Opinion

Personal views from University of Bath researchers on the news of the day

Tagged: breaking news

UK votes for Brexit

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📥  EU Referendum, Public Policy

As the UK dissects the results of the historic referendum on membership of the European Union and the decision of the British people to vote to leave, academic experts* from the University are providing comment and analysis on what this now means for politics, democracy, the economy, business and for the rest of the EU.

* Additional comments will be added to this blog throughout the day.

An uncertain future for the EU.

An uncertain future for the EU.

A far from united United Kingdom – Professor Charlie Lees

“In every single way you cut the cake the United Kingdom is far from united on this issue. We’re divided by age, by our countries and regions and by people with degrees and those without.  

“Many might have voted ‘leave’ in the EU referendum with a view to protecting the UK from further encroachment of laws from Brussels. But now one of the unforeseen consequences will be that Scotland is likely to have another referendum on Independence, which the SNP is highly likely to win, and in Northern Ireland there will be renewed questions over Irish unification. In the long term it’s possible today’s result might actually be the first step in the break-up of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“Without doubt this is one of the most significant, momentous decisions in our lifetime. And reality is about to bite for the Brexit camp, especially with the Prime Minister’s decision to step down in the autumn.”

‘Europe’ at a crossroads: What lessons from a Brexit? - Dr Nick Startin 

"The UK’s vote to leave the EU is a symbolic turning point in the history of European integration and is already sending shockwaves through the institutions of the European Union. After an intensely fought campaign based largely around the issues of immigration and the economy ‘Europe’ finds itself at a crossroads. With Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty likely to be set in motion by the UK government formalising the process of leaving the EU, the result will serve to galvanise Eurosceptic voices across the continent. Far Right Front National leader Marine Le Pen is already calling for a referendum in France on EU membership and similar opinions are being espoused by other populist leaders such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.

"Is this the end of the European project founded in the rubble of the Second-World War? This will depend on how the EU’s elites respond to a UK Brexit. EU elites have been slow to respond to dissenting voices in the past and have not engaged sufficiently with them. Eurobarometer data tells us that public support and trust for the EU has declined across the member states in recent years on the back of the 2004 EU enlargement and the more recent economic crisis. The appetite for ‘ever closer union’ has waned in many nation. If the EU is to survive, the reform agenda (of which we hear so much) must be embraced as a matter of urgency. Transparency, accountability and democracy are the key. There needs to be further recognition on the part of the EU’s elites that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will only serve to divide rather than unite.  Failure to learn this lesion from the UK Brexit vote could lead to an unravelling of the EU as we know it."

The economic ramifications of Brexit - Professor Chris Martin

"The shocking decision to leave the European Union has plunged the UK into a severe political crisis. There is a risk that this spills over into a major economic crisis. The exchange rate has had the largest fall for many years. This has good effects (exports are cheaper) and bad effects (imported goods are more expensive, leading to less demand and more inflation). Large falls in the share price of major housebuilders, suppliers of luxury goods and consumer electronics firms suggests that the markets expect the bad effects to outweigh the good. In addition, Brexit has plunged the UK into a long period of deep uncertainty; uncertainty leads to less demand from consumers and less investment by firms, multiplying the already adverse effects of the fall in share prices.

"But the greatest worry is the very sharp drop in the share price of major banks. The financial crisis of 2008-9 showed the almost existential dangers of a financially vulnerable banking system. Policymakers need to take immediate action to offset these risks and to stop the economy being dragged down further. We need action from the Bank of England. It needs to provide massive support for the banking system. We may feel uncomfortable about providing further support for a deeply unpopular banking system, but there is no choice. The fall in the exchange rate will increase inflation. The Bank of England must ignore this and state that it will not increase interest rates while instability lasts. And we need action from the Chancellor. An emergency budget that raises taxes would make a difficult situation much worse. We need a commitment to increase government expenditure, to support demand and employment for as long as this crisis lasts."

Remain campaign defined by diffuse anxieties and beliefs - Dr Susan Milner

"The EU referendum campaign left voters feeling confused and frustrated about Britain’s place within the European Union. By relying on ‘Project Fear’ over a clear-headed assessment of the benefits and limitations of membership, the Remain campaign allowed the campaign to be redefined by more diffuse anxieties and beliefs. In this context, two key patterns of voting behaviour appear to have emerged.

