2016 has been so far a year of unexpected turns of events that saw major political controversies arise.
Many commentators put the recent election of Donald Trump as president of the United-States in the same category as the results of the Brexit referendum that turned the possibility of a United Kingdom out of the European Union into a reality. They seemed to be left speechless in the face of such political turmoil they could not and did not predict.
The American elections indeed polarized the opinion in the same way that the Brexit did in the UK, leaving each side to wonder how the other could have made the decision they made, encouraged by the human tendency to socialize with people holding similar views on the world.
Most people did not listen to diverging voices so this may be the time to hear two opposing views.
Robert, a former finance advisory in his thirties, comes from Hertfordshire. He supported Brexit out of concern, he says, for the interests of Britain:
“I voted for Brexit because I have a problem with the instrument of the EU which doesn’t serve the best interests of the British people.I believe that every politician should act in the interests of its own country and the European Union did not allow that, particularly because it favours the French interests with its Common Agricultural Policy and the German interests with its common currency.
I would approve of a reformation but it doesn’t seem likely. Suffice to take a look at the 70 pieces of legislation that Britain brought to the EU Parliament and that were voted down. The same thing happened when Cameron tried to reach a compromise and it took seven days to the Union to come with a deal that was not satisfying. A fiscal union, just like it was at the beginning, would benefit much more to our country.
Immigration was also one of my primary concern as being part of the single market forced us to accept free movement within our borders. It is important for me that the Parliament keeps a legally-binding authority to impose realistic quotas on immigration in order to accept people with working background and not just anyone.
I do not think it was fair to portray Bexit voters as mere racist with xenophobic views as they simply want tougher immigration policies, although I admit that some media exacerbated the fear. Lies were also pronounced on both sides, which of course concerns me, but there is always a certain amount of promises made in a campaign that cannot be sustained.
The Remain campaigners played on the fear of a financial apocalypse but that did not happen. There is actually a sheer number of nations that want to trade with us, giving us the freedom to negotiate the treaties outside of the EU.
I did not believe Brexit would happen though, thinking that the political establishment would always win, so it came as a surprise but it is fair to say that is a victory for the silent majority whose marginalized views had been unheard for too long.
Politicians seemed out of touch with the general state of the country but it is up to them now to unite us and I think Theresa May is a great symbol on that regard as she was a Remainer. I think that her position on a hard Brexit will be a clearer mandate to the British people instead of usual negotiations in the backdoor.
I do not mind the talks about article 50 leading to Brexit being discussed in the Parliament, as it proves that Britain is still run by the rule of law but it was perhaps not made clear enough that this could be a possibility to arise.
I would say that Britain is not as divided anymore, apart from some sad people that do not accept democracy as they didn’t like the results. It is also not true to say that young people were robbed of their future while I think they voted to remain because they were accustomed to the EU in the first place. The elders have experienced a life without the European Union whereas the youngest generation fails to realize that there is a life beyond the Union.
I think Brexit can bring back an idea of Britishness that is more inclusive of people of all backgrounds and all walks of life as well as giving us sovereignty outside of the Union.”
Claudia, a 21-year-old who recently graduated in foreign languages, comes from Essex. She voted to remain in the European Union, saying it has had a positive impact on her country:
“I voted for Remain mainly because I thought staying in the European Union was what was best for the economy and jobs in the UK and I have to admit that immigration was not a main concern for me. I also could benefit from the EU from within as I studied a year in Munich as part of an Erasmus programme.
The European Union actually does quite a lot, such as the laws that were implemented through the European Convention of the Human Rights and that really had a positive impact on our society. Unfortunately, it seems that many people did not know that or just were not interested.
I have the feeling that one side offered hope while the other played on fear, especially Nigel Farage and the UKIP. I would agree to some extent that both sides used the same tactics though, but to me the Remainer campaign was sending a positive message.
That is why I thought we would stay but somehow, it is the same thing that happened with Trump being elected in the USA. Some people were probably ashamed to admit they voted for Brexit or maybe the polls were not representative of the diversity of opinions because they did not interview the right pool of people.
Brexit therefore surprised me but this is democracy and we have to respect it. I still think that leaving the EU is too complex of an issue so I’m not sure that the referendum was a good idea. To be honest, it appears to me as being more about David Cameron trying to attract UKIP voters.
Of course, that’s not saying that the Union is perfect as its principles are great but its execution is not the best. Having non-elected members at the European Commission is one of its weakest point and I can see why sovereignty could be considered as a problem. However, I think that the people who voted for Brexit did that to send a political message to the government more than because they were fundamentally anti-EU.
I guess they also wanted to have a say as it appears more people voted on this referendum than in any other election, even though there was still a high percentage of abstention.
I think that Britain is still divided though. There seems to have been a rise in hate crime against Muslims and Nigel Farage played a part in this by implying that they were not pure British. Of course it’s unfair to say that all Brexit voters were racist as the problem is deeper than that. But there certainly is a substantial part of old Brexit supporters with racists views who want a world that no longer exists.
My main concern for the future is that the government makes a wrong move politically. I do not really think that we can go back to the Union anytime soon either but I hope that someday we will.”