Almost 6 months have passed since Britain voted to leave the European Union, and those 6 months have not been quiet. The political worlds of Britain and Europe have been incredibly active, with constant activity almost every day. Now that these 6 months have passed, how has voting leave impacted Britain.
What I aim to do in this post is look at what has happened in the months after the referendum and analyse them to see what will happen next.
Note from the Administrator:
Apologies that this post was not uploaded to social media until February 2017, so some of the recent developments of 2017 will not be included. This post is about where the UK stood 6 months after the EU Referendum in December of 2016.
The result of the referendum came as a shock to the nation, when the early results were announced most people thought that the UK was going to Remain in the EU, but we were wrong, by morning we saw that 52% of the UK had voted to leave the EU.
The UK was leaving the European Union, and in one night, Brexit became the biggest issue in British and European Politics, and changed the face of the political landscape. On the morning after the EU Ref, Nigel Farage stood before a crowd of leave supporters and celebrated achieving his goal, getting Britain out of the European Union. He also hailed the 23rd June 2016 as Britain’s Independence day.
“The dawn is breaking, on an independent United Kingdom.”
The result was taken differently in Brussels, with Jean-Claude Juncker responding to Farage in the European Parliament, asking him why he was there after the UK had voted to leave. It was always clear that Brexit would increase the pressure between the UK and EU, it shows that this decision will not be taken lightly by the EU and how some decisions around Brexit may encounter obstacles from both the EU and UK.
The referendum has had it’s impact over most of our Political parties in Britain, with leaders resigning and elections, it has not been a quiet time.
The Conservatives have a hard time ahead with Europe, as it happens to be the party’s achilles heel, it is their most dividing issue. And immediately after the EU Referendum the party’s own future was uncertain. On the 24th Prime Minister David Cameron informed the media that he would be resigning as Prime Minister and that he wanted Britain to have a new leader for Brexit.
“We will shortly be heading to Buckingham Palace to see Her Majesty the Queen, where I will tender my resignation as Prime Minister.”
Excerpt from David Cameron’s post-Brexit resignation speech.
This triggered a leadership election within the Conservatives, and it was a race as to who would be the next Prime Minister of the UK. There was speculation that Leave campaigner and former Mayor of London Boris Johnson would run for the leadership and become the new PM. It came as a shock to the nation when he said that he would not be running. This left the leadership race to 5 candidates.
The Home Secretary Theresa May, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox, and Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom. In 12 days, after every other candidates in the race pulled out, Theresa May was announced as the new leader of the Conservative Party and therfore the new Prime Minister.
The next thing for Theresa May to do was to form her cabinet. She appointed Amber Rudd to the position of Home Secretary, she kept Jeremy Hunt on as Health Secretary and Phillip Hammond as Chancellor of the Exchequer. But her most iconic appointments came from her Brexit appointments. There would be three cabinet positions that would play a large role in Brexit and PM May’s appointments were well known. She formed the new position of Secretary of State for leaving the European Union and appointed Leave Campaigner and 2005 leadership candidate David Davis to the role. She appointed Liam Fox as Secretary for International Trade and she gave the role of Foreign Secretary… to Boris Johnson. Over the coming months Theresa May would have the biggest fight on her hands, because her party is responsible for negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union. Brexit is the biggest issue in British politics and there has already been doubt cast on the ability of the Conservative Government. The PM has been in the spotlight for a lack of clarity over Brexit. The PM has been questioned in the House of Commons about her Brexit plans and what the next steps will be. She has repeatedly said that the progress of Brexit would not be discussed, and refused to be precise on the terms of Britain’s exit, or in her own words, Brexit means Brexit.
This has put pressure on the Conservative Government as there is doubts that they can efficiently secure a good Brexit for the UK, and some Opposition parties are claiming that the Conservative’s have no plan for Brexit. Another major issue facing the Conservatives is the divisions within their party. The Tories are split between no brexit, hard brexit and soft brexit. In December, there have even been signs of divisions within May’s cabinet. Boris Johnson claimed that Saudi Arabia is engaging in proxy wars in the Middle East. To which No. 10 Downing Street said that his comments did not refect the government’s position. This could suggest tensions within the Government. The BBC’s Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg reported that there was tensions inbetween the cabinet and Downing Street. The article also mentioned how some members of the Conservative’s thought that the PM’s response to Boris Johnson’s comments was too sensitive.
