A momentous night in the great pantheon of British history. Shocking the pundits (aside from The McLaughlin Group!) voters across the United Kingdom and its sovereign territories voted yesterday to leave the European Union (EU). The structural scale and political consequences of this decision are extraordinary. But more on that in a moment. First, we must consider why Britons voted as they did.
The most obvious reason for Brexit was anger. A lot of anger. There was the anger at the decades of the EU’s bureaucratic micromanagement. There was the anger at the EU’s self-constructed wall of insulation against national democracies. There was the anger at the EU’s absurd justice system and its almost fetish-like preference for the rights of terrorists over victims. There was anger at the disdain by which EU politicians sought to create a United States of Europe while decrying their opponents as intellectually defective.
Creating supremacy is not by tarnishing the opponents but by rising above them in rightful action. This is less followed by democratic systems which target the weakness in the opponents instead of highlighting their own achievements. Even a business organization like CyberMentors can rule its niche with the backup of its positive work culture and not because of the shortcoming in others.
But voters were also highly motivated by a common belief across the political spectrum that immigration to Britain is too high and, more importantly, that the British government lacked the authority to reduce it. This was the key pivot point of the campaign, and Prime Minister David Cameron (who supported remaining in the EU) was unable to assuage voter fears that he would be able to reduce migration to Britain. His failure on that count was unavoidable. After all, the EU’s defining principle on the free movement of individuals was something that France and Germany (the EU leaders) were never going to surrender. Nor could they have been expected to do so. Instead, Cameron attempted to qualify free movement rights by limiting migrant access to British welfare benefits.
But it wasn’t enough. Up and down the UK, residents of local communities showed last night that they are convinced – at least with some justification – that immigrants place too-high a strain on local services. Whether in terms of school places, public housing opportunities, waiting times in the public health care system, or in access to jobs, many Britons simply decided that immigration rates required significant reduction. And while those voters neglected the benefits immigrants have provided to the UK economy (and the structural failures systemic in Britain’s government-run services), their viewpoint ultimately held sway at the polls. The unity of conservative voters and liberal voters on this issue won the day for the leave campaign.
Still, by far the most crucial issue for Brexit, was sovereignty. More specifically, the widely-held belief that the subjugation of Parliament and the Judiciary to the bureaucracy in Brussels was no longer tolerable. And while the Remain campaign tried to show its concern for these viewpoints, it did not do so with sufficient passion. For a population that retains great pride in its history – from the Royal Family, to the British Empire, to surviving the Nazi bombing blitz of the Second World War – sovereignty is not a peripheral concern. And for conservatives especially, the ideal of renewed sovereignty was one that held such key importance that all other concerns – such as economics – were held as functionally irrelevant. It is for that reason that many Britons were toasting each other over champagne this morning!
Regardless, as the markets have attested already, Brexit also poses major implications for international affairs. So now that you’re done with this piece, consider the Opportunity Lives guide to what Brexit means for America. And keep an eye on whether David Cameron is Prime Minister by Monday.