EU Referendum

Flag of the European UnionThe United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, known within the United Kingdom as the EU referendum and the Brexit referendum, was a non-binding referendum that took place on Thursday 23 June 2016 in the UK and Gibraltar to gauge support for the country’s continued membership in the European Union. The referendum resulted in an overall vote to leave the EU, by 51.9%.
The vote was split between the constituent countries of the United Kingdom, with a majority in England and Wales voting to leave, and a majority in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as Gibraltar, voting to remain. In order to start the process to leave the EU, which is expected to take several years, the British government will have to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, but it has not yet done so.

Membership of the EU and its predecessors had been a topic of debate in the United Kingdom before the country joined the European Economic Community (EEC, or “Common Market”) in 1973, and subsequently. In accordance with a Conservative Party manifesto commitment, the legal basis for a referendum was established by the UK Parliament through the European Union Referendum Act 2015. The British previously voted on EU membership in 1975, when it was approved by 67% of voters.

Those who favoured a British withdrawal from the European Union – commonly referred to as a Brexit (a portmanteau of “British” and “exit”) – argued that the EU had a democratic deficit and that being a member undermined national sovereignty, while those who favoured membership argued that in a world with many supranational organisations any loss of sovereignty was compensated by the benefits of EU membership.

UK FlagThose who wanted to leave the EU argued that it would allow the UK to better control immigration, thus reducing pressure on public services, housing and jobs; save billions of pounds in EU membership fees; allow the UK to make its own trade deals; and free the UK from EU regulations and bureaucracy that they saw as needless and costly. Those who wanted to remain argued that leaving the EU would risk the UK’s prosperity; diminish its influence over world affairs; jeopardise national security by reducing access to common European criminal databases; and result in trade barriers between the UK and the EU. In particular, they argued that it would lead to job losses, delays in investment into the UK and risks to business.

Financial markets reacted negatively to the outcome, with stock markets around the world crashing. Investors in worldwide stock markets lost more than the equivalent of 2 trillion United States dollars on 24 June 2016, making it the worst single day loss in history. The market losses amounted to a total of 3 trillion US dollars by 27 June 2016. By 29 June 2016, the markets had largely recovered. The value of the pound sterling fell to a 31-year low. Britain’s sovereign debt credit rating was lowered by Standard & Poor’s, as was the European Union’s.

The referendum was precipitated by internal fighting within the governing Conservative party, and, immediately following the result, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would resign for his side’s having lost the referendum. The opposition Labour Party also faces a leadership challenge as a result of the EU referendum.
The Scottish Government announced on 24 June 2016 that officials would plan for a “highly likely” second referendum on independence from the United Kingdom in response to the result, and the Scottish Government announced that it would start “discussions with the EU institutions and other member states to explore all the possible options to protect Scotland’s place in the EU.” Scotland’s parliament may try to block the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.


 

History

UK joins EEC 1973

The European Economic Community (EEC) was formed in 1957. The United Kingdom (UK) first applied to join in 1961, but this was vetoed by France. A later application was successful and the UK joined in 1973; a referendum two years later on continuing membership resulted in 67% approval. Political integration gained greater focus when the Maastricht Treaty established the European Union (EU) in 1993, which incorporated (and after the Treaty of Lisbon, succeeded) the EEC.

Following the European Parliament Election in 2014, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) secured a majority of the popular vote leaving the Conservative Party in third place (first time a party other than the Conservatives or Labour had topped a nationwide poll in 108 years). Given the electoral system for the European Parliament uses a Proportional Representation, UKIP also gained the most British seats in the European Parliament.

While attending the May 2012 NATO summit meeting, British Prime Minister David Cameron, William Hague and Ed Llewellyn discussed the idea of using a European Union referendum as a concession to energise the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party.
In January 2013, Cameron promised that, should his Conservative Party win a parliamentary majority at the 2015 general election, the UK Government would negotiate more favourable arrangements for continuing British membership of the EU, before holding a referendum on whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU.
In May 2013, the Conservative Party published a draft EU Referendum Bill and outlined their plans for renegotiation and then an In-Out vote if returned to office in 2015. The draft Bill stated that the referendum must be held no later than 31 December 2017.

The draft legislation was taken forward as a Private Member’s Bill by Conservative MP James Wharton. The bill’s First Reading in the House of Commons took place on 19 June 2013.Cameron was said by a spokesperson to be “very pleased” and would ensure the Bill was given “the full support of the Conservative Party”.

Regarding the ability of the Bill to bind the UK Government in the 2015–20 Parliament to holding such a referendum, a parliamentary research paper noted that:

The Bill simply provides for a referendum on continued EU membership by the end of December 2017 and does not otherwise specify the timing, other than requiring the Secretary of State to bring forward orders by the end of 2016.

The Bill received its Second Reading on 5 July 2013, passing by 304 votes to none after almost all Labour MPs and all Liberal Democrat MPs abstained, cleared the Commons in November 2013, and was then introduced to the House of Lords in December 2013, where members voted to block the bill.

Conservative MP Bob Neill then introduced an Alternative Referendum Bill to the Commons. After a debate on 17 October 2014, it passed to the Public Bills Committee, but because the Commons failed to pass a monetary resolution, the Bill was unable to progress further before the Dissolution of Parliament on 27 March 2015.

Under Ed Miliband’s leadership between 2010 and 2015, the Labour Party ruled out an In-Out referendum unless there was a further transfer of powers from the UK to the EU.
In their manifesto for the 2015 general election the Liberal Democrats pledged to hold an In-Out referendum only in the event of there being a change in the EU treaties.
The UK Independence Party (UKIP), the British National Party (BNP), the Green Party, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Respect Party all supported the principle of a referendum.