"First, anger and disappointment of those who felt left behind by economic development translated into a classic rejection vote. The voting count showed this starkly as a geographical divide. Second, the Leave campaign was able in the last few weeks to channel the sense of democratic renewal which had galvanised the earlier Scottish referendum campaign and to articulate it in the theme of ‘regaining control’. In this they were undoubtedly assisted by EU leaders’ own failure to frame European integration as a people’s rather than an elite project. With both main parties revealing deep divisions, Britain’s electoral politics have become highly volatile and internal cohesion is under heavy strain. On one hand, it is not clear where the referendum result leaves the pro-membership swathes of the population – Northern Ireland and Scotland, many urban centres, and younger people who appear increasingly disengaged from mainstream politics. On the other, populist politicians are evidently making gains from growing social inequality."

Vote to leave the EU has imperilled the union - Professor Nick Pearce 

"The 20th century was a story of the contraction of England and the end of Empire. But only now is the reverse logic of Seeley’s master narrative being fully realised. England has voted to leave the European Union and in so doing has imperilled her own union. The wound of Irish partition has been reopened and Scotland now faces the prospect of another independence referendum. Only Wales has stood with England in choosing to leave the European Union.

"Empire gave Britain command of the global economy, until hegemony passed to the US. Trade and finance flows kept Britain afloat as it ceded industrial leadership to the US and Germany. Foreign direct investment and the City played the same role after we de-industrialised. Today, our economic weaknesses stand brutally exposed: Brexit has caused mayhem in the markets and a run on the pound. As we adjust to the shock, we will become poorer.

"What is England now? What is her role in the world? Alas, the referendum debate told us nothing of these things; it was sour, parochial and mendacious. It has destroyed a Prime Minister and there is rubble everywhere."

Read more from Nick via the IPR blog.

To Brexit and beyond - Professor Bill Durodié

"The decision by a net majority of the eligible electorate in favour of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union is a triumph for our freedom and self-determination. It comes despite most predictions and the use of a politics of fear over more than twenty years on all issues from health and the environment to child safety and international security. The European Union as it was came into existence when the Cold War ended. Leaders the world over feared the uncertain consequences of the demise of the old politics of Left and Right. Avoiding risk rapidly became their new organising framework in a period devoid of other guiding principles. But their foremost though rarely stated fear, was always that of their own people. Despite the economic and migration concerns of the elites thrown up in the referendum debate it is those from whom power and authority truly derive who have now spoken the clearest. The European Union now stands discredited with an uncertain future as other electorates will surely take their lead from the United Kingdom and demand their own referenda to leave too. Of course, much remains to be done in the period ahead. This is only a first step. But it will lead to many other debates. It is those who do not fear change to whom the future belongs."

Read more from Bill via The Conversation.

The people have spoken - Professor Graham Room

"The people have spoken: they want out.  It is now incumbent on Parliament and Government to implement this decision: incumbent in a political – if not in a constitutional - sense. What terms of exit are likely to be agreed? What will the EU members be prepared to offer?  The Brexit campaigners argue that it will be in the interests of the EU to agree an early and generous exit agreement with the UK.  That is not self-evident.  Many expect the EU to negotiate a hard bargain, if only to discourage others who might think of heading for the exit, and in order to counter the right-wing nationalist elements which many of them face within their own countries.

"The key question is this: will the UK Parliament and Government feel themselves obliged to persist with exit, no matter how hard the terms which the EU offers?  Or will they take the view that under those conditions they would have no alternative but to put those terms to a new referendum?  Nothing in the EU Treaty would prevent the UK government from doing this: and then allowing the result of that second referendum to abort the withdrawal process. Is it not therefore possible that an informal alliance may now develop between the pro-European elites within the UK and their counterparts across Europe – aimed at ensuring that the deal which the EU offers is indeed meagre: in the knowledge that such a deal will oblige the government to put the terms on offer to a new referendum?"  

Read more from Graham via the IPR Blog.

A Treaty Revision too far for many Eurosceptics - Dr Alim Baluch

"The campaign has been incredibly shallow in terms of addressing the undeniable democratic deficit of the EU. The British Eurosceptic position is remarkably inconsistent. It generally opposes the Treaty Revision of Lisbon which effectively strengthened the European Parliament, thus reducing the democratic deficit. But it is exactly this Treaty Revision which went too far for many Eurosceptics. Now there is a Leave Vote, the absurdity of article 50 of the EU Treaty might trigger further anger at the EU as it calls for a unanimous vote of all 28 member states to agree to the modalities of Britain leaving. UKIP or media like the Sun might very well create the impression that Britain has to ask Germany or Estonia for permission to leave despite the referendum. A sense of indignation might be tapped into (and therefore be encouraged) ahead of future elections. Good times for Boris Johnson."