The UK’s decision to Brexit from the European Union took many by surprise, and with both the UK and Conservative governments experiencing immediate leadership crises, uncertainty following the vote has been considerable. Here we look at the major developments in the UK’s Brexit referendum and consider the most significant turning points in the campaign.
Use the index below to head straight to a particular event, or read from the beginning to see how the entire campaign unfolded and why we arrived at the result we did.
On the 23rd of June the UK took the historic decision to seek independence from the EU. The vote ended a long and bitterly-fought battle, yielding an incredibly close final result. When all the votes had been counted, the ‘Leave’ camp held the lead, with 17,410,742 to ‘Remain’s 16,141,241, with support split 48.1% to 51.9%.
The debate has been far from one-sided, with accusations, falsehoods and controversies marring both sides. Polls have consistently shown mixed results and, while everyone tried to take the data with a pinch of salt after the hugely inaccurate election polls, the markets saw huge movement as a result of the movements. Initially it was just Pound Sterling (GBP) that was affected by the developments, but by the time the vote was just a few days off, markets across the globe had become gripped by ‘Brexit’ fears or fever.
Much of David Cameron’s problems later in the referendum could arguably be linked back to his decision at the very beginning of the year to allow Tory ministers to back whichever side of the referendum campaign they wanted. Cameron could have forced his MPs to back the official government position, but chose otherwise, saying;
‘There will be a clear government position, but it will be open to individual ministers to take a different personal position while remaining part of the government.’
His decision went against the advice of Sir John Mayor, former Prime Minister, and Michael Heseltine, former Deputy Prime Minister, to maintain the party’s collective responsibility. According to MP Steve Baker, over half of Conservatives at the time were ‘strongly leaning to leave’. The Prime Minister opened the way for Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and, surprisingly, Boris Johnson, to declare their support for a ‘Brexit’.
Timeframe: 15th-20th February
Before the Prime Minister’s intense negotiations with the EU member states most imagined that the UK would not decide upon its membership until 2017 – when the referendum had initially been promised by the Conservatives. David Cameron himself was undecided upon how he would campaign, claiming that he would back a ‘Brexit’ if EU leaders did not agree to the reforms to the UK’s EU membership he was seeking. Those claims were later criticised as empty threats after Cameron’s assertions that leaving the EU would crash the UK economy; the opposition questioned why he’d ever have been in favour of supporting such a move.
Cameron’s UK EU membership renegotiations hinged around four key issues; sovereignty, migrants and benefits, safeguarding the interests of non-Eurozone countries, and a reduction in targets and legislation to improve competitiveness. Immigration was the topic most people were interested in. The Prime Minister succeeded in securing permission to deploy an ‘emergency brake’, blocking new EU immigrants from receiving in-work benefits for four years, although rather than a complete removal of benefits, the actual deal would see immigrants having their benefits gradually increased as they better integrated with the economy. These measures would stay in place for seven years, just over half what the Prime Minister had supposedly wanted.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, pro-EU supporters largely said that the Prime Minister had succeeded in his aims and secured a promising new deal for the UK, while EU detractors claimed he had failed to get what he wanted and that the new measures would have little effect.
Timeframe: 21st February
Then London Mayor Boris Johnson took many by surprise after announcing on Sunday 21st of February that he would be joining the campaign to leave the European Union. Johnson followed in the footsteps of Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who had previously announced his support for a ‘Brexit’. Johnson called the decision ‘agonisingly difficult’, but explained:
‘I would like to see a new relationship based more on trade, on cooperation, with much less of this supranational element. So that is where I’m coming from and that is why I have decided, after a huge amount of heartache, because the last thing I wanted was to go against David Cameron or the government, I don’t think there is anything else I can do.’
‘I will be advocating Vote Leave – or whatever the team is called, I understand there are a lot of them – because I want a better deal for the people of this country, to save them money and to take control. That is really what this is all about.’
This was a particularly devastating blow for Cameron due to the level of respect and trust Johnson commanded from both MPs and voters. According to an Ipsos MORI poll conducted at the time, Boris Johnson was the second most influential politician in the referendum debate, after David Cameron. It was also viewed as a damning assessment on the success of David Cameron’s reform negotiations which took place before the weekend. Cameron’s claim that he had secured what he wanted and got a good deal for the UK were quickly undermined. ‘Remain’ campaigners tried to discredit Johnson by suggesting his backing of a ‘Brexit’ was less about his ideological goals and more about further his ambitions of becoming Prime Minister.
The UK government drew criticism on both sides of the debate after it was revealed that it would use £6.4 million of public funds to print and distribute a leaflet setting out
why the Government believed the UK should remain in the European Union. An additional £2.9 million would be used to create an accompanying website and pay for digital promotion. With the government later to be silenced by the ‘Purdah’ period, many attacked the leaflet as an unethical breach of its role in facilitating the referendum.
