As 2016 comes to an end, we reflect on a major political shockwaves which rocked the whole word. In this article, we will be reflecting on the subject of “Brexit”; Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. We take a look at the events which sparked the vote, and the dramatic after effects of it.
On the 27 May 2015, in the Queen’s Speech, David Cameron – then Prime Minister of the UK – announced that a referendum on Europe would take place. In February 2016, Cameron announced that the nation-wide vote would occur on the 23rd of June. Vigorous campaigning occurred by both parties – Britain Stronger In Europe & Leave EU – both of which were the subject of various criticisms for their unorthodox actions.
The day soon arrived. During the voting, a series of opinion polls suggested that the ‘Remain’ side had the lead. However, as the night dragged on, it was clear who was marginally ahead. Despite the Government supporting Britain remaining in Europe, the Leave side claimed victory.
Claiming 51.89% of the vote was the UKIP lead Leave EU campaign, which would start a ripple effect. As the announcement came in, Cameron resigned as the Prime Minister. The Pound soon dropped to a 31-year low against the US Dollar, which caused misery for the financial markets. Theresa May, the MP for Maidenhead, succeeded Cameron’s role after her opposition either withdrew, or were eliminated via the voting system.
Complaints soon emerged about the validity of such a vote; was it legally binding in the first place? This caused a petition to gather momentum, who complained over a low turnout – 72.21% – of the UK’s population. The public soon began asking for a Second Referendum on EU membership, as 48.11% wanted to remain inside the EU.. The petition itself had 4,150,258 signatures, and was thus debated by Parliament on the 5th of September.
The Government’s response to this was:
The European Union Referendum Act received Royal Assent in December 2015, receiving overwhelming support from Parliament. The Act did not set a threshold for the result or for minimum turnout.
Thus, this would nullify the prospect of a Second Referendum.
After the momentous vote, the Leave campaign’s bogus pledges became exposed, with Farage – leader of Leave EU – admitting that the prospect of giving NHS the promised £350m a week would be relatively impossible.
Theresa May, since the fallout of Brexit, has tried to start trade deals with numerous other countries. These, however, can only occur when Britain has fully left the EU, which has been confirmed by the government that the formal process of doing this would be launched by March 2017.
On the 3rd of November, a High Court case regarding Brexit hit all forms of media, with the High Court judges ruling that Parliament must vote on whether the UK can start leaving the UK. The government itself cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – which regards a country leaving the EU – by itself. Theresa May, before this ruling, made the statement that MPs did not need to vote. The Government, after the result, announced that it would be appealing.
Various opposition parties admitted their distaste at Theresa May’s comment, with Paul Nuttall – UKIP’s latest leader – declaring that he will force the government to “give us a real Brexit”. The topic of Brexit has also been utilized in the latest by-election in Richmond Park. The seat was left vacant, after Zac Goldsmith quit as an MP over plans for a Heathrow extension. The Conservative stood as an Independent MP, with other major parties fielding candidates; Sarah Olney of the Liberal Democrats, and Christian Wolmar of the Labour Party. In a shock turn of events, Sarah Olney polled 20,510 votes to Zach Goldsmith’s 18,638, and thus claimed the seat in Richmond Park.
She credited Brexit for her victory:
“The people of Richmond Park and North Kingston have sent a shockwave through this Conservative Brexit government, and our message is clear – we do not want a hard Brexit.
We do not want to be pulled out of the single market, and we will not let intolerance, division and fear win.”
Elsewhere, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, of the Scottish National Party, has brought up the prospect of another referendum of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, as 62% percent of Scottish people voted to remain in the EU. Scotland, once independent, could apply for EU membership itself, but can’t if still tied to the UK.
2016 has been a vast year for the UK in politics, but no one can deny that Brexit has been a shock to all. We can only wait an see what the future has in store, but, for the moment, as we reflect on Brexit, we realize how such a momentous vote will define our generation.