I’m going to take up a bit of a contentious topic today, and talk about why I think the EU referendum result should be reversible. I have managed to largely stay away from talking about the issue on here. I haven’t made any sort of political blog post since June when the result was announced. However, after a really interesting lecture yesterday, I’m feeling a bit inspired.
I may be regarded as a “remoaner” by some, however, I genuinely do believe that it is in the true interests of the British people to remain within the European Union. How did I come to that conclusion after 52% of us voted to leave? Simple. While sat in my lecture yesterday we discussed the Scottish and British Social Attitudes survey’s, and my lecturer made a really prominent point regarding the Scottish referendum, which was that even though vast numbers of people would say that they supported independence, they typically don’t want the consequences. And there is nothing to say that the same wouldn’t apply to the EU. Granted it’s probably too soon to have published a fully comprehensive survey of the UK’s attitudes post-brexit. But if we look at some of the public’s views prior to the referendum, it should give us a good indication of their expectations.
Most importantly, most of us were not sure what would happen if the UK voted to leave Europe. This is due to the clear lack of plan or direction from the leave side, and the government overall. No one had expected this outcome, and they didn’t have any sort of procedure in line if Brexit were to go ahead. Despite that, the public did have expectations about what would happen to the economy, and immigration – the two arguments that I believe ultimately fueled the campaign. Altogether, 57% of those asked thought that if the UK were to leave the EU, immigration would drop (British Social Attitudes Survey). At the moment it is difficult to dispute this claim, as we are yet to leave the EU. As we already know there is a variety of possibilities regarding Britain’s future. One is that we leave the EU completely and thus are able to regain full control of our borders, or alternatively, our membership may be replaced with an agreement similar to Norway or Switzerland which implements free movement in exchange for access to the single market. Interestingly however, “If the UK had the same net EU immigration rate as Switzerland, it would mean nearly 400,000 more EU migrants a year.” (Openeu.org.uk, 2014) Would the UK be willing to give up access to the single market in order to reduce immigration? I can’t say with certainty that it would. What we do know however is that that immigration will be a priority on the governments Brexit agenda.
Furthermore, there is a large degree of uncertainty regarding the economy. In 2015 55% thought that the UK’s economy would be either no different, or better off. (British Social Attitudes Survey) At the time of writing, it has been announced that in the months following Brexit the UK economy has actually grown 0.5%. However, as we remain in a period of uncertainty concerning Britain’s next step, we may not see this growth continue. Our news is lingered with stories of companies preparing to leave on a daily basis. Whether it is the banks, or car makers it is a threat that the UK currently face. If these companies to chose to relocate, this is when we would see real economic threats. It is clear that the UK would not want to put it’s businesses at risk, London is home to a large number of international business Head Offices, it would be detrimental to the UK economy if we lost them. London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has recently warned of a hard brexit costing millions of British citizens their jobs, this would devastate our economy, just as losing access to the single market would devastate many businesses.
Back in 2014, the British Social Attitudes survey showed that 41% of people wanted to stay in the EU, while reducing their powers, compared to just 17% who wanted to leave. Clearly the mood had changed by 2016, as the leave campaign used hate tactics and promised to rid the UK of foreign workers (… essentially). Leave voters rightfully defend this vote, and claim they knew exactly what they were voting for, which simply isn’t the case. Not even to this day 4 months after the referendum do we know exactly what Brexit will entail. We don’t even have minuscule details. A vote for Brexit was flexed into a vote against migration, and if that is what the British people want, then so be it. However, it is important to recall the other factors that will effect us upon leaving the EU, and for that reason I do believe that the referendum result should be reversible. Britain voted with its eyes shut, with no clear guidelines of what Brexit would be. Once that becomes clear the British public should be allowed, once again, to decide whether that is a process that they are willing to endure and face the consequences of.