If you had told the British public on the eve of the last General Election, that by the end of June 2016, the UK its would have voted to leave the European Union, David Cameron would have resigned and the Pound’s value would fall by 8% over a few seconds, you would likely be laughed at. Yet, in a landmark moment, 51.9% of the British public has voted to leave the EU.
Waves of shock and surprise have lapped over the country as pollsters, betting agents and much of the British public have been proven wrong in believing that the UK will remain in the largest trading bloc the world has ever seen.
It’s clear that a divisive referendum campaign leading to a ‘Brexit’ has only served to further divide our nation with hate, fear and sadness. MPs have turned on each other and families have been split over a decision which has put the future of international relations and the United Kingdom itself in the balance.
Above the facade of a letter signed by over 80 Euro-sceptic MPs reaffirming Cameron’s ability to remain as Prime Minister in the case of Brexit, there lies fundamental Conservative party divides over the issue of the EU, which will not vanish with a convenient vote.
The tension within the Tories is palpable, with Cameron’s recent dismissal of Michael Gove as having ‘lost it’ after comparing pro-Remain economists to Nazi scientists, while Boris Johnson frustrated Cameron in the run up to the referendum with undermining his attempts to lead a united Tory front. The media obsession with Cameron’s leadership under threat by Boris and Gove has painted an appealing picture to many of the Tories tearing themselves apart.
It is hard to believe that such tension would have ever subsided under Cameron’s post-Brexit leadership, but even his resignation has given little reassurance, plaguing Britain with uncertainty as to who will front a new government. Whether the economic and political insecurities raised by the PMs resignation and the volatility of the stock market will be addressed under a post-Brexit government is a situation not one Brit can predict at this point in time.
The divisions of politics have only extended further throughout the referendum. Jeremy Corbyn has faced growing tension within his own party after a Vote to Leave, with Labour MPs submitting a vote of no confidence and many more wary of his electability after a relatively poor campaign from Labour In. A former Labour minister has come to the press, stating that Corbyn needs to be replaced with a leader not focused on the politics of “market ideology on the one hand and fantasy on the other”.
This referendum has provided another hurdle for Corbyn, being deemed as incapable of maintaining the loyalty of his own voters, let alone gaining the momentum to pluck support from the Conservatives, hinted at with his failure to engage with working class voters as shown by a poor Labour-Remain turnout. A leading Stronger In Europe figure added to the increasing number complaints, stating “Jeremy hasn’t pulled his weight. Even if we had won, it would have been despite not because of him.”
These claims are substantiated, as Labour have illustrated the impacts of un-coordination in the referendum, shown by swathes of working class voters supposedly loyal to Labour going against their party’s pleas and voting to leave. Results such as an embarrassing Leave vote in Ed Miliband’s council area and widespread support for Leave in Welsh labour heartlands, with a majority in 17 council areas backing Brexit, only further emphasise the claims made about Labour’s strength. John Mann, a Labour Leave MP, has stated that Corbyn and his cabinet are ‘out of touch’ with many of their traditional voters.
Pro-remain parties have only served to bring each other down by attacking each other from the moment Leave gained momentum in the early hours of the 24th June. Labour put the First Minister Alex Salmond, of the SNP, into the spotlight, suggesting that a lack of enthusiasm in campaigning for votes and a turnout had cost them vital support, causing one source from the SNP to retort “What the hell was Nicola supposed to do?”. This bickering continued, with claims from Labour of the SNP ensuring a second referendum to pursue independence, serving only to further divide the Remain side.
The fault lines in both Cameron’s government and Corbyn’s Labour that widened throughout 2015 have become even more evident with the referendum and a Leave vote. Cameron and Corbyn have been put to the test by both the cynical public and wary MPs, in how effectively they could pursue the cause to Remain. With an evident lack of success resulting from both parties efforts, alongside UKIP and Vote Leave successfully weaning widespread support away from the Remain Tories and Labour with a tenacious and controversial campaign, extreme pressure has already began to be put on these parties post-Brexit. The lead up to 2020, in which the next general election and a new trade deal with Europe as envisaged by Leave is predicted, will be a time of great expectations on the two largest British parties.
A vote to leave is also telling of the political climate in which this country is placed. It is evident that the result of the increasing disaffection of much of the populace is the backlash that the economic and political establishments have suffered in the referendum. The Tories and Remain have clearly failed to secure the confidence of the people, with much distrust in politicians and economic experts involved in the campaign, alongside a pronounced cynicism of fear-tactics. This shows how on electorate wanting to hit back at an establishment for what they perceive as ongoing marginalisation and hardship is dominating the politics of today.
The failure to deliver a Remain verdict will weigh down heavily on both the Conservative government and Labour. The lack of successful coherence and appeal shown by either party has served only to further alienate the people of Britain from its traditional parties which will, with many voters questioning the actions of those they support in a decision which has crossed parties, have great impact on the turnout and nature of voting in the next general election. The nature of a choice of an interdependent future in the EU as presented by Remain, set against the choice of more independence and diplomatic influence with Leave, has exposed the political parties to much pressure, with the credibility of their campaigns and parties coming under fire by the public.
With a democratic vote to Leave, it should be the aim all citizens of the UK that the many moments of hate encapsulated by this referendum, such as the tragic murder of Jo Cox by a far-right nationalist, and the reveal of UKIP’s ‘Breaking Point’ poster, will be seen as what they were – the impact of a divisive choice many Brits painstakingly made. Much adjustment must be be made both economically and politically, as the nature of politics has changed in Britain with this referendum, with the two major parties of Conservative and Labour undergoing irreversible change. Yet, the referendum and its divisive impact should not be forgotten, and the people of Britain must strive to avoid the politics of hate and co-operate to ensure the best result possible for Britain from a democratic Brexit vote. If there is one thing the public will learn this year from the referendum, it is that the nature of modern politics is proving to be racked in uncertainty.
Words by Jai Curtis