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The EU Referendum and Brexit: Why did it happen?

I have to start this post with a disclaimer: I do not possess any formal qualifications in politics, current affairs, journalism or the like. Despite attending the University of St Andrews, I didn't graduate in International Relations like so many of my peers. I am simply someone who, like so many others, is finding it increasingly difficult to understand the state of the world, and wanted a place to assimilate information on current affairs which is 1) concise and 2) not total political BS (as far as possible).

So let's start with something topical: the European Union (EU) Referendum. I don't know about you, but I kind of feel like the vote was just thrown at us all of a sudden without a lot of information or apparent reasoning. After doing some reading, this is what I have come up with:

Now, this one's interesting. I've googled 'Why did the EU referendum come about?', read the BBC's 'EU Referendum: All You Need To Know' and visited the government's official EU Referendum questions and answers page, and found nothing. They address 'What has happened' but shy away from explaining why the fuck we actually voted for this.

Luckily, a couple of people at the Financial Times thought it might be helpful for people to know (link here). Essentially it's this:

.In 2006, David Cameron promised he would call a referendum on the EU if the Conservatives came into power. Historically, some members of the Conservatives (as well as members of the UK Independence Party, UKIP) have been in favour of leaving the EU as they believe Britain is a strong nation which essentially should be left to rule itself. That is obviously very simplified, but if you want to read a little more I found this to be a helpful summary of the main political parties and their views.

.In 2010, Cameron became Prime Minister under a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition (joint leadership), but in essence had the real power while the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, had very little. Once in power, Cameron came under pressure from members of his own party who wanted to leave the EU, as well as UKIP opposition (who had done surprisingly well in the general election, gaining 3.1% of the vote which ranked them fourth behind the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems).

.In 2013, Cameron gave in to pressure and announced that if the Conservatives are re-elected in the 2015 general election, he will call the referendum. He didn't expect that they would be. In fact, pretty much nobody expected that they would receive an outright majority - but they did.

SO, this explains why the referendum was called, and why subsequently the government wanted us to remain in the EU: they realised that they had ballsed up and that the UK could very well be fucked by strong European trading partners such as Germany. In fact, post-referendum result, Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany since 2005) has come out and said:

“We will make sure that negotiations will not be carried out as a cherry-picking exercise. There must be and there will be a palpable difference between those countries who want to be members of the European family and those who don’t” 

Not great news for Britain. But now, it's unclear whether the UK will trigger Article 50 (the formal proceeding for beginning negotiations regarding leaving the European Union) which leads us nicely to the next question:

Cameron, very quickly after the result was announced, declared his resignation. Though a surprise to many, this was actually a very clever thing to have done. It delayed the process of triggering Article 50, and has resulted in the creation of a doomed post: whoever becomes PM next (and lucky us, it seems like we have a great selection of people who might take it up but can't vote on who we want - though that's another post entirely) will forever be known as the person that took the UK out of the EU. And remember, while 52% of people voted to leave, 48% of people didn't (of the 71.8% who voted). This means that if they do trigger Article 50, they face potential backlash from millions of people. If they don't, there's backlash from millions of others. In one fell swoop, Cameron has turned this into a Catch-22 situation.

Boris Johnson, ex Mayor of London and previous PM wannabe, recognised this and decided not to run. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, has also decided to resign - he says it's because he couldn't possibly achieve more than the results of this vote and that he wants his life back, but who really knows?

So this brings us, in simple terms, up to speed on the current situation. Whether you voted in or out, that's not what this post was about. Firstly, congratulations on giving enough of a shit to actually vote one way or the other. Secondly, thank you for taking the time to read this and attempt to understand what is going on. At the end of the day, we, as young people, are the ones who will be coming through and living with the consequences of this vote (though arguably not in isolation).

I said it at the beginning and I will say it again - I am no expert in politics. But I think it's important to open a dialogue about what is going on around us - things that affect us, our peers or even our international counterparts. It's highly unlikely to be taught in schools which means at the end of the day the onus is on you and I to work out what is going on and talk about it, give opinions, and stay engaged in a world that is so often making us numb to reality. The reality of this situation is quite clear: we're a nation divided. Those who voted out are discontent with how things have been and those who voted in may well become it. For me, this extends further than Brexit. People are disillusioned, and it's not being addressed.

And on that cheery note, that's enough about politics - now go out and enjoy the rest of your day :)


This post first appeared on Amend The Agenda, please read the originial post: here

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The EU Referendum and Brexit: Why did it happen?


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