Much like the relentless media coverage of the U.S. presidential race, the British media is already awash with the political posturing and in-fighting that was to be expected in the run up to the E.U. referendum. Still four months away, the vote on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of, or leave the European Union, is scheduled for June 23. Is it any wonder that the public are dismayed when terms like “Brexit” and “Bremain” are being bandied about as sensible words.
Ask people in the street and many are confused as to what the being in E.U. has actually done for Britain. Others wonder what has it done to it. As usual, it’s almost impossible to ascertain what the practical issues are, beneath the propaganda and distraction of what appears to be rapidly becoming a civil war — not only between political parties, but within them.
Why is a referendum being held?
Shortly after Britain joined the E.U. — or the Common Market as it was then called — a referendum was held and the country voted to stay in. Since then, the public and politicians have called for another vote, claiming that the E.U. has changed so much in 40 years since many more countries have joined, and the institution has exercised more control. After initially resisting the calls, David Cameron changed his mind in 2013.
Who wants to leave?
Since September, the race has been fairly evenly split with latest opinion polls showing 51% wish to remain in the EU 51%, 49% want to leave. The U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), which won the European elections, campaigns for Britain’s exit from the E.U. In addition, about half of Conservative MPs, including five cabinet ministers, several Labour MPs, and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are in favour of leaving.
Why do they want to leave?
Many believe that the E.U. imposes too many rules and charges billions of pounds in membership fees for little in return. They want Britain to take full control of its borders and reduce the number of people entering for work. They also object to the idea of “ever closer union” and the ultimate goal to create a “United States of Europe.”
Who wants to stay?
David Cameron and sixteen of his cabinet back staying in. The Conservative Party has pledged to be neutral in the campaign, while the Labour Party, Scottish National Party (SNP), Plaid Cymru, and the Liberal Democrats are in favour of staying in.
Why do they want to stay?
Some believe that Britain gets a boost from E.U. membership . They claim it makes selling things to other E.U. countries easier and that the flow of immigrants fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services. The ‘ins’ also believe that Britain’s status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that the country is more secure as part of the bloc.
Who’s saying what?
A number of campaigners and union leaders wrote a letter to the Guardian calling the E.U. a “profoundly anti-democratic institution” and claiming that it is irreversibly committed to privatisation, welfare cuts, low wages, and the erosion of trade union rights. The letter stated: “We stand for a positive vision of a future Europe based on democracy, social justice and ecological sustainability, not the profit-making interests of a tiny elite. For these reasons we are committed to pressing for a vote to leave the E.U. in the forthcoming referendum on U.K. membership.”
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said that many Scots would object to being taken out of the E.U. against their will. She added that a second Scottish independence referendum would almost certainly be triggered if the U.K. votes to leave the E.U. but Scotland does not.
Caroline Lucas Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion said the end of David Cameron’s marathon twenty-five hour negotiations last week must mark “an end of men in grey suits shouting at each other” and added “The distraction of the negotiations is now over and the real debate can begin. Every single vote is equal in this referendum – and it’s crucial that this conversation is taken out from behind closed doors and into our communities.”
In an opinion piece for the Guardian, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Cameron’s recent negotiations of “overblown tinkering.’’ Corbyn agrees that the E.U. needs reform but said Labour will be campaigning to stay in, as he said: “It’s because being part of Europe has brought Britain investment, jobs and protection for workers, consumers and the environment. We are convinced that the EU is a vital framework for European trade and international cooperation in the 21st century, and that a vote to remain in Europe is in the best interests of our people.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson released a statement on Sunday night siding with the exit campaign: “I will be advocating Vote Leave – or whatever the team is called, I understand there are a lot of them – because I want a better deal for the people of this country, to save them money and to take control. That is really what this is all about.” Despite the buffoon-like vagueness of his claims, the revelations caused shockwaves through currency markets on Monday with the pound hitting its lowest point against the U.S. dollar in seven years.
Stomach-churning photos of Nigel Farage and George Galloway at a rally for the Grassroots Out campaign last week no doubt boosted numbers for the Remain camp while prompting some hilarious tweets.
I was thinking of abstaining on the EU referendum but the unholy alliance of Farage & Galloway is nudging me to stay pic.twitter.com/b7QkW7KZiu
— Peter George Owen (@pgo1980) February 20, 2016
Think George Galloway and Nigel Farage should take their blossoming bromance further and start a crimefighting duo.
— Patternburst (@Patternburst) February 22, 2016