Brexit - A Year Later.

Author:Abboushi, Suhail


On June 23, 2016, voters in the UK voted on the European Union Membership referendum, known as Brexit, to determine whether to "Remain" or "Leave" the EU. About 52% voted to Leave and 48% to Remain. Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, resigned and was succeeded by Theresa May who called for a general election in June 2017. The idea of Brexit is not new in Britain and had been debated since 2010, when leaders of one party or the other began advocating an "in/out" referendum to determine whether to stay in the EU. In 2015, when the Conservative Party won elections, Cameron reiterated commitment to the referendum, but only after completing negotiation with the EU to obtain new and favorable terms (Strong Leadership, 2015). Careful reading of the Conservative Party's Manifesto reveals that the party wanted strong changes to Eurozone policies, stronger UK sovereignty, abandoning the EU principle of "ever closer union" (Ross, 2014), stronger national parliaments, and significant changes to EU migration policies, especially rules pertaining to immigrant deportation, entry ban, wages and benefits, work permits, public housing, language requirements, and visas, among others. Furthermore, the government demanded that when new countries join the EU, their citizens would not be granted entry to UK until their respective countries had prospered and converged closely with the other EU member states (Strong Leadership, 2015). The promised negotiation concluded in February 2016, but the outcome primarily preserved the fundamental EU-UK relationship, affirmed the UK's exemption from participating in the "ever closer union," and offered modest migration modifications. Inability to obtain substantial change to migration was cited by Cameron as a reason for the outcome of the Brexit referendum (Parker, 2016).

UK's Referendum Act of 2015, which called for Brexit referendum in 2016, was designed primarily to gauge the sentiment of the public. The Act did not require the government to implement the outcome of the referendum. That was affirmed by the High Court of Justice following, the 2016 Brexit referendum, by stating that referendum results were not legally binding, due to the constitutional principle of parliamentary sovereignty and representative democracy and due to the fact that the referendum legislation did not address implementation (High Court of Justice, 2016, paragraph 106). In other words, the British government was not legally bound to proceed with Brexit implementation, but chose to do so.


Preparation for the Referendum was organized into two campaigns: the Leave campaign endorsing a vote to leave and the Remain campaign endorsing a vote to remain. In summary, the Leave campaign argued that the EU is undemocratic, membership reduces national sovereignty, leaving the EU allows the UK to control immigration and reduce pressure on public services, potentially saves billions of pounds in EU membership fees, allows the UK to make its own trade deals, and frees the UK from European judiciary. The Remain campaign argued that multilateral coalitions are part of modern-day globalization that has produced many benefits, leaving the EU may jeopardize the UK's prosperity, diminish its international influence, jeopardize national security, erode trade privileges, erect trade and investment barriers, and cause a possible economic slump impacting employment and investment and possibly UK isolation and diminished world-wide status (EU Vote, 2016).

UK political parties had varying positions. Within Great Britain and Northern Ireland, some parties leaned toward Remain and others leaned toward Leave, as listed in Table 1. The Conservative Party had mixed positions with some supporting Remain and others supporting Leave. In Gibraltar, the people and the parties faced a challenging dilemma due to the UK-Spain dispute over sovereignty of Gibraltar and the possibility that leaving the EU would place hardship on the island's trade with Spain. All parties in Gibraltar supported Remain.

While the official position of the UK government was to support Remain, the Prime Minister announced that cabinet ministers and MPs were free to campaign either way. 24 cabinet ministers voted Remain and 6 voted Leave, even though the intracabinet resignation by Iain Duncan Smith and appointment of Stephen Crabb brought the total number of pro-remain Cabinet members to 25. As for Members of Parliament, as data in Table 2 shows, 75% voted Remain and 25% Leave.

Apart from politicians, and in the business world of Britain, representatives of major business corporations weighed in on the debate and most were concerned about the impact Brexit would have on future operations. A survey of UK businesses showed strong preference for Remain, though medium and small companies were more evenly...

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