Post-Referendum Reaction – The UK Votes to Leave

Dr Iyiola Solanke

I find it hard to find anything positive to say. For me, the reason for the referendum was absurd – it is already clear that it came into being because of an internal division between members of the Conservative Party. Also, the level of the debate is embarrassing – over the last few weeks I have often wondered if I am in a national playground rather than engaged in a discussion on the future of the United Kingdom.

We voted to leave. Brexit can be seen as the consequence of decades of our leaders first, ignoring the desires of the British public and second, the deliberate miseducation of the British public.

The British public have been treated like children by political leaders for decades. The popular voice has recently been raised and ignored on a range of issues from the decision to go to war in Iraq to fees for university education. This is the backdrop to the rejection of expertise across the political spectrum – why listen to ‘them’ if they do not listen to us? The referendum is a chance to force leaders of all political stripes to listen and the chance to make a difference – even if it is a difference that will be to long term disadvantage. The temptation to do the opposite of what the ‘experts’ who called the referendum want is understandably seductive. Citizens can finally ‘take control’ not only from Brussels but also from Westminster – even if so doing will be, as the saying goes, cutting off your own nose to spite your face.

Then there is the shameful failure to educate the public on the vagaries (and yes, there are many) of the EU. This task has been left to daily newspapers yet none have taken it seriously. Worse still, one newspaper (that shall remain nameless) has done its best to mislead by regularly confusing the European Union with the Council of Europe, and the Court of Justice in Luxembourg with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.  Thus the referendum debate has sown as much confusion as clarification on the EU, making voters giddy with (dis-) information overload and inducing a decision to leave simply to be rid of the source of the headache, even if it is also the source of valuable public goods from reduced mobile roaming rates to essential protections at work.

So I for one am not surprised to wake up on June 24th to discover a majority voted to leave the EU. Those who voted to do so might be surprised, however, at some of the things that will remain the same. I list five below:

  1. The UK will still be obliged to respect the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and comply with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, as the Convention and the Court belong to the Council of Europe, an international organisation created in 1941 which pre-dates the EEC/ EU and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg.
  2. Migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees from former colonised and war-torn countries will still seek to re-locate to the UK by lawful or unlawful means. If France no longer feels obliged to co-operate with UK border controls as it has been doing, more desperate people may drown in the Channel. The level of immigration may therefore drop slightly and the number of deaths may increase significantly.
  3. British citizens and businesses will still experience the disappearance of jobs in the face of globalisation and the technological revolution. The more we bank, buy goods and holidays online, send electronic cards, use our Kindles and iPads, the faster the demise of our high streets and rural economies. Those who thus far have been unable to reap the benefits of membership of EU, one of the richest polities in the world, will continue to find it hard to do so after June 23rd.
  4. Home students will continue to pay high fees to study at UK Universities as these are set in Westminster not Brussels. International students enrolled to study in the UK will also still stay pay higher fees than home students for the same reason. International students may even face a fee increase if students stop coming from the EU and institutions seek to recoup the income lost by this.
  5. The British summer will still bring more rain than sun.

The world needs to note that 48% of the UK voted to remain so this is by no means a landslide victory for Brexit. David Cameron has resigned and will leave by the end of September. BMEs in the UK will now have to make sure our voice is heard in the re-negotiations. If I were a Brexiter, I would be planning how to explain that my vote brought the UK to political disintegration and international marginalisation.

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