Friday, June 24, 2016

The UK's EU referendum from the BBC

What has happened?

A referendum - a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part - was held on Thursday 23 June, to decide whether the UK should "Leave" or "Remain" in the European Union. 

"Leave" won by 52% to 48%. 

The referendum turnout was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting. It was the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election. 

What was the breakdown across the UK?

England voted strongly for Brexit, by 53.4% to 46.6%, as did Wales, with "Leave" getting 52.5% of the vote and "Remain" 47.5%. 

Scotland and Northern Ireland both backed staying in the EU. Scotland backed "Remain" by 62% to 38%, while 55.8% in Northern Ireland voted "Remain" and 44.2% "Leave".

What is the European Union?

The European Union - often known as the EU - is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries (click here if you want to see the full list). It began after World War II to foster economic co-operation, with the idea that countries which trade together are more likely to avoid going to war with each other. 

It has since grown to become a "single market" allowing goods and people to move around, basically as if the member states were one country. 

It has its own currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries, its own parliament and it now sets rules in a wide range of areas - including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and even things such as mobile phone charges. Click here for a beginners' guide to how the EU works.

What does Brexit mean?

It is a word that has become used as a shorthand way of saying the UK leaving the EU - merging the words Britain and exit to get Brexit, in a same way as a Greek exit from the EU was dubbed Grexit in the past.

What happens now?

For the UK to leave the EU it has to invoke an agreement called Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Cameron or his successor needs to decide when to invoke this - that will then set in motion the formal legal process of withdrawing from the EU, and give the UK two years to negotiate its withdrawal.

The article has only been in force since late 2009 and it hasn't been tested yet, so no-one really knows how the Brexit process will work, according to BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman.

Mr Cameron, who has said he would be stepping down as PM by October, said he will go to the European Council next week to "explain the decision the British people have taken".

EU law still stands in the UK until it ceases being a member - and that process could take some time. 

The UK will continue to abide by EU treaties and laws, but not take part in any decision-making, as it negotiates a withdrawal agreement and the terms of its relationship with the now 27 nation bloc…

Some say we could still remain in the single market - but what is a single market? 

The single market is seen by its advocates as the EU's biggest achievement and one of the main reasons it was set up in the first place. 

Britain was a member of a free trade area in Europe before it joined what was then known as the common market. In a free trade area countries can trade with each other without paying tariffs - but it is not a single market because the member states do not have to merge their economies together.

The European Union single market, which was completed in 1992, allows the free movement of goods, services, money and people within the European Union, as if it was a single country. 

It is possible to set up a business or take a job anywhere within it. The idea was to boost trade, create jobs and lower prices. But it requires common law-making to ensure products are made to the same technical standards and imposes other rules to ensure a "level playing field". 

Critics say it generates too many petty regulations and robs members of control over their own affairs. Mass migration from poorer to richer countries has also raised questions about the free movement rule. Read more: A free trade area v EU single market

Has any other member state ever left the EU?

No nation state has ever left the EU. But Greenland, one of Denmark's overseas territories, held a referendum in 1982, after gaining a greater degree of self government, and voted by 52% to 48% to leave, which it duly did after a period of negotiation. The BBC's Carolyn Quinn visited Greenland at the end of last year to find out how they did it...

How will pensions, savings, investments and mortgages be affected?

During the referendum campaign, the prime minister said the so-called "triple lock" for state pensions would be threatened by a UK exit. This is the agreement by which pensions increase by at least the level of earnings, inflation or 2.5% every year - whichever is the highest.

If economic performance deteriorates, the Bank of England could decide on a further program of quantitative easing, as an alternative to cutting interest rates, which would lower bond yields and with them annuity rates. So anyone taking out a pension annuity could get less income for their money.

The Bank of England may consider raising interest rates to combat extra pressure on inflation. That would make mortgages and loans more expensive to repay but would be good news for savers. 

The Treasury previously forecast a rise of between 0.7% and 1.1% in mortgage borrowing costs, with the prime minister claiming the average cost of a mortgage could increase by up to £1,000 a year.

The Treasury argued during the referendum campaign that UK shares would become less attractive to foreign investors in the event of Brexit and would therefore decline in value, but in the longer term shares typically rise with company profits. Big exporters might benefit from the weaker pound, so the value of their shares might well rise, while importers might see profits squeezed.

Who wanted the UK to leave the EU?

The UK Independence Party, which won the last European elections, and received nearly four million votes - 13% of those cast - in May's general election, campaigned for Britain's exit from the EU. 

About half of Conservative MPs, including five cabinet ministers, several Labour MPs and the DUP were also in favour of leaving. 

What were their reasons for wanting the UK to leave?

They said Britain was being held back by the EU, which they said imposed too many rules on business and charged billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They also wanted Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here to live and/or work. 

One of the main principles of EU membership is "free movement", which means you don't need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. The Leave campaign also objected to the idea of "ever closer union" and what they see as moves towards the creation of a "United States of Europe". 

Who wanted the UK to stay in the EU?

Prime Minister David Cameron wanted Britain to stay in the EU. He sought an agreement with other European Union leaders to change the terms of Britain's membership…

What were their reasons for wanting the UK to stay?

Those campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU said it gets a big boost from membership - it makes selling things to other EU countries easier and, they argued, the flow of immigrants, most of whom are young and keen to work, fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services. 