When the Conservative Party won the majority of seats in the House of Commons in the May 2015 general election, Cameron reiterated his party’s manifesto commitment to hold an In-Out referendum on UK membership of the EU by the end of 2017, but only after “negotiating a new settlement for Britain in the EU”.


 

Administration

Date

David Cameron EU Referendum
David Cameron announces EU Referendum date

Prior to being officially announced, it was widely speculated that a June date for the referendum was a serious possibility. The First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales co-signed a letter to Cameron asking him not to hold the referendum in June, as devolved elections were scheduled to take place the previous month. These elections had been postponed for a year to avoid a clash with the 2015 General Election, after Westminster had implemented the Fixed Term parliament Act. Cameron refused this request, saying people were able to make up their own minds in multiple elections spaced a short time from each other.

In February 2016, Cameron announced that the Government was to recommend that the UK should remain in the EU and that the referendum would be held on 23 June, marking the official launch of the campaign. He also announced that Parliament would enact secondary legislation relating to the European Union Referendum Act 2015 on 22 February. With the official launch, ministers of the UK Government were then free to campaign on either side of the argument in a rare exception to Cabinet collective responsibility.

Eligibility to vote

The European Union Referendum Act 2015 dictated that only British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who were resident in the UK or Gibraltar would be able to vote in the referendum. British citizens who had been registered to vote in the UK within the last 15 years would also be eligible to vote.

The deadline to register to vote was initially midnight on 7 June 2016 but this was extended by 48 hours because of technical problems with the official registration website on 7 June caused by unusually high web traffic. Some supporters of the Leave campaign, including the Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth, criticised the government’s decision to extend the deadline, alleging it gave Remain an advantage because many late registrants were young people who were considered to be more likely to vote for Remain.
Almost 46.5 million people were eligible to vote.

There was protest by some residents of the Crown dependencies of the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey that they should have the opportunity to vote in the referendum, as (although not part of the EU, unlike Gibraltar) EU membership also affected them.

Procedure for a withdrawal

There is no precedent for a sovereign member state leaving the European Union or any of its predecessor organisations. However, three territories of EU member states have withdrawn: Algeria (1962, independence from France), Greenland (1985) and Saint Barthélemy (2012), the latter two becoming Overseas Countries and Territories of the European Union.

Article 49A of the Treaty of Lisbon, which came into force on 1 December 2009, introduced for the first time a procedure for a member state to withdraw voluntarily from the EU.
This is specified in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which states that:

  1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
  2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
  3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

Coverage of the issue in The Guardian includes an explanation as to Article 50 and how it would be invoked. “…there seems to be no immediate legal means out of the stalemate. It is entirely up to the departing member state to trigger article 50, by issuing formal notification of intention to leave: no one, in Brussels, Berlin or Paris, can force it to. But equally, there is nothing in article 50 that obliges the EU to start talks – including the informal talks the Brexit leaders want – before formal notification has been made. “There is no mechanism to compel a state to withdraw from the European Union,” said Kenneth Armstrong, professor of European law at Cambridge University. … “The notification of article 50 is a formal act and has to be done by the British government to the European council,” an EU official told Reuters.”

Remaining members of the EU consequently would need to undertake negotiations to manage change over the EU’s budgets, voting allocations and policies brought about by the withdrawal of any member state.

Some constitutional experts have argued that, under the Scotland Act 1998, the Scottish Parliament has to consent to measures that eliminate EU law’s application in Scotland, which gives the Scottish Parliament an effective veto over UK withdrawal from the EU, unless the Scotland Act 1998 is amended by the UK Parliament to reduce the Scottish Parliament’s current powers.
After the Leave result was announced, on 26 June 2016, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she “of course” would ask the Scottish Parliament to withhold consent and thus block the UK from leaving the EU.
However, this interpretation of the 1998 Act is disputed. For example, sub-clause 7 of Clause 28 of the Act states that it “does not affect the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to make laws for Scotland.”

Referendum wording

Research by the Electoral Commission confirmed that its recommended question “was clear and straightforward for voters, and was the most neutral wording from the range of options … considered and tested”, citing responses to its consultation by a diverse range of consultees. The proposed question was accepted by the government in September 2015, shortly before the bill’s third reading.
The first ballot papers were issued to postal voters in May 2016, and the referendum question that appeared on them, as required under both pieces of legislation, was: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” The response was to be marked with a single (X): “Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union”.

Scotland’s response

After the referendum, there was a dispute as to whether, under the Scotland Act 1998, the Scottish Parliament has to consent to measures that eliminate EU laws’ application in Scotland or whether Westminster can override this.

On 24 June, during a press conference, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would communicate to all EU member states that Scotland had voted to stay in the EU.
An emergency Scottish cabinet meeting on 25 June agreed that the Scottish Government would “begin immediate discussions with the EU institutions and other member states to explore all the possible options to protect Scotland’s place in the EU.”

Sturgeon had called the result of the UK referendum “democratically unacceptable” for Scotland where the majority had voted to remain in the European Union.
On 28 June 2016, she made the following statement: “I want to be clear to parliament that whilst I believe that independence is the best option for Scotland – I don’t think that will come as a surprise to anyone – it is not my starting point in these discussions. My starting point is to protect our relationship with the EU.”
Sturgeon met with EU leaders in Brussels on 29 June to discuss Scotland remaining in the UK. Afterwards, she said the reception had been “sympathetic”, in spite of France and Spain objecting to advance negotiations with Scotland, but she conceded that she did not underestimate the challenges.