“And there is frustration in Government among some ministers that they feel gagged by Downing Street”
Excerpt from Laura Kuenssberg’s article on the BBC Website
Another division was shown this week when Nicky Morgan, the former Education Secretary under David Cameron, was denied access to a meeting about Article 50 negotiations after making a comment about Theresa May wearing a pair of £995 leather trousers.
This shows major divisions within the party and the supposed cabinet divsions will almost definetely have an impact on the operations of Government, it may lead to a re-shuffle of the cabinet and cause more divisions. It is more than likely that a lack of unity would be damaging to the Conservative’s in a General Election.
The EU Referendum has had a massive impact on the Conservatives, as it has opened up their inner party divisions. The PM has announced that she intends to trigger Article 50 by March and intends to draft a great Repeal Bill to enshrine all regulations into UK. The next few months will begin to show the true impact of the referendum on the Conservative Party, and the National Government.
The impact of Labour on the EU Referendum has been one of the biggest. In July of 2016, Jeremy Corbyn sacked Shadow-Home Secretary Hillary Benn after he claimed that he had no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn after the EU Referendum result. This then resulted in a coup against his leadership. Throughout the night and the next day Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet abandoned him. Labour MPs then presented Corbyn with a vote of no confidence in his leadership, triggering a new leadership election, only one year after Corbyn was elected for the first time. The Leadership election dominated the news until September. With the Labour Party divided more than ever, with some of the party supporting Owen Smith and others supporting Jeremy Corbyn.
The Leadership election was not a happy one, with votes being blocked, vows to smash Theresa May back on her heels and the infamous #traingate. In September 2016, Jeremy Corbyn won the party leadership for a second time with 62% of the party vote. Since then the personal attacks from Labour MPs have lessened but many criticised the party. They claimed that while some MPs decided to divide the party, these divisions and the leadership contest became the main political news story, instead Labour should have formed a united attack with the rest of the opposition to attack the Conservative Government over Brexit turmoil. Which would have benefitted the party much more than another leadership contest. However since the election of Jeremy Corbyn for a second time it is clear that the party will not call for a second referendum on whether or not Britain will leave the EU. Corbyn said that the party must respect the decision made by the British people. So it looks as if Labour are not going to oppose Brexit, but they might have opposition to the Tories’ version of Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn is sure to stand up for Human, Worker’s and Environmental Rights, and the Labour Party are likely to support him on this. If the Conservative’s secure a Brexit deal which would weaken these fundamental rights then it is extremely likely if not definite, that Labour would oppose this Brexit.
Due to this new-found unity, Labour could gain more support at the next election. Brexit has been a bit of a shambles recently and if the Conservatives make a mess of Brexit and it is riddled with too many errors then the public could to place their trust in Corbyn and Labour, who have said that Brexit is happening. It seems that Brexit is going to be a major influence in voting behaviour, and right now after the European Issue Divisions being shown within the Conservatives, Labour could capitalise on this and gain popularity in the population.
It is clear from the 2015 General Election that voters rejected Labour’s Austerity-Lite stance for 5 years, and rejected leaders such as Ed Miliband and Jim Murphy, the leadership election shows that the party members have more support for Corbyn and his anti-establishment image. This has a large chance of helping Labour. 2016 is the year of rebelling against the establishment, and Jeremy Corbyn is a positive anti-establishment image. This image could take disenfranchised Labour voters and Labour voters who have flocked to UKIP and the SNP to return to the party, and boost their vote, leading to some success in a General Election.
UK Independence Party
Naturally, because UKIP are such a large face of anti-EU politics, the UKIP section of this article will be much longer than the others. The last six months have seen alot happen in this party, as it has had very little stability.
The UK Independence Party has been in the news alot after Brexit, and you can’t argue why, leaving the European Union has been the Party’s primary standpoint and now it has been achieved. The party has not exactly been in complete stability since Brexit, the leader of the party Nigel Farage resigned in July, triggering a leadership election. Diane James was elected leader of the party later on during the summer. However this leadership didn’t last long, just 18 days after she was elected she resigned. This threw the party into turmoil, giving the impression to the media and the public that UKIP was falling apart. One major event happened in Europe, when two UKIP MEPs got into a fight at the European Parliament. Mike Hookem punched fellow MEP Stephen Woolfe after there was rumours as to whether or not Woolfe planned to defect to the Conservative Party. This further gave the impression that the party was divided. Since then Nigel Farage took over as Interim UKIP Leader. In December UKIP elected a new leader, Paul Nuttall, who recieved over 60% of the party vote. Nuttall was seen as controversial by some outside of the party as he has been recorded supporting a private healthcare system.
