The result of Britain’s EU referendum debate changes EVERYTHING

Yesterday, I voted in a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. I voted to remain in the EU – as I did in the referendum of 1975. We now know the result.

On a turnout of 71.8% (the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election), 51.9% voted for us to leave the EU and 48.1% to remain in it. Some reactions – on stock exchanges and currency markets for instance – were immediate, but the full implications will take weeks, months. years, indeed decades to unfold and with affect not just Britain, but the rest of Europe and indeed the world economy.

Sadly the conduct of the referendum campaign and the results of the actual voting reveal deep divisions in British society.

We are divided in national terms – outside of London (where I live), much of England and Wales voted to leave, whereas Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay with serious implications for the Irish peace process and Scottish independence respectively.

We are divided in age terms – the younger the voter, the more likely he or she voted to remain, but the older the more likely he or she voted to leave in a very stark age profile.

We are divided in economic terms – most middle-class voters did not feel threatened by immigration and have coped with the challenges of free trade, but working class voters are really worried by immigration and globalisation and voted against the views of almost all establishment figures.

We are divided in political terms – the Conservative Party will soon have a new leader which will mean a new Prime Minister and a new Government with a significant shift to the Right, while many in the Labour Party will feel that the lukewarm support for EU membership from Jeremy Corbyn further calls into doubt his capacity to lead the party and the nation.

Later on, I will try to be my usual optimistic self. But today I feel shocked and saddened and I see this very unfortunate result as part of a wider crisis in our older democracies which I have written about here.


  • Nadine Wiseman

    We’re experiencing disbelief and alarm over here too. It is very disheartening to see more divisions and boundaries going up instead of the emphasis being on supporting commonalities – as you said to me during the 2014 vote for Scottish Independence.

  • Janet

    “I voted to remain in the EU – as I did in the referendum of 1975.”

    Ah, but you didn’t. In 1975, the vote was on being in the EEC (European Economic Community).
    Personally, I think this vote should have taken place in 1992 at the time of the Maastricht Treaty.

  • Roger Darlington

    I take your point, Janet.

  • Dave

    I’m very clear that many were persuaded to vote leave for the wrong reasons. There have been so many sound bites along the lines of get our country back, protect our borders, restore manufacturing, save our High Streets. All playing to primordial fears of loss of tribal protection and rights. Those days are gone and leaving the EU won’t bring them back.

    What is truly disturbing is that if our politicians don’t start behaving like leaders, then we could easily see fragmentation of the U.K. as well as the EU.

    It’s time for one of them to behave like a Statesman, not a self centred wimp!

  • Paul Thompson

    The saddest thing is that it’s been on the cards for so long and yet the powers to be buried their heads in the sand. If this is not the downfall of the EU it could actually save it and make it stronger.

  • Roger Darlington

    Hard to disagree, Dave.

    Would be good if the EU actually learned from this result and changed for the better, Paul.

  • Kim Brook

    I agree with you 100% Roger. I am particularly ashamed that Wales, a net beneficiary of EU money, has chosen to bite the hand that fed us. Why was this? Because the Labour heartlands in the Valleys bought the lies and meaningless slogans of the Leave campaign, and there was insufficient trouble taken to refute the false arguments, and to make it clear that the Leave decision would ruin the aspirations and futures of our grandchildren and turn us into an unwelcoming xenophobic backwater, where previously we have had racial harmony for generations of people assimilated into the South Wales ports and the industrial Valleys. Sadly, the ‘welcome in the hillsides’ has withered – I’m shattered and ashamed.

  • Roger Darlington

    I understand exactly how you feel, Kim. Older voters have made a decision that will largely impact the most on younger voters who generally wanted to remain.

  • Mike and Joyce Creasy

    Is there any sense of “buyer’s remorse” among the Leave group? Is there any chance at all that there could be another referendum? Or, a referendum on whether or not do another referendum?
    Sounds like a stretch, but I do believe the “leavers” will be hurt in the long run with many more jobs disappearing, just from the pure business economics of the thing, than would ever have been lost to immigrants. In order to make this work businesswise, companies are going to have to focus on the cost of doing business in GB, meaning a greater focus on keeping jobs and wages lower than elsewhere. No question, a lose/lose in the long run.