 

Campaign

Boris Johnson, Leave Campaign

As of October 2015, there was a cross-party, formal group campaigning for Britain to remain a member, called Britain Stronger in Europe, while there were two groups promoting exit which sought to be the official Leave campaign: Leave.EU (supported by most of UKIP, including Nigel Farage), and Vote Leave (supported by Conservative Party Eurosceptics).
The Electoral Commission announced on 13 April 2016 that Vote Leave was the official leave campaign. This gave it the right to spend up to £7m, a free mailshot, TV broadcasts and £600,000 in public funds. Leave.EU also had an umbrella group offshoot, the cross-party Grassroots Out.
The UK government’s official position was to support the remain option. A Government-backed campaign was launched in April. On 16 June all official national campaigning was suspended until 19 June after the killing of MP Jo Cox.

HM Government distributed a leaflet to every household in England in the week commencing on 11 April, and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on 5 May (after devolved elections).
It gave details on why the government’s position was that the UK should remain in the EU. The rationale was that internal polls showed that 85% of the population wanted more information from the Government. It was criticised by those wanting to leave as being an unfair advantage, inaccurate and a waste of money costing £9.3 million for the campaign.

In the week beginning on 16 May the Electoral Commission sent a voting guide regarding the referendum to every household within the UK and Gibraltar to raise awareness of the upcoming referendum. The eight-page guide contained details on how to vote, as well as a sample of the actual ballot paper, and a whole page each was given to the campaign groups Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave to present their case.


 

Opinion Polls

Labour Remain poster

Polls from 2010 onwards suggested the British public were relatively evenly divided on the question, with opposition to EU membership peaking in November 2012 at 56% compared with 30% who prefer to remain in, while in June 2015 those in favour of Britain remaining in the EU reached 43% versus those opposed 36%. The largest ever poll (of 20,000 people, in March 2014) showed the public evenly split on the issue, with 41% in favour of withdrawal, 41% in favour of membership, and 18% undecided.
However, when asked how they would vote if Britain renegotiated the terms of its membership of the EU, and the UK Government stated that British interests had been satisfactorily protected, more than 50% indicated that they would vote for Britain to stay in.

Analysis of polling suggested that young voters tended to support remaining in the EU, whereas those older tend to support leaving, but there was no gender split in attitudes.
In February 2016 YouGov also found that euroscepticism correlated with people of lower income and that “higher social grades are more clearly in favour of remaining in the EU”, but noted that euroscepticism also had strongholds in “the more wealthy, Tory shires”. Scotland, Wales and many English urban areas with large student populations were more pro-EU.
Big business was broadly behind remaining in the EU, though the situation among smaller companies was less clear cut. In polls of economists, lawyers, and scientists, clear majorities saw the UK’s membership of the EU as beneficial.


 

Issues

UK on JackThe number of jobs lost or gained by a withdrawal was a dominant issue; the BBC’s outline of issues warned that a precise figure was difficult to find. The Leave campaign argued that a reduction in red tape associated with EU regulations would create more jobs and that small to medium-sized companies who trade domestically would be the biggest beneficiaries.
Those arguing to remain in the EU, claimed that millions of jobs would be lost. The EU’s importance as a trading partner and the outcome of its trade status if it left was a disputed issue.
Whilst those wanting to stay cited that most of the UK’s trade was made with the EU, those arguing to leave say that its trade was not as important as it used to be. Scenarios of the economic outlook for the country if it left the EU were generally negative. The United Kingdom also paid more into the EU budget than it received.

Citizens of EU countries, including the United Kingdom, have the right to travel, live and work within other EU countries, as free movement is one of the four founding principles of the EU. Campaigners for remaining said that EU immigration had positive impacts on the UK’s economy, citing that the country’s growth forecasts were partly based upon continued high levels of net immigration. The Office for Budget Responsibility also claimed that taxes from immigrants boost public funding.
The Leave campaign believed reduced immigration would ease pressure in public services such as schools and hospitals, as well as giving British workers more jobs and higher wages.
According to official Office for National Statistics data, net migration in 2015 was 333,000, which was the second highest level on record, far above David Cameron’s target of tens of thousands.
Net migration from the EU was 184,000. The figures also showed that 77,000 EU migrants who came to Britain were looking for work.

After the announcement had been made as to the outcome of the referendum, Rowena Mason, political correspondent for The Guardian offered the following assessment: “Polling suggests discontent with the scale of migration to the UK has been the biggest factor pushing Britons to vote out, with the contest turning into a referendum on whether people are happy to accept free movement in return for free trade.” A columnist for The Times, Philip Collins, went a step further in his analysis: “This was a referendum about immigration disguised as a referendum about the European Union.”

The Conservative MEP (Member of the European Parliament) representing South East England, Daniel Hannan, predicted on the BBC programme Newsnight that the level of immigration would remain high after Brexit. “Frankly, if people watching think that they have voted and there is now going to be zero immigration from the EU, they are going to be disappointed. … you will look in vain for anything that the Leave campaign said at any point that ever suggested there would ever be any kind of border closure or drawing up of the drawbridge.”

The possibility that the UK’s smaller constituent countries could vote to remain within the EU but find themselves withdrawn from the EU led to discussion about the risk to the unity of the United Kingdom.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, made it clear that she believed that a second independence referendum would “almost certainly” be demanded by Scots if the UK voted to leave the EU but Scotland did not.
The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, said: “If Wales votes to remain in [the EU] but the UK votes to leave, there will be a… constitutional crisis. The UK cannot possibly continue in its present form if England votes to leave and everyone else votes to stay”.

There was concern that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed trade agreement between the United States and the EU, would be a threat to the public services of EU member states. Jeremy Corbyn, on the Remain side, said that he pledged to veto TTIP in Government. John Mills, on the Leave side, argued that UK could not veto TTIP because trade pacts were decided by Qualified Majority Voting in the European Council.

There was debate over the extent to which the European Union membership aided security and defence in comparison to the UK’s membership of NATO and the United Nations.
Security concerns over the union’s free movement policy were raised too, because people with EU passports were unlikely to receive detailed checks at border control.