Michael Fallon, the Defence Minister, defended the move, stating;
‘Let’s be clear about this, the government is not neutral in this particular battle, the Government takes the view that we would be better off, safer and stronger inside a reformed Europe and we’re entitled as the democratically elected government to set out our view as government have done in every referendum we’ve had, going all the way back to the original European referendum back in 1975.’
The Vote Leave official response suggested the leaflets were a diversionary tactic aimed to distract the public from the unfolding Panama Papers scandal:
‘Number Ten is trying to distract the media’s attention from the issue of whether the Prime Minister’s family money is kept in offshore trusts. The Government promised that it would not take on the lead role in the referendum, so it’s disgraceful that they’re spending taxpayers’ money which could go to the NHS on EU propaganda instead.’
The leaflets included warnings that a ‘Brexit’ could lead to ten years of uncertainty while it negotiated new agreements the EU and more than 50 countries across the world, living standards would drop as prices rose and that mobile roaming charges could rise.
Image copyright: David Peterlin
Timeframe: 22nd April
Barack Obama’s speech in favour of the UK remaining a part of the European Union came a little surprise to anyone, due to the fact it had been telegraphed for over a week before the President actually opened his mouth. It was clear at least a week before the President visited the UK that he would be endorsed a vote to ‘Remain’, with ‘Leave’ campaigners expressing their ire before Obama had even landed in the country.
The issue revolved around whether or not Obama had a right to intervene. ‘Remain’ campaigners argued that considering a new trade deal with the US would be vital in the event of a ‘Brexit’ it made sense to hear the views of the President. ‘Leave’ campaigners claimed Obama had no place getting involved in the matter and that what he was urging the UK to do – remain a part of the European Union – went against what he and America would do in the same situation.
Boris Johnson noted that;
‘I just think it’s paradoxical that the United States, which wouldn’t dream of allowing the slightest infringement of its own sovereignty, should be lecturing other countries about the need to enmesh themselves ever deeper in a federal super-state.’
Leading Tory Euroskeptic Jacob Rees-Mogg commented that;
‘I can’t think the British people will want to be told what to do by a rather unsuccessful American president who has had one of the least successful foreign policies in modern history.’
When the time for Obama’s speech finally arrived, he said he was speaking ‘as a friend’, stating;
‘This is a decision for the people of the United Kingdom to make. I’m not coming here to fix any votes. I’m not casting a vote myself. I am offering my opinion, and in democracies, everybody should want more information, not less, and you shouldn’t be afraid to hear an argument being made.’
He warned that the UK would end up at the back of the queue for a trade deal with America because US priorities were currently on securing agreements with other nations.
The issue became more controversial when Boris Johnson suggested that Obama wanted the UK to vote for what he considered to be a wrong choice because the President is part-Kenyan, so holds an ‘ancestral dislike of the British empire’.
Timeframe: 28th April
After several weeks of being lambasted for failing to produce economists in favour of a ‘Brexit’, or a solid economic plan for such an eventuality, the ‘Leave’ campaign hit back with the launch of
‘Economists for Brexit’. The group, which comprised of eight economists including previous advisor to Boris Johnson Dr Gerard Lyons, Cardiff University Professor of Economics Patrick Minford and Capital Economics Chairman Roger Bootle.
According to the group’s website;
‘To date, debate on the economic merits of whether the UK should remain in the EU has become overwhelmed by the Government’s Project Fear campaign. Each of the eight economists have become exasperated by the scaremongering and often economic illiteracy of this campaign.’
The group predicated that, contrary to the economists presented by ‘Remain’, that UK GDP would grow faster outside of the EU, with growth in 2020 reaching 3.4%, compared to 2.5% as a member of the Union. They also argued that the EU had artificially inflated prices, with food alone 10-20% higher as a result of EU policies. Lyons explained:
‘The EU is a customs union. When you’re taught economics at university, apart from high unemployment and high inflation the next evil down the list is a customs union … it discriminates against consumers and protects those areas behind the tariff.’
Other claims made by the group include a -75,000 drop in unemployment, a 1.5% rise in disposable incomes, a 5% increase in competitiveness and a current account surplus of 1.5%.
Timeframe: 23rd-24th May
Commentators and markets seemed to share the belief that the referendum campaign had been won by the ‘Remain’ camp after developments towards the end of May put it in a strong position with just a month to go until the vote.
