The most significant shock waves in a generation were sent through Great Britain on Thursday, June 23rd, when the public voted on a referendum to decide if Britain were to remain in or leave the European Union (EU). Britain voted and the ‘Leave’ campaign, aka "Brexit," won out by a narrow 52 to 48 percent margin. The referendum debate was highly charged, reflected in the number of voters who participated — the highest turnout since the 1992 general election.
What were the perceived pros and cons of remaining in or leaving the EU?
The EU consists of 28 member countries who shared a single economic market, based on a standardized system of laws that apply to all of its members. EU policies and legislation, to which all member countries must adhere, aim to ensure the unrestricted movement of people, goods, services, etc. within that market. The EU also has a currency component, the Euro, though not all members use it, perhaps most notably Britain which continues to us their own currency, the Pound.
On the pro-side of the referendum house, people have argued that leaving the EU is a regressive and a damaging step for Britain in a variety of ways; affecting open trade routes and citizens' ability to travel freely through EU countries. Employees are able to live and work in EU nations, and passport-less recreational travel is easy and affordable for EU citizens.
On the con-side, much has been said about the 350 million Pounds that Britain gives the EU every week (which the Guardian and others say is actually more like 248 million Pounds
), and how that money could be better invested in the National Health Care System
and other Britain-based services. These frustrations are often cited as a reason to remove Britain from outside governing influences. One can certainly sympathize with that argument when considering the US Declaration of Independence contains 1,300 words, the US Constitution 4,543, and the EU's regulations on the sale of cabbages stands at a whopping 29,911!
Though these frustrations do illicit sympathy for the "Leave" campaign, the undercurrent of racism that has characterized their movement is far more disturbing. Prominent ‘Leave’ campaigners, chief among them former UKIP leader Nigel Farage
, have generated a litany of speeches, quotes and sound-bites of chest-beating nationalism. Very little consideration is given to, or compassion shown for, anyone arriving on British shores in search of a better life. The anger directed towards "those people coming over here and taking all our jobs" is tangible — sound familiar? — even to me, way over here in America.
Since the EU vote, this anger is manifesting itself in an increase in attacks on immigrants
, even British citizens who happen to not look like their white countrymen. This hate has been flushed out and stoked up to a large degree by the "Leave" victory — that's what concerns me most.
It's tragically ironic that on the 100-year anniversary of one of the most infamous battle of World War 1, the Battle of the Somme, when over half a million European soldiers died in defense of an alliance of nations and shared values, Britain now appears to prefer a position of isolation over unification.
Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett, or the Back Chat show on KCMJ 93.9.