 

Debates, Q&A sessions and interviews

Europe: The Final Debate with Jeremy Paxman

A debate was held by The Guardian on 15 March 2016, featuring the leader of UKIP Nigel Farage, Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom, the leader of Labour’s “yes” campaign Alan Johnson and former leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg.

Earlier in the campaign, on 11 January, a debate took place between Nigel Farage and Carwyn Jones, who was at the time the First Minister of Wales and leader of the Welsh Labour Party.
Reluctance to have Conservative Party members argue against one another has seen some debates split, with Leave and Remain candidates interviewed separately.

The Spectator held a debate hosted by Andrew Neil on 26 April, which featured Nick Clegg, Liz Kendall and Chuka Umunna arguing for a remain vote, and Nigel Farage, Daniel Hannan and Kate Hoey arguing for a leave vote.
The Daily Express held a debate on 3 June, featuring Nigel Farage, Labour MP Kate Hoey and Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg debating Labour MPs Siobhain McDonagh and Chuka Umunna and businessman Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent drinks.
Essex TV produced a documentary named ‘Is Essex IN or OUT’ released on 20 June, featuring Boris Johnson, local public figures and various members of the public from Essex.
Andrew Neil presented four interviews ahead of the referendum. The interviewees were Hilary Benn, George Osborne, Nigel Farage and Iain Duncan Smith on 6, 8, 10 and 17 May, respectively.

The scheduled debates and question sessions included a number of question and answer sessions with various campaigners. and a debate on ITV held on 9 June that included Angela Eagle, Amber Rudd and Nicola Sturgeon, Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom, and Gisela Stuart.

EU Referendum: The Great Debate was held at Wembley Arena on 21 June and hosted by David Dimbleby, Mishal Husain and Emily Maitlis in front of an audience of 6,000.
The audience was split evenly between both sides. Sadiq Khan, Ruth Davidson and Frances O’Grady appeared for Remain. Leave was represented by the same trio as the ITV debate on 9 June (Johnson, Leadsom and Stuart). Europe: The Final Debate with Jeremy Paxman was held the following day on Channel 4.


 

Voting, voting areas and counts

Voting took place from 0700 BST until 2200 BST (0600 to 2100 BST in Gibraltar) in 41,000 polling stations across 382 voting areas, with each polling station limited to a maximum of 2,500 voters.
The referendum was held across all four countries of the United Kingdom, as well as in Gibraltar, as a single majority vote. The 382 voting areas were grouped into twelve regional counts and there was separate declarations for each of the regional counts.

In England, as happened in the 2011 AV referendum, the 326 districts were used as the local voting areas and the returns of these then fed into nine English regional counts. In Scotland the local voting areas were the 32 local councils which then fed their results into the Scottish national count, and in Wales the 22 local councils were their local voting areas before the results were then fed into the Welsh national count. Northern Ireland, as was the case in the AV referendum, was a single voting and national count area although local totals by Westminster parliamentary constituency area were announced. Gibraltar was a single voting area and its result was fed into the South West England regional count.


 

Disturbances

Labour MP Jo Cox

One pro-EU Labour MP, Jo Cox, was shot and killed in Birstall, West Yorkshire the week before the referendum by a man calling  “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”, and a man who intervened was injured. The two rival official campaigns suspended their activities as a mark of respect to Cox. David Cameron cancelled a planned rally in Gibraltar supporting British EU membership.
Campaigning resumed on Sunday 19 June. Polling officials in the Yorkshire and Humber region also halted counting of the referendum ballots on the evening of 23 June in order to observe a minute of silence.
The Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats, UK Independence Party and the Green Party all announced that they would not contest the ensuing by-election in Cox’s constituency as a mark of respect.

On polling day itself two polling stations in Kingston upon Thames were flooded by rain and had to be relocated. In Winchester, a woman had her name taken by the police after urging voters at a polling station to use her pens instead of the provided pencils, following a conspiracy theory that MI5 were rigging the referendum in favour of remain by erasing and changing votes made with pencil.


 

Result

As chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Chief Counting Officer (CCO) Jenny Watson announced in Manchester Town Hall on 24 June 2016 that the final result of the referendum was to leave.

Referendum results (without spoiled ballots):
Leave: 17,410,742 (51.9%)
Remain: 16,141,241 (48.1%)

Results of the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016

Region Voter turnout,
of eligible
Votes Proportion of votes
Remain Leave Remain Leave
East Midlands 74.2% 1,033,036 1,475,479 41.18% 58.82%
East of England 75.7% 1,448,616 1,880,367 43.52% 56.48%
London 69.7% 2,263,519 1,513,232 59.93% 40.07%
North East England 69.3% 562,595 778,103 41.96% 58.04%
North West England 70% 1,699,020 1,966,925 46.35% 53.65%
Northern Ireland 62.7% 440,707 349,442 55.78% 44.22%
Scotland 67.2% 1,661,191 1,018,322 62.00% 38.00%
South East England 76.8% 2,391,718 2,567,965 48.22% 51.78%
South West England & Gibraltar 76.7% 1,503,019 1,669,711 47.37% 52.63%
Wales 71.7% 772,347 854,572 47.47% 52.53%
West Midlands 72% 1,207,175 1,755,687 40.74% 59.26%
Yorkshire and the Humber 70.7% 1,158,298 1,580,937 42.29% 57.71%

 

Reactions to the result

Youth protests and exclusion of underage voters

The referendum was criticised for denying people younger than 18 years of age a vote in the referendum. Unlike in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, 16- and 17-year-old citizens were excluded from the vote. Critics noted that these people would live with the consequences of the referendum for longer than those who were able to vote. Some supporters of the inclusion of these young voters considered this exclusion a violation of democratic principles and a major shortcoming of the referendum. Opinion polls indicated that this group would have voted substantially for Remain.