However the result of the EU Referendum has raised an important question, now that Britain has voted to leave the European Union, are UKIP still a relevant party?
Some would argue that the party is still relevant, as they can campaign to ensure that the Government carry out Brexit and trigger Article 50, securing a good deal for Britain. UKIP supporters would argue that the party should continue to ensure that the will of the people who voted in the referendum is carried out. Supporters of the UK Independence Party would also argue that the party speaks for them. During the 2015 General Election, UKIP achieved more voted per elected MP than any other party and they recieved 12.6% of the National Vote, over 3 million votes, and yet they recieved only one seat.
Supporters argue that if the electoral system was proportional then UKIP would have more seats. The BBC showed in their election results section that UKIP would have over 50 seats. The Electoral Reform Society found that if the electoral system used the Single Transferable Vote system then UKIP would have 54 seats, and under Proportional Representation, the UK Independence Party would have 80 seats in the House of Commons.
This information has been the basis of argument amongst UKIP supporters that the party will remain (pardon the pun) relevant, as despite the lack of seats within the commons, UKIP speak for them. UKIP could also put forward the case for post-Brexit policies, which has been their ideological promise to the public.
However, it can be argued that now that they have achieved the basis of the argument, UKIP may lose influence. Some see the party as a protest vote, but now that we have left the EU, what is their to protest? They could battle the Government as an opposition but they would lose alot of momentum. Most of this came from the anger of British People towards the European Union and Brussels. It is here where UKIP gained alot of it’s support and momentum, but now that the EU will have minimal influence over Britain and the way that it governs itself. Anger may turn towards the government, UKIP could pick up lost momentum in this area, but they would have to battle other opposition parties such as Labour for this.
However it is clear that after Brexit, UKIP are still relevant as a political party, but to a lesser extent. After Brexit the party may gain more support, in which case they could lose their anti-establishment image and therefore lose supporters.
Nigel Farage, the former leader of the party has been in the media recently. He supported the extremely controversial President-Elect Donald Trump on the campaign trail and helped with his campaign. Many in the UK have even been asking questions about their special relationship. Donald Trump is not the most popular person in the UK, especially with his comments about women and Muslims. There was even a debate in the commons as to whether or not he should be banned from entering the country. This relationship could tarnish the view of UKIP and lead to votes being given to other parties.
The future of the party also has to be reflected in the leadership, Paul Nuttall has been elected as leader, this could have an impact on the popularity of the party. As mentioned above, many opponents have claimed that he supports a private health service. This could cause UKIP to lose alot support and it makes it look as if the future is very bleak for the party.
UKIP were a controversial party within the political world and recent events in the past few months do look as if it could push UKIP downhill.
The future in unclear and very unstable for UKIP.
The referendum has not only had an impact on the political area, it has impacted the social aspects of the country, with divisions in age demographics and geographical areas.
One major division that has been uncovered during the referendum is age. The results show that there is a clear difference in what age groups voted Remain and Leave.
The biggest contrast is between the youngest and oldest voters. 18-24 year old voters backed Remain by 72% and over 65 voters backed Leave by 60%. It seemed as the voters got older, the support for leaving the EU increased.
Immediately after the referendum the differences in the age gap has been highlighted. The Guardian Newspaper when they released a video where young voters in the referendum gave their view about the result and the majority were not positive.
The video can be found here.
Most of what was said by the people in the video was the same, they felt that they had been ignored and that Brexit would take them down a bad path.
“I’m genuinely heartbroken by the entire thing. We’re no longer a United Kingdom, we have a deeply divided country and for a 24 year old woman I think that’s really terrifying.”
What this young person said in the video sums up a feeling of fear and uncertainty that young remain voters felt after Brexit, a fear that the future will be a negative one. Fears that the country was so divided that it could lead to terrible things.
“I’m tired, I’m worried and I’m upset. The lies and the scapegoating of the EU have won, and for what? A protest vote and the uncertainty of the UK’s future.”
Some young people even felt anger towards older generations who voted for Brexit, claiming that they voted
Since the referendum result we have seen numerous geographic divisions of opinion, a prominent one is Scotland. The Scottish Government led by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon have been vocal about Brexit. It is no surprise as to why this is, whilst the majority of England voted to leave the EU, every single Local Authority in Scotland voted to Remain.