  • Roger Darlington

    I suspect that we will see an element of remorse by Leave voters within a matters of weeks. If opinion polls show this to be large and sustained, there might be a case for a second referendum but it would be hard to deliver politically because it would look as if the democratic will of the voters was being challenged.

  • David Howarth

    David Cameron has much to answer for. We vote for members of Parliament to make important decisions on our behalf so we shouldn’t have even had this referendum. Cameron gambled with our membership of the EU to hold his party together, and spectacularly failed.

    It would be funny if the consequences weren’t so far reaching. And then having promised his European counterparts that the result was a foregone conclusion, unable to say anything positive about the EU, he based his campaign on Project Fear. The people were not prepared to be bullied by Flashman.

    The lies of the Leave campaign are already unravelling (£350m a week to spent on the NHS, reducing immigration) but I fear any remorse felt by Leave voters that they’ve been hoodwinked won’t be sufficient to trigger another referendum. It’s all so desperately sad and could have so easily been avoided. The only good that may come out of it is that it could speed up the creation of a united Ireland.

  • Prashant Vaze

    Generous and humane article and also thoughtful discussion. A lot of my friends voted the other way to me and the divisions, rancour and disappointment reverberate all the way to Hong Kong. I hope the left arranges itself so it play a major role in the leave negotiations. Change is scary, but it can be for the good too. I hope a UK emerges that retains its social and environmental protections but rethinks how it engages with the rest of the world. I hope the EU reflects on what it’s for, so other countries don’t depart as well.

  • Babs Eggleston

    Fearful. Now you must live with it.
    I am fearful, here in the US, of what Donald Trump could do if he were elected. Similar awful outcome.
    Perhaps this is similar to what biblical literalists fear with the apocalypse.

  • Lino Fonseca

    Hello Roger, I stay in India which is a country made up of 29 states and 7 union territories. Each state has its own language, culture , customs etc. However we still remain part of India. Its for the overall good and well being that we continue to stay united.

    With regards to the UK referendum, I believe the older majority voted to leave since they have felt they have got a raw deal with regards to the general policy. When i first saw the statistic on social media that the young voted to stay where as the elderly voted to leave, it immediately made me think that elderly would probably have faced the hardships which the young do not face and hold the policies of the EU to blame for it.

    i always believe there are two sides to a coin. Only time will tell whether this move is good for the UK in the long run or not. Currently everyone is speculating about the impact and perceiving it as negative.

    One can only hope that whichever way things go, the leaders keep the benefits of the general public in mind and take decisions that will be for the good of all.

    God bless.

  • Zdenek Sadecky

    BG departure from the EU is bad news for the Czech Republic. But the EU is undemocratic, bureaucratic, corrupt, dysfunctional colossus. Unfortunately, Europe has wasted a great opportunity rational common procedure. People like Schultz, Junker, Tusk completely without the ability to use the power of reflection instead of democracy. Merkel dictates without having to have any official mission. At least, that we see in the Czech Republic. It’s a shame, but in the EU we see a rather repeating the Soviet bloc, not something positive. I choose to leave the Czech Republic because I do not want to become peripherals (without the right to self-determination), Germany.
    col. retired, Ing. Zdeněk Sadecký, Ph.D.
    Czech republic

  • Jeremy Mitchell

    Below is my open letter to Boris Johnson, published in The National on 8 June. Needless to say, I have had no answer to my questions:

