted to keep the status quo. This referendum is not different from those of the past; British voters are not looking to shake things up right now.
- Economics vs. Immigration – Even though the polls show that the race is a close one, when pollsters look at the main issues that concern voters on either side—the economy for those voting Remain, and immigration for those voting Leave—we see that there is a significant bias in favor of Remain voters. In other words, the British as a whole are more worried about the economic well-being of their country than they are about the immigrants that will continue to come in if they stay a member of the European Union.
- Party Leaders – No matter what political party British voters subscribe to, chances are their leaders are not in support of a Brexit. David Cameron, the Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader, is on the same page as the Labor Party and the Liberal Democrats, something which rarely happens in British politics. This means that if people listen to the officials they voted into office, then they will most likely vote Remain.
- Limited Change – Even if a Brexit does occur it is unlikely that Leave voters will actually get what they want. Following the referendum, if the final decision is for Britain to get out of the bloc, it will take at least two years for negotiations to take place and the E.U. will be as strict as possible in order to discourage future exits. Therefore, they will probably demand that if the U.K. wants to continue trading freely with the continent then they will have to continue to allow for European immigration into the island nation. Hopefully, this fact discourages voters from choosing to leave.
- People are Risk Averse – Basic behavioral economics tells us that people are risk averse, and Brexit is a decisions filled with risk and uncertainty. Most people do not want too much excitement in their lives and this is why voters in the U.K. will not support a Brexit next week.
The mere idea that a Brexit could be possible has governmental and financial institutions in somewhat of a panic, imagine what would happen if the referendum was passed in favor of Leave; the world might just go crazy. Is having a bit more legislative freedom worth losing the backing and support of a whole bloc of countries? Is having fewer immigrants worth the risk of a weakened economy? Is having less money go to Brussels each year worth the restrictions on free trade that they will likely implement? The answer is simply no, and this is what the British will decide when it comes time for them to place their votes in the upcoming referendum.
The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/world/europe/britain-european-union-brexit.html
The Electoral Commission: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/elections-and-referendums/upcoming-elections-and-referendums/eu-referendum/eu-referendum-question-assessment
The Economist: http://www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2016/06/brexit-polling
NBC News: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/brexit-referendum/brexit-poll-majority-brits-want-leave-eu-referendum-looms-n593441
The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/16/business/international/the-financial-plan-for-a-brexit-cross-your-fingers.html
4 thoughts on “Brexit and Why It May Never Happen”
Good article Dlaraagu. I agree that the Brits will most likely vote to remain because, as you state, people are afraid of change. But the one area where I may disagree, is in the idea that the EU takes away “a bit” of your legislative freedom.
I think the EU takes away a lot more of your legislative freedom than you realize. If the Brits leave, they can vote out their leaders every couple years if they are unhappy with them (that’s called Democracy)… but if they remain, they cannot vote out the EU leaders, as they are unelected (not very democratic, if you ask me.)
On top of that, if the Brits were to leave, Germany (and other EU countries) will try to punish the Brits, but that doesn’t seem like adult behavior now, does it? Why would the EU punish a country for not wanting to be part of it anymore? Sounds like there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye… and the act of punishing a country for not wanting to remain part of a union that is supposed to be such a great thing… sounds more like a cult that you can never leave.
Crazy, right? Who’d have thought!
You are absolutely right. I based my comments on the assumption that British voters would be more concerned with the economic dangers of a Brexit than the problem of European immigration and EU regulations. This is the risk you run when writing articles that attempt to make predictions about future events.