What Really Caused Brexit?

by Ryan Brown

On June 23 2016, the United Kingdom voted by a majority of 51.9 per cent to leave the European Union but what really led to the political mess that we are in?

In times of uncertainty, we tend to look ahead into the murky future with a potential general election looming and Brexit seemingly delayed until the end of January next year.

However, Dr Ewan Gibbs, a lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at the University of the West of Scotland, gave an insight into the history behind Brexit and what really brought British politics to this point. 

Dr Gibbs claimed that the financial crisis, now over 10 years ago, was some sort of catalyst for the unrest we are now experiencing.

He said: “I think it’ll be seen as a major moment, maybe in 20 or 30 years we will understand it better as an outro from the 2008 crisis, I think we actually forget that politics and discussions of the future were fundamentally reordered by the crash in 2008.

“It’s stemmed not just from the credit crunch but a decade of austerity and a generation that will be less off than their parents.”

An event such as Brexit could be compared to the mid 20th Century when Britain was negotiating an entry into the European Economic Community (EEC) before eventually entering in 1973.

Dr Gibbs saw some clear similarity in both sets of negotiations but they have also brought about change.

“Certainly entry in to the EEC was a major discussion in the 1960s and 70s, a bit like Brexit, it wasn’t a clear cut debate, it divided parties, it divided traditional class alignment and it divided parts of Britain.

“What’s interesting is that a lot of these alignments have changed so Scotland was especially Euro-sceptic and the south east of England was pro-European. 

“The Labour party was probably more divided over it than the Tory party,” he commented. 

In the present, an election in time for Christmas seems more likely than not, but such a focus on this will not be enough to make this Brexit nightmare disappear.

Whether voters persist and keep their political focus for a second general election in just over two years, this won’t make all that much of a difference in terms of trying to solve the problem of Brexit.

Dr Gibbs added: “The real question about that is that Brexit isn’t going to be something that’s suddenly resolved.

“Even if Britain was to leave the EU with some sort of agreement, our relationship with continental Europe is a major point of discussion. 

“I don’t think that just because you get to a certain milestone historically that that is just going to disappear, there’s a naivety in public debate on Brexit that you can just solve that.

“I don’t even see why we should be expecting a definitive answer.”

From the sheer dominance Brexit has imposed on our everyday lives, you may be forgiven that it is to blame for political destructiveness but Dr Gibbs believes it’s the other way round.

“Actually the mistake is to view Brexit as destructive when in fact it’s the other way round.

“It’s the outcome of long erosion of the legitimacy of political institution in Britain, it will continue to rumble on and be a formative reference point in politics and there will be an intensification of the contradiction that produced Brexit,” he said. 

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