In 2013, United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union (EU), hoping to calm internal divisions in his Conservative Party (NYT). Following Cameron’s re-election in the 2015 parliamentary elections, he successfully pushed for legislation that called for a referendum on EU membership to occur before the year 2017 (BBC). Advocates of a so-called “Brexit” (a portmanteau of “Britain” and “exit”) argued that leaving the EU would allow the UK greater authority over immigration policy and would end the EU’s “burdensome” regulations (Vox). Opponents, meanwhile, argued that European political power was stronger when unified with the EU and that the UK’s geopolitical position would weaken with a Brexit (Chicago Tribune).
Days before the election, political analysts called the referendum “too close to call,” citing opinion polls suggesting that either camp—Leave or Remain—could realistically win (Fortune). Ultimately, on Thursday, following a very close election, 52% of Britons voted to leave the EU. The political impact of an imminent departure from the EU is already being felt. Today, Prime Minister Cameron announced his resignation, the Scottish government called for another independence referendum and Euroskeptic political parties throughout Europe are seeking for additional secession referenda (Guardian). Economically, global stock markets dropped following the announcement of the vote, and the value of the British currency declined to a three-decade low (CNN).
Despite the far-reaching impact, observers have noted that the referendum was non-binding, and there are no actual results until it is officially ratified by the British Parliament. Regardless, Cameron—in his final months in office—will likely begin the process for the UK’s formal departure from the EU. Under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, any EU member state seeking to terminate its membership must launch into irreversible negotiations with the EU government, which the UK is expected to do soon (CNBC).
Tags: Yeargain, EU, UK, Brexit, England