A ‘Brexit’ poll for the Telegraph conducted by ORB saw confidence in the UK choosing to remain a part of the EU skyrocket. The findings were important for three reasons. Firstly, the data revealed the ‘Remain’ campaign held a massive 13-point lead on the ‘Leave’ camp. Secondly, this headway in support reflected only those who actually intended to vote; until this poll, ‘Remain’ support had always been severely curtailed by the fact that its supporters were less likely to go to the polls. To have such a strong lead amongst definite voters was a real boost for the campaign, with support reaching 58% – a lead of 20% on the ‘Leave’ campaign – when the figures were left unadjusted for turnout.
The third reason this particular poll was so key was due to the demographics involved in the poll. The figures revealed that support for a ‘Brexit’ among the over 65s, Tory voters and men – all previously more inclined to favour a split from the EU – was waning, suggesting that the ‘Remain’ campaign had succeeded in winning over hardcore Eurosceptics, rather than just swaying undecided voters.
This development came among a string of economic warnings and forecasts from high profile bodies and figures, all of which caused fears of a ‘Brexit’ to wane considerably. By this point, the list of organisations warning of negative ‘Brexit’ impact included Goldman Sachs, the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the Trade Union Centre (TUC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the National Union of Students (NUS), Unison, the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS), the National Farmers Union (NFU), Richard Branson, Lord Sugar, Stephen Hawking, Europol and many others. Many commentators claimed that the ‘Remain’ campaign had ‘won’ the economic argument, if not the referendum.
Markets were so confident that the Pound Euro (GBP/EUR) exchange rate rose 4% from 1.2688 at the middle of May to a four-month high of 1.3204 by the end of the month. That confidence was not to last, however…
Timeframe: 7-9th June
The first televised referendum debate caused a surge of interest, primarily among young voters, who rushed to register just hours before the deadline. Such was the demand that the government’s official website crashed, leaving it down for several hours. Campaigners on both sides of the debate, not to mention voters themselves, were furious at the glitch, which was not resolved until after midnight – the point at which the window for voter registration closed.
What followed was a bitter argument between the campaigns as the government debated what course of action they should take. Although ostensibly about the fact that a glitch stopped people registering, there was a more important issue at stake which neither campaign wanted to openly admit to for fear of being accused of bias. The majority of those registering to vote at the last minute were younger voters, whom the polls had repeatedly shown were much more likely to vote to remain in the EU. It was therefore in the government’s interests – and against the interests of ‘Brexit’ supporters – to extend the registration deadline.
Despite arguments that doing so would be illegal, with UKIP donor and ‘Brexit’ supporter Arron Banks threatening the government with legal action, emergency legislation was passed, extending the deadline for an additional day. According to a statement by the Cabinet Office’s Matthew Hancock:
‘Following discussions with the Electoral Commission and strong cross party support expressed in the House of Commons, we will introduce secondary legislation to extend the deadline for voter registration until midnight tomorrow. Having taken the decision today, we think it is right to extend to midnight tomorrow (9 June) to allow people who have not yet registered time to get the message that registration is still open and get themselves registered.’
Timeframe: June 10th
With just over a week to go until the referendum vote, polls were showing a roughly level playing field, with the Telegraph’s poll tracker placing the two campaigns neck-and-neck. GBP EUR dropped to around 1.2667, erasing a week’s worth of gains, while GBP USD fell to 1.4250, a nine-and-a-half-week low.
Investors were so desperate for an indication of how the vote might go that when rumours suggested ICM were due to release a new poll overwhelming traffic crashed the company’s website, keeping it down for several hours and delaying the poll findings.
Timeframe: 14th June
Ten days before the referendum vote and the chances of a vote to remain a part of the European Union were looking dire. Two days of referendum polls cheered the ‘Leave’ campaign after showing that the ‘Out’ campaign held a significant lead on those supporting an ‘In’ vote.
A YouGov poll released on the evening of the 13th showed that the ‘Remain’ campaign had lost its 1% lead over the opposition, with the ‘Leave’ camp holding 46% of voter support compared to 39% for a pro-EU vote. Undecided voters made up 11% of those polled, with 4% saying they planned to abstain. Two ICM polls gave out support at 53-47 in favour of the ‘Out’ camp, while an ORB survey gave the ‘Brexiters’ a 1% lead. The final poll of the day came from TNS, placing ‘Leave’ 7% ahead of ‘Remain’ on 47% of the support. The survey found 13% of voters were undecided.
Further adding to the woes of EU supporters was the move by
The Sun newspaper to back the ‘Brexit’ campaign. In a scathing editorial, the paper told its readers:
‘Outside the EU we can become richer, safer and free at long last to forge our own destiny – as America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other great democracies already do. And as we were the first to do centuries ago.’
The move may have helped to galvanise the support of unsure ‘Remainers’, however, with many repeating a quote from an interview with The Sun owner Rupert Murdoch in which he explains the reason he doesn’t like the EU is because: ‘When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.’