Increase of applications for passports of other EU countries

The foreign ministry of Ireland stated that the number of application from UK citizens for Irish passports increased significantly after the announcement of the result of the referendum on the membership in the European Union. The Irish Embassy in London usually receives 200 passport applications a day, which increased to 4000 a day after the vote to leave.
Other EU nations also had increases in requests for passports from British citizens, including France and Belgium.

Racist abuse and hate crimes

Graffiti on Polish Center in London

More than a hundred racist abuse and hate crimes were reported in the immediate aftermath of the referendum with many citing the plan to leave the European Union. On 24 June 2016, a school in Cambridgeshire was vandalised with a sign reading “Leave the EU. No more Polish vermin”.
Following the referendum result, similar signs were distributed outside homes and schools in Huntingdon, with some left on the cars of Polish residents collecting their children from school.
On 26 June, the London office of the Polish Social and Cultural Association was vandalised with racist graffiti. Both incidents were investigated by the police.
In Wales, a Muslim woman was told to leave after the referendum, even though she had been born and raised in the United Kingdom. Other instances of racism occurred as perceived foreigners were targeted in supermarkets, on buses and on street corners, and told to leave the country immediately.

The increase in hate crimes was lamented by Sayeeda Warsi, Baroness Warsi, the former chairwoman of the Conservative Party. Jess Phillips, a Labour MP, vowed to make enquiries in Parliament to determine whether incidents of racial hatred had increased during the weekend after the referendum.
British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the hate crimes as “despicable”, adding that they should be stamped out. Meanwhile, Witold Sobków, the Polish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, released a statement saying he was “shocked and deeply concerned by the recent incidents of xenophobic abuse directed against the Polish community and other UK residents of migrant heritage”.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, also released a statement condemning those hate crimes. With Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, Khan released another statement highlighting the “shared history, shared culture, shared challenges and the shared experience of being one of just a handful of truly global cities.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews released a statement, with its chief executive Gillian Merron saying “The Jewish community knows all too well these feelings of vulnerability and will not remain silent in the face of a reported rise in racially motivated harassment.”
The Muslim Council of Britain also spoke out against the racist incidents that have occurred since the vote to leave the EU. Meanwhile, Cambridgeshire Police encouraged all victims or witnesses of incidents including both written or face-to-face abuse to report it, as either would constitute an offence of creating racial hatred with a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn both condemned the attacks in Parliament.

Petition for a new referendum

UKWithin hours of the result’s announcement, a petition, calling for a second referendum to be held in the event that a result was secured with less than 60% of the vote and on a turnout of less than 75%, attracted tens of thousands of new signatures. The petition had been initiated by William Oliver Healey of the English Democrats on 24 May 2016, when the Remain faction had been leading in the polls, and had received 22 signatures prior to the referendum result being declared.
On 26 June, Healey made it clear on his Facebook page that the petition had actually been started to favour an exit from the EU and that he was a strong supporter of the Vote Leave and Grassroots Out campaigns. Healey also claimed that the petition had been “hijacked by the remain campaign”. English Democrats chairman Robin Tilbrook suggested those who had signed the petition were experiencing “sour grapes” about the result of the referendum.

By 3:02 pm on 3 July it had attracted 4,103,790 signatures, about one quarter of the total number of remain votes in the referendum and over forty times the 100,000 needed for any petition to be considered for debate in Parliament. As many as a thousand signatures per minute were being added during the day after the referendum vote, causing the website to crash on several occasions. Some of the signatories had abstained from voting or had voted leave but regretted their decision, in what the media dubbed “bregret”, or “regrexit” at the result.

No previous government petition had attracted as many votes but it was reported that the House of Commons Petitions Committee were investigating allegations of fraud. Chair of that committee, Helen Jones, said that the allegations were being taken seriously, and any signatures found to be fraudulent would be removed from the petition: “People adding fraudulent signatures to this petition should know that they undermine the cause they pretend to support.”
By the afternoon of 26 June the House of Commons’ petitions committee said that it had removed “about 77,000 signatures which were added fraudulently” and that it would continue to monitor the petition for “suspicious activity”; almost 40,000 signatures seemed to have come from the Vatican City, which has a population of under 1,000.
Hackers from 4chan claimed that they had added the signatures with the use of automated bots, and that it was done as a prank.
Nonetheless, Jones said on 26 June that the Petitions Committee would be considering the petition during the subsequent week; the members would then decide whether a parliamentary debate should be held.
On 28 June the committee deferred a decision on whether to schedule a debate as government officials were continuing to check the petition for fraudulent signatures.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson argues that since the petition requests a piece of retrospective legislation, it is unlikely to be enacted, while David Cameron had previously ruled out holding a second referendum, calling it “a once-in-a-lifetime event”.
However, Jolyon Maughan QC, a barrister specialising in tax law, argues that a second referendum on European Union membership could be triggered by one of two scenarios; either following a snap general election won by one or more party standing on a remain platform, or as a result of parliament deciding that circumstances have changed significantly enough to require a fresh mandate. He suggests the outcome of that referendum would depend on whether those circumstances were less favourable than before and the concept of “buyer’s remorse”, i.e., that people who had voted for Brexit regretted that decision. Maughan cites several instances in which a country’s electorate have been asked to reconsider the outcome of a referendum relating to the European Union, among them the two Treaty of Lisbon referendums held in Ireland, in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Vernon Bogdanor, professor in constitutional history at King’s College London, said that a second referendum would be “highly unlikely”, and suggested governments would be cautious about holding referendums in future. John Curtice, a professor at the University of Strathclyde, agreed that a change of circumstances may result in another referendum, but said the petition would have little impact: “It has passed the 100,000 mark for it to be debated in Parliament. All that means is that some MPs will say, ‘It’s a terrible shame’, others will say, ‘Hallelujah’. Then that’s the end of it.”
BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman argues that a second referendum is “constitutionally possible [but] politically unthinkable. It would take something akin to a revolution and full-blown constitutional crisis for it to happen. If the petition grew to show a clear majority of the electorate now favoured Remain, that might be tantamount to the revolution and might possibly trigger the unthinkable.

