Why did the Brexit Vote Happen?
What caused voters to leave even though it was warned to be economically disadvantageous?
The Brexit vote which occured in March of 2016 shocked all of Europe as it was the first time a nation had decided to leave the European Union. The decision of Great Britain to exit the European Union has had widespread impacts throughout Europe. The vote of The U.K. to leave the European Union in 2016 was largely a response of many citizens to the policy of the EU of free travel through Europe as some citizens of the United Kingdom were displeased with the amount of immigration and the lack of a strong national identity. However, the British citizens were warned of the economic implications and many other downfalls that would come from leaving the EU, yet the vote passed nonetheless.
The economic implications include the idea that Great Britain will lose economic profits through means of trade with other nations. Due to Brexit the United Kingdom will no longer be a part of the EU free trade agreement and therefore will lose a good deal of trade revenue due to the increased tariffs, and this will will also discourage trade between European nations and the United Kingdom. A specific group that will be harmed by these increased trade regulations and tariffs will be the farmers of Britain. The possible trade tariffs will make it more difficult for these farmers to gain profits on their products and will decrease output due to increased prices of goods necessary to production as well (The process for withdrawing from the European Union). Although Brexit has not yet gone into place it was warned by many that GDP would suffer. According to Oxford Economics it is estimated that by 2030 Brexit will cause about a 4% loss of total GDP.(Assessing the economic implications of Brexit) This was not believed by a majority of voters in favor of Brexit as a strikingly small percent of voters ( just 4%) in favor of Brexit believed there would be major economic ramifications. (Hobolt,The Brexit vote: a divided nation, a divided continent, Journal of European Public Policy). As well, as the United Kingdom has been a part of the European Union for such a long period of time it will take a great deal of time and money to make a deal to leave the European Union and to change British laws to better suit the British people. This last aspect is however, a partly double edged sword though as these laws of the European Union enforced upon Great Britain is a factor that drove citizens to leave the Union, yet it will cause an economic disadvantage to the people.
One of the most cited reasons for leaving the European Union among citizens of the United Kingdom was the increased immigration and free travel that is customary under the EU. Many British voters felt as though their jobs were being taken by non british citizens of the European Union. Much like in the United States, a majority of voters believed that the increasing migrant workers were not of British nationality and therefore should not have priority over British jobs. However, immigration in the United Kingdom has actually boosted the British economy as it increases the labor force and in turn increasing spending, which boosts GDP. (Impact of Immigration on UK Economy). However, evidently not all citizens saw immigration as beneficial but rather, as stated before, saw it as immigrants taking the jobs of British Citizens, and therefore creating a structure in which it is perceived that the interests of many poor British citizens were being disregarded. Another factor behind British wants for immigration regulation and a move away from free movement is the idea that immigration regulation prevents the risk of terrorist attacks in England.
With that in mind it points to the idea that Brexit was not a rational response by voters but rather a response to the depleting nationalism caused by the EU and the feeling that because of the EU, Britain had become weaker and citizens had less say in British politics. This vote was a way for the British citizens to once again control their own government through democracy rather than being run by a council of politicians. This largely boiled down to an issue of power and many voters felt that by leaving the European Union they would be gaining a certain amount of political power. This ties into idea that sovereignty of the nation was being lost due to the European Union as the nations in the Union were expected to follow laws set forth by the EU.
Many British citizens, especially those that are less educated and poor, felt that the EU was not protecting interests of the British and they believed the representation they received in the European Union was not suitable to make policy changes in favor of the citizens of England. This is evident as the slogan for the campaign to leave the European Union was “take back control”. (Woron, For Realists, Brexit Was No Surprise) This slogan seems to relate to most arguments made for leaving the European Union as the British people wanted to have better representation and have their grievances acted upon, such as the issue of immigration in Britain. On top of this British voters felt a stronger identity as British citizens rather than European citizens and many therefore felt as though they were being stifled in such a large political organization such as the European Union. As well, the European Union is so large and represents so many different cultures and nationalities that it cannot please all of European citizens. This also influenced British voters in that they felt as though the British culture was beginning to be overshadowed by a larger European identity as each nation only represented a certain portion of the EU governing body.
Although it may not have been seen by many throughout Europe and around the world as a beneficial action, Brexit will occur following the vote held in 2016. This was seemingly not an economically beneficial action but many citizens still believed that leaving the European Union was in the best interests of the people of the United Kingdom. These were largely in reaction to the want for more individual political power and the perceived threat of immigration.