What led to Brexit? | Start Here

Let's talk about Brexit.

The UK has been sucked into non-stop political drama ever since Britain voted to leave the European Union back in 2016.

Order! The Prime Minister's talking nonsense.

And now, the Brits are going back to the polls to choose a new government.

One way or another, we must proceed straight to an election.

Now, anything can happen.

But so far, the UK is on course to deliver Brexit in the new year.

But are all those people who voted to leave the EU going to get what they wanted? Why did they choose Brexit anyway? There's a whole bunch of reasons why people voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum.

But there was only one question on the ballot: Should the UK remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? Simple choice, right? Well, not so much.

That's because leaving the EU is actually a highly technical process.

The European Union is a club of 28 countries with common laws about areas like security, foreign policy and human rights.

And it's a trade bloc of rules and regulations that allows the free movement of products and people.

But if you're a politician, talking technicalities is not going to win you votes.

So this is how the two sides argued their case: The "Remain" campaign which was known as "Britain Stronger in Europe" said staying in the EU made economic sense.

Above all, it is about our economy.

It will be weaker if we leave, and that is a huge risk to Britain.

"Vote Leave" campaigned to "Take Back Control" of Britain's sovereignty saying it was being undermined by a bureaucratic beast in Brussels.

European law is supreme.

The European Court of Justice overrules our parliament and our courts.

Ultimately, both campaigns were accused of misleading voters.

Especially Leave.

The most infamous claim was put on the side of the Vote Leave bus which said: we send 350 million pounds a week to the EU let's spend it on the NHS, the National Health Service, instead.

Now, this was highly misleading.

The actual figure was much, much smaller.

But Remain was found to have fudged numbers, too.

Britain would be permanently poorer if we left the European Union.

Poorer by 4, 300 pounds per household.

Yup, that wasn't quite right either.

And again, both campaigns were accused of fear-mongering.

The Leavers even had a label for Remain's message.

I think it's all baloney, it's all "Project Fear".

Ultimately, one of those arguments – specifically "taking back control" resonated far more emotionally with people than the economic arguments of "Project Fear".

"He has lost the biggest fight of his career".

"A political earthquake was happening".

"It is a moment that came as a huge shock to some as the UK woke up".

On the 23rd of June, 2016, 52 percent of voters in the UK chose to leave the EU.

48 percent voted to remain.

And how those votes were split across the country says a lot.

Most people in England and Wales chose to Leave although capital cities London and Cardiff chose to Remain.

The majority of Northern Ireland and Scotland also voted "Remain".

Old people tended to vote towards Leave, again not overwhelmingly and younger people tended to vote Remain.

People with a university degree were more likely to vote for Remain people with fewer qualifications were more likely to vote for Leave.

And so big divisions across the country within even families.

So we know roughly who voted which way but the why is harder to define especially among the Leavers.

There's a lot of evidence to suggest that people were clear on what they were voting for.

The difficulty is what they were voting for varies from person to person.

So everyone had different motives, but there is a common thread here and it's something called "Euroscepticism".

Now Euroscepticism is defined as a political doctrine that advocates disengagement from the European Union.

You'll find it in France, Italy and across the continent.

Here's how it played out in the UK.

After the Second World War, the UK stood back and watched as Europe grew closer during the 1950s.

By the 1960s, the UK wanted to join what was then called the European Economic Community.

But France rejected them.


Finally, in 1973, the UK became a member.

But just two years later, the British government held the very first referendum on whether to remain part of the EEC.

And a majority of voters said "yes".

But ever since then, there's been really quite an uneasy relationship between Britain and the EU.

But here's the thing.

Many people voting Leave weren't just sceptical about the European Union.

It was about a wider dissatisfaction, distrust and disapproval.

They looked at the people in Brussels and they looked at the people in Westminster and they didn't like what they saw.

They saw them as out of touch.

Out of touch with what many British families were feeling for at least a couple of generations.

In the 1980s, manufacturing in the UK collapsed and millions of good paying union jobs were lost.

At the same time, Britain deregulated the banking and finance sector and it soon grew into the biggest industry in the country.

Over the next couple of decades, Britain's economy boomed.

The income gap grew too but people at the bottom were able to lean on the UK's strong welfare system.

"Shock and panic evident on the faces of those on the trading floor".

Then, in 2008, the global financial crisis hit and the government brought in austerity measures.

There were fewer jobs, and cuts to social benefits.

And for many working class people, life got harder.

Which brings us to another factor in the Leave vote: immigration.

In the early 2000s, there were various new states that joined the EU and then obtained free movement rights.

So, there were a lot of people from countries like Poland, for example who came to the UK and that had quite a substantial change obviously some people think for the better, some people think for the worse to the UK labour market.

Enter the European refugee crisis in the summer of 2015.

Millions of people – mostly Syrians – arrived in Greece and Italy to seek asylum.

Germany led the way in letting them in, and other countries including the UK, welcomed some refugees.

But there was plenty of fear, too.

Leave voters particularly felt that immigration was a key issue and that they did feel it was having a negative impact on this country.

Not just in economic terms but in social terms, political terms, cultural terms.

We would hear in focus groups, for instance, that some Leave voters would say it doesn't feel like a Christian country in Britain any more.

So all of those frustrations about immigration plus social and economic changes, and Euroscepticism set the stage for Brexit.

But what triggered the actual referendum? That was politics.

In 2013, a general election was coming up.

The UK's Prime Minister David Cameron worried about losing votes to the increasingly popular and Eurosceptic UK Independence Party.

So Cameron promised the British people that if his Conservative Party won he would hold a referendum on EU membership.

David Cameron never thought that he would actually have to give that referendum.

And I don't think he thought he'd win an outright majority at the next general election.

But he did.

So, he had to keep his pledge.

Cameron then campaigned to stay in the EU and thought he would win again.

And it's often said that any leader will not call a referendum unless they think they can win.

And David Cameron certainly thought that he could.

Another political gamble gone bad for David Cameron.

And in the end, that referendum became a lightning rod for decades of built-up discontent about all sorts of things.

In some ways, Brexit was an accident waiting to happen.


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