On 26 June, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said the option of holding a second referendum should not be ruled out. In an interview with Sky News a week later he suggested the will of the people could change, and that Parliament should reflect that: “I’m not saying we should have another referendum…As a country we should keep all our options open because right now we don’t really know what lies on the other side.”
Labour MP David Lammy commented that, as the referendum was advisory, Parliament should “end this nightmare” and vote on whether to leave the EU, saying: “Let us not destroy our economy on the basis of lies and the hubris of Boris Johnson”.

Following the first post-referendum meeting of the Cabinet on 27 June 2016, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said that the possibility of a second referendum was “not remotely on the cards. There was a decisive result [in the EU referendum]. The focus of the Cabinet discussion was how we get on and deliver that.”
On 28 June, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt raised the possibility of a second referendum while expressing an interest in putting his name forward for the Conservative leadership election to replace Cameron, but said that it would be about the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union rather than on the issue of EU membership.
Labour MP Geraint Davies has also suggested that a second referendum would focus on the terms of an exit plan, with a default of remaining in the EU if it were rejected. Citing a poll published in the week after the referendum that indicated as many as 1.1 million people who voted to leave the EU now regretted their decision, he tabled an early day motion calling for an exit package referendum, feeling it would “pull [Britain’s] future out of the fire”.

On 26 June it was reported that Conservative grandee Lord Heseltine was suggesting that a second referendum should take place after Brexit negotiations had taken place. Heseltine pointed to the overwhelming majority in the House of Commons against leaving the EU, saying “There is a majority of something like 350 in the House of Commons broadly in favour of the European relationship.”

On 28 June Virgin chief Richard Branson, interviewed for ITV’s Good Morning Britain, said that his company had lost a third of its value as a result of the referendum result and that a planned venture, employing over 3,000 people, which he had announced before the referendum, had been shelved. He gave his backing for a second referendum.

On 1 July, The Independent reported that post-referendum research showed that 1.2 million Leave voters regretted their decision. Almost half of the people surveyed saying that Britain’s position in the world had worsened and one in ten thought that the UK wouldn’t actually leave the EU.

Notification of intention to leave the EU

The UK Parliament
The UK Parliament

The referendum was not legally binding on the government which will need to decide how to proceed. If the government decides to leave the EU by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, it will have to decide when to do so.
Withdrawal from the European Union using Article 50 is an untested procedure with some complexity. In a discussion of this topic, The Guardian provided specifics as to the likely method.
“It is entirely up to the departing member state to trigger article 50, by issuing formal notification of intention to leave: no one, in Brussels, Berlin or Paris, can force it to.
But equally, there is nothing in article 50 that obliges the EU to start talks – including the informal talks the Brexit leaders want – before formal notification has been made.
‘There is no mechanism to compel a state to withdraw from the European Union,’ said Kenneth Armstrong, professor of European law at Cambridge University…. ‘The notification of article 50 is a formal act and has to be done by the British government to the European council,’ an EU official told Reuters.”

According to EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, Britain must proceed promptly. “There needs to be a notification by the country concerned of its intention to leave (the EU), hence the request (to British Prime Minister David Cameron) to act quickly.”
As well, the EU issued a joint statement on 26 June 2016 regretting but respecting Britain’s decision and asking them to proceed quickly in accordance with Article 50.
The statement also added: “We stand ready to launch negotiations swiftly with the United Kingdom regarding the terms and conditions of its withdrawal from the European Union. Until this process of negotiations is over, the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union, with all the rights and obligations that derive from this. According to the Treaties which the United Kingdom has ratified, EU law continues to apply to the full to and in the United Kingdom until it is no longer a Member.”

Cameron has made it clear that the next Prime Minister should activate Article 50 and begin negotiations with the EU. During a 27 June 2016 meeting, Cabinet decided to establish a unit of civil servants, headed by senior Conservative Oliver Letwin, who would proceed with “intensive work on the issues that will need to be worked through in order to present options and advice to a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet”, said the PM’s spokesperson.

There is dispute over whether the decision to invoke Article 50 is the prerogative of the government, as the government argues, or whether it requires Parliamentary assent.
However, Parliament will be able to vote on any new treaty arrangements that emerge from the withdrawal deal. On 3 July 2016, the law firm Mishcon de Reya announced that they had been retained by a group of clients to challenge the constitutionality of invoking Article 50 without parliament debating it.


 

Political Reaction

Conservative Party

David Cameron Resigns

On 24 June, the Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he would resign by October because the Leave campaign had been successful in the referendum. Although most of the Conservative MPs on both sides of the referendum debate had urged him to stay, the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, called for Cameron to go “immediately”.
In any event, the resignation stood and the leadership election was scheduled for 9 September. The new leader would be in place before the autumn conference set to begin on 2 October.
Unexpectedly, Boris Johnson, who had been a keen supporter of leaving the EU, declined to be nominated shortly before the deadline for nominations.

Labour Party

The Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn faced growing criticism from his party, which had supported remaining within the EU, for poor campaigning, and two Labour MPs submitted a vote of no confidence in Corbyn on 24 June.
It is claimed that there is evidence that Corbyn deliberately sabotaged Labour’s campaign to remain part of the EU.[355] In the early hours of Sunday 26 June, Corbyn sacked Hilary Benn (the shadow foreign secretary) for apparently leading a coup against him.
This led to a string of Labour MPs quickly resigning their roles in the party. By mid-afternoon on 27 June 2016, 23 of the Labour Party’s 31 shadow cabinet members had resigned from the shadow cabinet as had seven parliamentary private secretaries. On 27 June 2016, Corbyn filled some of the vacancies and was working to fill the others.