This has led to the Government in Scotland saying that Scotland will be dragged out of the European Union against the will of the people of Scotland. The Scottish Government have argued along welsh Assembly have fought for a seat at the negotiation table for Brexit after Theresa May’s attempt to exclude the Devolved Nations to meetings. This was overcome when the Supreme Court said that the Scottish and Northern Irish Government’s must consent to Article 50. Therefore giving the Devolved Nations a say in the vital process.
But this has led to a topical and well-known issue being brought up in Scotland. IndyRef2, the possibility of a second referendum on Scottish Independence. Nicola Sturgeon has announced a draft bill for a second referendum on independence. I have already written a post on this subject, and the obstacles that might face a new independence referendum and how they can be overcome.
You can find that post by following the link here.
This signifies that there is going to be tensions between the Conservative Government and the Devolved Administrations across the UK. So far the Scottish Government has been pushing plans that will keep Scotland either in the EU or the European Single Market, although the UK Government have similar plans for the single market, if the Uk leaves the single market, they would have Scotland and Northern Ireland leave as well.
This conflict of ideas surrounding Brexit will almost definetely lead to disagreement between the governing bodies. If Brexit is only suited to the Conservative Government’s agenda then representatives from Devolved nation parties will oppose it and possibly lead to a Brexit deadlock, delaying the exit.
But this scenario is argued, the UK Government argue that Scotland will get what the UK is getting in terms of Brexit, and numerous EU Diplomats and leaders of member states have stated that Scotland will get no special deal for Brexit. Immediately after the leave vote, numerous EU and Member State Leaders shot down the possibility of Scotland achieving a separate Brexit deal. Spain and France were among the first.
The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that;
“very clear Scotland does not have the competence to negotiate with the European Union.”
“Spain opposes any negotiation by anyone other than the government of United Kingdom.”
“I am extremely against it, the treaties are extremely against it and I believe everyone is extremely against it. If the United Kingdom leaves… Scotland leaves.”
-Statements from Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy about Scotland and Brexit
French President Francios Hollande was also a vocal critic of Scotland getting a seperate deal.
“The negotiations will be conducted with the United Kingdom, not with a part of the United Kingdom”.
-President Francios Hollande
This idea has even met criticism from UK Leaders. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond said that the idea of Scotland getting a separate Brexit deal was unrealistic.
It seems as if IndyRef2 is on the table again, and it seems like the Scottish Government see this as a legitimate option if Westminster’s Brexit plan, harm the people of Scotland.
Could Scotland leave the UK? Nobody knows, but the current standing of the Brexit process makes it look likely.
The State of Brexit
Note: I have a post lined up for 2017 analysing Brexit in detail, so this post will be a basic summary of the post.
So far there have been two phrases that have come about since the leave vote. Hard Brexit and Soft Brexit. Hard Brexit being the UK severing all ties with the EU and having very little or no interaction with the EU. There is a split between which version of this Britain will get when it leaves the European Union.
It would be rational to think that Brexiters would support a hard brexit and Remainers would support a soft brexit. But this is not the case. Everybody’s view on brexit is an individual one. Some people who voted leave are split as to what type of Brexit the UK should have, some would like to remain in the single market while others want to completely abandon the European Union altogether. It highlights the divide within the British population.
After the referendum there has been an increase of hostility towards politicians. Many people who had voted to leave the EU were angry that remain supporting politicians kept saying that they didn’t know what they were voting for, that they were misled. A prominent message from leave supporters is that the Conservative Government and Parliament must respect the will of the British people and carry out Brexit to the full extent, and not water it down. This suggests that Britain is heading for a Hard Brexit.
The current Government plan for Brexit is to trigger Article 50 by March 2017, start the year negotiating process and leave the EU by 2019. However it looks as if this will not be possible as Brexit is going through an extensive legal battle. The High Court ruled against the UK Government and said that MPs in the House of Commons will get a vote on the Brexit process. This could lead to more obstacles for Brexit as the Government’s plan could easily be rejected by the commons. As it says above, because of the divisions within the Conservatives, just because they have a majority government, doesn’t mean that all of their MPs will support them, add that to the opposition MPs, and Brexit could face numerous delays and amendments before it can be accepted and Britain can leave the European Union.
I don’t have much more to write about on this topic, but one thing is clear, this will not be my last post about the EU and Brexit. The politics of this will continue to be prominent throughout 2017. I have posts lined up for 2017, such as the post about the state of Brexit, and any other relevant EU news at the time. One thing is sure about the EU and Brexit six months later, we only have hints about what will happen to our political parties, regions, and demographics after Brexit, but we still have no clear answer. We might have to wait for 2017 to see what happens.