    Dear Mr Johnson
    EU Referendum
    I am not one of your constituents, but as you have appeared on public platforms on many occasions advancing the arguments in favour of the UK leaving the EU, I would be grateful if you would answer some of my doubts about your opinions.
    1. There seems to be a widely held view that if the UK were to leave the EU, it would have both short and long term adverse effects on the UK’s trade with the EU (which currently accounts for 46% of the UK’s exports), with harmful knock-on effects on employment, the flow of investment and prosperity. If you do not agree with this, I would be glad if you would point me towards any independent and authoritative study that comes to the opposite conclusion.
    2. If the UK were to leave, what do you think would be our ideal future relationship with the EU? There seem to be three possibilities:
    – The Norwegian model, with the UK as a member of the European Economic Area. While this might compensate to some extent for any loss of economic benefits arising from our departure from the EU, there do seem to be significant disadvantages. Espen Barth Eide, formerly Norway’s foreign minister, has pointed out that Norway does not play any part in the EU’s decision-making, but nevertheless has to abide by the EU’s legislation. Indeed, Norway has had to incorporate no less than three-quarters of EU legislation into its own statute book in order to secure access to the single market. Norway has to conform to all EU product standards, financial regulations and employment law, as well as making a substantial contribution to the EU budget.
    – The Canadian model, working towards a framework analogous to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada, which is still subject to final agreement and ratification. The idea was first mooted in 2004 and detailed negotiations started in May 2007, so clearly anything comparable would be an extremely lengthy process. In any event, I understand that the negotiating process has been very one-sided: in the main, Canada has had to adapt to EU regulations and norms rather than the other way round.
    – A free for all, in which the UK would not seek any special economic relationship with the EU, but take its chance in competition with the rest of the world, dealing with tariff and other barriers to trade on a piecemeal basis – rather as, for example, Paraguay and Myanmar do today.
    Which of these approaches to the future do you prefer? Or would there be, following UK exit, some other way ahead that I have not mentioned?
    3. What are your views on our future economic relationship with the USA if we leave the EU? President Obama has expressed the view that it might take up to a decade for the UK to negotiate an agreement. Do you disagree with this – and, if so, why?
    4. The official Leave Campaign leaflet that has come through my letter box states on the front page ‘The EU costs us £350 million per week.’ However, the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority has stated that this figure is misleading, as it does not take account of the money that the UK receives back from the EU. Why do you persist in using this misleading figure? If you disagree with the National Statistics Authority, I would be glad if you would let me have your reasons, with supporting statistical calculations.
    5. The same leaflet states ‘The next countries set to join [the EU] are Albania…Macedonia…Montenegro…Serbia…Turkey…The next countries the EU wants to let in include Turkey…’ As I understand the situation, Turkey would have to adopt and enforce all EU legislation and rules before it could be admitted, and in ten years it has only managed to achieve this in one of the 35 policy areas into which EU legislation is divided. Moreover, even when this has been achieved, every EU member state would have to sign an accession treaty, which would then have to be approved by the European Parliament and ratified by the parliaments of every member state. Given this, do you not think it is misleading to try to frighten people (‘Turkey has borders with Iraq and Syria’ your leaflet reads) by stating that Turkey is ‘set’ to join the EU?
    6. There are at present some 2.3 million UK expatriates who live in other EU countries. A number of these have jobs that, directly or indirectly, depend on UK membership of the EU. Many others have retired to live abroad in other EU countries, where they receive benefits, such as free health services, that are contingent on UK membership of the EU. If the UK leaves, it is quite possible that many hundreds of thousands of these expatriates would want to return to the UK. Have you made any estimate of the impact that this would have on housing and on health and other services? If so, what conclusions have you reached?
    7. What do you think will be the political repercussions if – as seems very likely – a majority of voters in Scotland (and Wales and Northern Ireland, for that matter) vote to remain in the EU but are outnumbered by a majority of leave voters in England? How would you propose to deal with the constitutional furore that this would cause? Do you think that in these circumstances the UK’s exit from the EU might be the proximate cause of the break-up of the UK?
    8. A land frontier between the UK and the EU would be created by our exit – the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. History has shown that this is famously porous border, easily penetrated by people and by unofficial trade. How would you propose to deal with this? For example, do you envisage building a Trump-style ‘Mexican wall’ to keep out illegal immigrants and smugglers?
    9. Finally, there can be little doubt that, in a continent that has suffered centuries of wars and conflict, the EU has been a force for peace, to the extent that it now impossible to envisage war between any of its member states. At a time when much of the world is ravaged by armed conflict and the failure of many nation states, the EU provides a framework for the reduction of national tensions and peaceful cooperation. Do you not think that this is something that should be encouraged rather than scorned? Of course, the EU in its present state has many imperfections but surely it is in the best interests of the peoples of the whole of Europe, including the UK, that we should work to improve this framework for international peace and prosperity, rather than turn our backs on it?
    Yours sincerely
    Jeremy Mitchell

  • Max Bancroft

    Thank you Jeremy Mitchell for letting us see your thoughtful letter to Boris Johnston. Please post his reply when you get it – although I suspect it you might have a long wait. 🙂

  • Max Bancroft

    To (perhaps) cheer us up a bit –


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