Jeremy Corbyn

According to a source quoted by the BBC, the party’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson told leader Jeremy Corbyn that “it looks like we are moving towards a leadership election”. Corbyn stated that he would run again in that event. A no confidence motion was held on 28 June 2016; Corbyn lost the motion with more than 80% (172) of MPs voting against him with a turnout of 95%.

Corbyn responded with a statement that the motion had no “constitutional legitimacy” and that he intended to continue as the elected leader. The vote does not require the party to call a leadership election but, according to The Guardian: “the result is likely to lead to a direct challenge to Corbyn as some politicians scramble to collect enough nominations to trigger a formal challenge to his leadership.”

By 29 June, Corbyn had been encouraged to resign by Labour Party stalwarts such as Dame Tessa Jowell, Ed Miliband and Dame Margaret Beckett.[362] Union leaders have rallied behind Corbyn, issuing a joint statement saying that the Labour leader had a “resounding mandate” and a leadership election would be an “unnecessary distraction”. Supporting Corbyn, McDonnell said, “We’re not going to be bullied by Labour MPs who refuse to accept democracy in our party”.

European Union

On 25 June the EU commissioner of finance, the British politician Jonathan Hill, resigned. A day before, groups representing a majority of the EU parliament (EPP, S&D, ALDE, Greens) had advocated removing him from his post. Latvia’s Valdis Dombrovskis will take over his portfolio.

Scottish Independence

Nicola Sturgeon gets ‘sympathetic’ reception in Brussels

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union” and that Scotland had “spoken decisively” with a “strong, unequivocal” vote to remain in the European Union.
The Scottish Government announced on 24 June 2016 that officials would plan for a “highly likely” second referendum on independence from the United Kingdom and start preparing legislation to that effect.
Former First Minister Alex Salmond said the vote was a “significant and material change” in Scotland’s position within the United Kingdom, and that he was certain his party would implement its manifesto on holding a second referendum.
Sturgeon said she will communicate to all EU member states that “Scotland has voted to stay in the EU and I intend to discuss all options for doing so.”
An emergency cabinet meeting on 25 June 2016 agreed that the Scottish Government would “begin immediate discussions with the EU institutions and other member states to explore all the possible options to protect Scotland’s place in the EU.”

On 28 June, Scottish MEP Alyn Smith received standing ovations from the European Parliament for a speech ending “Scotland did not let you down, do not let Scotland down.”
Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party Group and a key ally of Angela Merkel, said Scotland would be welcome to remain a member of the EU.
Scottish Flag FlyingIn an earlier Welt am Sonntag interview, Gunther Krichbaum (de), chairman of the Bundestag’s European affairs committee, stated that “the EU will still consist of 28 member states, as I expect a new independence referendum in Scotland, which will then be successful,” and urged to “respond quickly to an application for admission from the EU-friendly country.”

Also on 28 June 2016, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the following statement: “I want to be clear to parliament that whilst I believe that independence is the best option for Scotland – I don’t think that will come as a surprise to anyone – it is not my starting point in these discussions. My starting point is to protect our relationship with the EU.”
Sturgeon met with EU leaders in Brussels the next day to discuss Scotland remaining in the UK. Afterwards, she said the reception had been “sympathetic”, in spite of France and Spain objecting to negotiations with Scotland, but conceded that she did not underestimate the challenges.

In a note to the U.S. bank’s clients, JP Morgan Senior Western Europe economist Malcolm Barr wrote: “Our base case is that Scotland will vote for independence and institute a new currency” by 2019.

Irish reunification

A referendum on Irish unification has been advocated by Sinn Féin, the largest nationalist/republican party in Ireland, which is represented both in the Northern Ireland Assembly and Dáil Éireann in the Republic of Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin, called for a referendum on the subject following the UK’s vote to leave the EU because the majority of the Northern Irish population voted to remain.

Spain–UK dispute over Gibraltar

Spain’s foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo said “It’s a complete change of outlook that opens up new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time. I hope the formula of co-sovereignity – to be clear, the Spanish flag on the Rock – is much closer than before.”
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo however immediately dismissed García-Margallo’s remarks, stating that “there will be no talks, or even talks about talks, about the sovereignty of Gibraltar”, and asked Gibraltar’s citizens “to ignore these noises”.
This is while he was in talks with Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, to keep Gibraltar in the EU, while remaining British too. He said that “I can imagine a situation where some parts of what is today the member state United Kingdom are stripped out and others remain.” Nicola Sturgeon said on the same day that talks were under way with Gibraltar to build a “common cause” on EU membership.

Status of London

London March for Europe

London voted to remain in the EU, and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she had spoken to London Mayor Sadiq Khan about the possibility of remaining in the EU and said he shared that objective for London. A petition calling on Khan to declare London independent from the UK received tens of thousands of signatures.
Supporters of London’s independence argued that London’s demographic, culture and values are different from the rest of England, and that it should become a city state similar to Singapore, while remaining an EU member state.
Spencer Livermore, Baron Livermore, said that London’s independence “should be a goal,” arguing that a London city-state would have twice the GDP of Singapore.

Immigration concerns

To what extent free movement of people would or would not be retained in any post-Brexit deal with the EU has emerged as a key political issue. Shortly after the result, the Conservative politician Daniel Hannan, who campaigned for Leave, told the BBC’s Newsnight that Brexit was likely to change little about the freedom of movement between the UK and the European Union, concluding “We never said there was going to be some radical decline … we want a measure of control”.

