Voters in the
United Kingdom elected in a
referendum Thursday to leave the European Union. There will now be two years of negotiations
between the British and the E.U. on separation.
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his resignation by October, in order to allow someone else to lead those negotiations. As I explained in my last post, he had negotiated concessions from the E.U. if the
U.K. had remained in the union, as
the referendum on E.U. membership was the fulfillment of his campaign promise,
but he had urged the British to remain in the union. He had raised the possibility of further
concessions if the U.K.
remained, but the E.U., fearful of losing more power or members, made it clear
none would be granted. There will be
parliamentary elections, which will lead to a replacement of Cameron.
There was a high turnout in the referendum.
England and Wales
voted to leave the E.U., while Northern Ireland
voted to remain. The strong opposition
by Scots to leaving may lead to another referendum on independence, as part of
the reason they had rejected independence in 2014 was that Scotland would
have been left out of the E.U. The E.U.
would now more likely accept a membership bid by an independent Scotland to
join the union. There will also likely
be increased pressure for Northern Ireland
to separate from the U.K. and
unite with the , which is in the
The leadership of all the main political parties favored remaining in the E.U., but there were splits in the two main parties. Many English working class voters in Labour (the main liberal party) strongholds voted to leave, while most Conservative Members of Parliament favored leaving and many Tories voted to leave the E.U. The United Kingdom Independence Party fulfilled its purpose of a British exit from the E.U.
The campaign to leave succeeded in overcoming “Project Fear,” the name given for the scare tactics by the pro-remain side I referred to in my last post that predicted doom and gloom if the
leaves the E.U. Although there were many
xenophobic nationalists who favored leaving, the pro-remain side erred in
dismissing the concerns of principled critics of the E.U. as bigoted or
intolerant or anti-European. As I noted
in my last post, these critics were concerned about the significant loss of
sovereignty to a growing, unelected E.U. bureaucracy that does not necessarily
share British values and that promulgates ever more regulations to which the
European Parliament is unwilling or unable to object, the loss of British
representation on international bodies and the cost of E.U. membership that
outweighed the benefits of free trade and passport-free travel throughout the
union. Immigration was thus a major concern,
because of the free movement of people permitted by the E.U., especially after Germany allowed in a million refugees and
migrants from Muslim States, which then allowed them to spread to the other
Members of the E.U., including the U.K.
Instead, the British felt confident they could make their own decisions in their best interests and prosper even more outside of the E.U. The
U.K. will now seek a new relationship with the
E.U., which needs to trade with the British, and establish new trade agreements
with others, especially the U.S.,
Canada, Australia and New Zealand. With a new American President, the British
could negotiate a free trade agreement with the U.S. The likelihood of a new E.U. free trade
agreement with the United
States, however, is now diminished.
There have since been increased calls by politicians in several European States for referenda to leave the E.U. The E.U. may have to reform or grant more concessions to its members to avoid a complete breakup.
I congratulate the British for asserting their independence to exercise their sovereignty through representative government. I wish them success in their separation negotiations with the European Union and look forward to their new relationship with the
U.S. I urge the E.U. to reform and other Europeans
peacefully to regain their sovereignty.