They also said Britain's status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that we are more secure as part of the 28 nation club, rather than going it alone…

For the entire article, click here.


  1. Did Neoliberalism Bring on the Brexit?

    “…Leftist commentators on both sides of the pond are pointing out the rejection of neoliberalism and globalization within the UK's ‘Leave’ vote—while lamenting the racism and nationalism that has prevailed over progressive arguments for workers' rights and against austerity.

    “‘This worldwide turn toward fear of the Other is globalization's shadow self.’
    —Richard Eskow, Campaign for America's Future As Richard Eskow of Campaign for America's Future writes:

    “Make no mistake: The ‘Leave’ vote was a rejection of globalization, at least as it's currently structured. This was a revolt of working class Britons who have seen their postwar prosperity erode around them and their social contract eviscerated by the corporate and financial oligarchy.

    “But it was also the sign of a darker and more sinister worldwide phenomenon: the resurgence of global nativism and xenophobia. This worldwide turn toward fear of the Other is globalization’s shadow self.

    “‘We deeply regret that the working people of Britain have been deceived and manipulated into believing that Brexit will bring about relief from the grinding austerity that is destroying lives and communities,’ writes UK-based Left Unity. ‘We will now work tirelessly to oppose those who would divide us further.’

    “‘We will fight to rebuild the British left on uncompromisingly anti-racist, pro-immigration terms, making no concessions to the false narrative that has dominated the referendum debate,’ Left Unity declares” (Pandemonium and Upheaval as World Responds to UK’s Brexit).

  2. From Sharon Sanders:

    BREXIT is a pro-fascist, anti-immigrant, anti-austerity statement. The anti-austerity would be great, but those calling the shots are the right-wingers in Europe. Hold on tight to any investments you have... The stock market is no longer determined by earnings, but whether interest rates go up from zero to a quarter percent for the banks. Austerity means nothing for you, everything for the top one percent and control of the globe by banks and multinationals.

    Any disruption could mean world turmoil and 2008 all over again, but it also gives the rich and hedge fund managers the right to buy everything on this planet for pennies on the dollar and to short the market, although they were caught off guard by the vote. Perhaps the only good thing is that it may mean an end to the TPP.

    The bad things are that fascists all over the world will keep rising with their hatred for others.

    So everything is in disarray because there is no logic, and we're sitting on a house of cards and no markets with real profits. Corporations refuse to pay taxes, but they want secret tribunals to force countries to pay penalties if they get in the way of their profits.

    People don't matter. Great Britain may call for another referendum--in other words, you don't like the results, vote on it again.

    So I'm not sure whom to be more scared of: the growing fascism, nationalism here and in Europe, or the multinationals and banks that feel they have a right to keep everything for themselves at the top. I know that we, the people, don't matter.

    From Joni Lindgren:

    I would like to think that it means the end of the TPP because that trade deal will give even more power to the corporations and Wall Street, like we haven’t seen enough of yet! The TPP will be the nail in the coffin for workers.

    This whole issue of austerity isn’t just about the Brits because many countries in Europe have had their problems with no jobs and low wages, and that was true even before the immigrants came into Europe to escape ruthless ISIS.

    The first account as to why people voted to get out of the EU was against corporations and their stranglehold of wages and control over worker’s rights because, like here, the Brits haven’t had wage increases either. And the other reason was immigration to limit the amount of immigrants taking away their jobs.

    It was the older workers and citizens who voted against the EU; young workers and citizens wanted to stay in.

    I wish I had a crystal ball to see where this all ends because if people weren’t panicking before, they sure will now. There is no trust in politicians, no trust in trade deals, no trust in our governments that have been taking care of corporations over people, little trust in the banking industry, and no trust in corporations and the wealthy who are getting away with paying off our politicians! What a sad state of affairs. Where does it end?

    Maybe this is all about open borders for immigrants and new technology advances vs. closed borders and those who want things the way they used to be, which won't happen. Maybe we’re undergoing that NEW WORLD ORDER we’ve heard about?

    Before the market crash of 1929, intellectual writers wrote about how corporations had too much influence and are getting more than their share of wealth and how, at the same time, people went around the country talking about what was happening to them; then the crash happened, and the writers and other mobile speakers talked to the people and explained what happened. That was a time when unions fought for workers and the economy grew! That’s how we got out of the crash of 1929, but what is happening today is a whole different animal. There are more forces working against workers and citizens.

  3. "...Now that the U.K. electorate has chosen (narrowly) to hock a big old loogie at everyone from international bankers to the 'scary brown people' who the electorate apparently believes are at last preparing to launch Operation Sea Lion, I guess we should have something to say about it.

    "As to my first concern, insofar as this is a demonstration of panicky xenophobia, the Triumph of the Leave is an altogether deplorable political development. Some of the Oldest and Whitest people on the planet leapt at a chance to vote against the monsters in their heads. They may have tanked their economy in the process.

    "It was quite amusing to follow along on the electric Twitter machine as members of The Political Revolution on this side of the pond rejoiced at the result as some kind of ensemble rejection of the globalized financial system that indeed nearly did blow up the world.

    "Without the accelerant of pure racism–the existence of which among the British comes as no surprise to those of who descend from involuntary members of their old Empire–this thing never gets off the ground" -Charlie B. Pierce (Esquire).