Boris Johnson initially argued that restricting freedom of movement was not one of the main reasons why people have voted Leave, but his position was seen as too lax on the issue by other Conservative Party Leave supporters, which may have contributed to Michael Gove’s decision to stand for the party’s leadership contest.
Meanwhile, EU leaders warned that full access to the single market would not be available without retaining free movement of people.


 

Consequences of Brexit

Funding by the EU

Cornwall voted to leave the EU but the Cornwall County Council issued a plea for protection of its local economy and to continue receiving subsidies as it had received millions of pounds in subsidies from the EU.

After the referendum leading scientists announced that they were afraid of a shortfall of funding for research and science and that the UK had become less attractive for scientists.
The UK science minister, Jo Johnson said the government would be on the watch for discrimination against UK scientists, after stories where such scientists had been left out from joint grant proposals with other EU scientists in the aftermath of the referendum.

Irregular immigration

Natasha Bouchard, the Mayor of Calais, suggests that the government of France should renegotiate the Le Touquet treaty, which allows British border guards to check trains, cars and lorries before crossing the Channel from France to Britain and therefore to keep irregular immigrants away from Britain.
French government officials doubt that the trilateral agreement (it includes Belgium) would be valid after the UK has officially left the European Union and especially think that it is unlikely that there will be any political motivation to enforce the agreement.
However, on the 1st July 2016 Francois Hollande said British border controls would stay in place in France, though France suggested during the referendum campaign they would be scrapped allowing migrants in the “Jungle” camp easy access to Kent.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

On 26 Jun 2016, Executive Director of War on Want John Hilary argued that the Leave vote would be a major blow to the TTIP project on top of all the other shocks that had hit the EU-US negotiations over the past few months, adding that leaving the EU “may well be the last straw that broke the TTIP camel’s back.”

Economy

More than US$2 trillion of wealth in international equities markets was wiped out in the highest one-day sell-off in recorded history.[16][405] On the morning of 24 June, the pound sterling fell to its lowest level against the US dollar since 1985, marking the pound down 10% against the US dollar and 7% against the euro. The drop from $1.50 to $1.37 was the biggest move for the currency in any two-hour period in history.

On 24 June 2016, Jersey’s External Relations Minister Philip Bailhache said that historically a weaker pound had brought new business to Jersey and had made Jersey more competitive, adding that a falling pound brought more tourists from Europe as it was better value for them.
US presidential candidate Donald Trump also indicated that more people would come to his refurbished golf course in Turnberry Scotland.

The FTSE 100 fell 8%, then recovered to be 5% lower by midday and slightly to 3% down by the close of trading.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney told a press conference:
“The capital requirements of our largest banks are now 10 times higher than before the financial crisis. The Bank of England has stress-tested those banks against scenarios far more severe than our country currently faces. As a result of these actions UK banks have raised over a £130bn of new capital and now have more than £600bn of high quality liquid assets. That substantial capital and huge liquidity gives banks the flexibility they need to continue to lend to UK businesses and households even during challenging times.
Moreover, as a backstop to support the functioning of the markets the Bank of England stands ready to provide more than £250bn of additional funds through its normal market operations.
The Bank of England is also able to provide substantial liquidity in foreign currency if required. We expect institutions to draw on this funding if and when appropriate.
It will take some time for the UK to establish a new relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. So some market and economic volatility can be expected as this process unfolds, but we are well prepared for this. Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Bank of England have engaged in extensive contingency planning and the chancellor and I have remained in close contact including through the night and this morning. The Bank of England will not hesitate to take additional measure as required, as markets adjust.”

Nonetheless, share prices of the five largest British banks fell an average of 21% on the morning after the referendum. By the end of Friday’s trading, both HSBC and Standard Chartered had fully recovered, while Lloyds, RBS Group and Barclays remained more than 10% down.

The referendum result also had an immediate negative economic impact on a number of other countries. The South African rand experienced its largest single-day decline since the Great Recession in 2008, dropping in value by over 8% against the United States dollar.
Other countries negatively affected include Canada, whose stock exchange fell 1.70%, Nigeria, and Kenya. This was partly due to a general global financial retreat from currencies seen as risky to the United States Dollar and partly due to concerns over how the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would impact on the economies and trade relations with close economic links to the United Kingdom.

The result hit the net worth of British billionaires. For example, the Duke of Westminster lost US$1 billion, while Philip Green lost US$500 million.

During a press conference on 27 June 2016, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne attempted to reassure financial markets that the UK economy was not in serious trouble.
This came after media reports that a survey by the Institute of Directors suggested that two thirds of businesses believed that the outcome of the referendum would produce negative results as well as the dropping value of the sterling and the FTSE 100 which began on Friday, 24 June 2016.
British businesses had also predicted that investment cuts, hiring freezes and redundancies would be necessary to cope with the results of the referendum.
Osborne indicated that Britain was facing the future “from a position of strength” and there was no current need for an emergency Budget. “No one should doubt our resolve to maintain the fiscal stability we have delivered for this country …. And to companies, large and small, I would say this: the British economy is fundamentally strong, highly competitive and we are open for business.”
Later that afternoon, the sterling was at a 31-year low, having fallen 11% in two trading days and the FTSE 100 index had surrendered £85 billion.
Trading in Barclays Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland was briefly suspended after their prices fell sharply. At the close of trading, the domestically-focused FTSE 250 index was down approximately 14% as compared to the day before the referendum results were published (23 June 2016).

The stock market losses amounted to a total of 3 trillion US dollars by 27 June 2016. However, by 1 July, the FTSE 100 had wiped out all its losses during the week and, indeed, risen further to a ten-month high. Taking the previous fall into account, this represented the index’s largest single-week rise since 2011.

Share