Reaction was mixed, with many commenting that it was hardly surprising, given previous articles run by the paper, including the contentious ‘Queen Backs Brexit’ claim which caused Buckingham Palace to get the independent press watchdog involved. However, while many saw The Sun’s move as stating the obvious, ITV’s Political Editor Robert Peston summed up the reason why the move was still a concern for supporters of the EU when he tweeted that:
— Robert Peston (@Peston) June 13, 2016
Later in the day, the flagging ‘Remain’ campaign received some support from the European Court of Justice. The UK’s right to restrict child benefits and child tax credits to EU migrants who were out of work and did not have a right to live in the UK had been challenged by the European Commission, who suggested that this amounted to discrimination.
According to the Court’s ruling:
‘The court rejects the Commission’s principal argument, that the UK legislation imposes a condition supplementing that of habitual residence contained in the regulation. There is nothing to prevent the grant of social benefits to EU citizens who are not economically active being made subject to the requirement that those citizens fulfil the conditions for possessing a right to reside lawfully in the host member state.’
The legal battle had been ongoing for several years, although it became more prominent after David Cameron secured permission to extend the level of cuts during his February negotiations. The ruling came at a key moment in the campaign; if the ECJ had ruled in favour of the EC and overturned the UK’s right to withhold benefit payments from certain EU migrants then support for a ‘Brexit’ would likely have surged even further. It could have been the end of the ‘Remain’ campaign. A decision to uphold the challenge would also have severely undermined David Cameron’s freshly-secured reforms, which would have weakened the argument that the UK can continue to reform the European Union if it remains a part of it.
Timeframe: June 16th
Thursday was a messy and regrettable day in the referendum campaign. To begin with, the Bank of England (BoE) became more strongly involved after ‘Leave’ campaigners attacked Threadneedle Street for its previous comments about a ‘Brexit’. Previous minutes from the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting suggested that a ‘Brexit’ could have a negative impact upon Pound Sterling and the economy. Supporters of a split from the EU argued that this was an example of the BoE overstepping its mandate and breaking its vow to be impartial. However, BoE Governor Mark Carney argued that the MPC was obligated to make their forecasts known, arguing that to leave references to a ‘Brexit’ out of its minutes would contravene the Bank’s duty.
A letter from several prominent Tory figures, including Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard, Lord Norman Lamont and Lord Nigel Lawson, printed in the Telegraph, claimed;
‘There has been startling dishonesty in the economic debate, with a woeful failure on the part of the Bank of England, the Treasury, and other official sources to present a fair and balanced analysis. They have been peddling phoney forecasts and scare stories to back up the attempts of David Cameron and George Osborne to frighten the electorate into voting Remain.’
Another letter, penned by a Vote Leave campaign Director, Bernard Jenkin MP, told Carney that;
‘You have already made your views known about the question of the forthcoming referendum. The concern is that you, as Governor of the Bank of England, or others who serve the Bank, may have occasion to make further public comment on matters arising from the question on the ballot paper for the referendum.’
However, in what Jenkins described as an ‘aggressive’ letter, Carney hit back by claiming;
‘All of the public comments that I, or other Bank officials, have made regarding issues related to the referendum have been limited to factors that affect the Bank’s statutory responsibilities and have been entirely consistent with our remits.’
Timeframe: June 16th onwards
Campaigning was suspended on Thursday 16th after the shocking death of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was brutally murdered in Birstall, West Yorkshire. Cox, a ‘Remain’ campaigner, vocal advocate of immigration and aid for Syrian refugees, had just finished a surgery with constituents when she was shot and stabbed multiple times. She died from her injuries shortly afterwards.
Referendum campaigning was immediately suspended, with even events and speeches from global leaders cancelled as a show of respect. As more details emerged about her killer, a bitter debate was triggered into whether or not the attack was politically motivated. Her killer was alledged to have suffered from mental health problems, causing many to claim this was simply a random horrific act. Yet as details of his connections to multiple Neo-Nazi and far-right extremist groups emerged, more people began to label the attack as ‘far-right terrorism’.
Her death was perceived to have galvanised support for the ‘Remain’ camp, with markets strengthening on the belief that voters would be swayed towards a vote to stay in the EU by the tragedy. Pound Sterling saw significant recovery and risk-appetite returned to the markets. The latest opinion polls did indeed put ‘Remain’ ahead, although there were other developments which could have had an impact as well.
UKIP caused controversy when Nigel Farage unveiled the party’s latest anti-EU poster, which featured a long line of refugees and the caption ‘Breaking Point. The EU has failed us all.’ The poster was reported to police and Michael Gove and Boris Johnson quickly distanced themselves from Farage, with Johnson saying that the poster was ‘not my politics’. Many drew comparisons with archive footage of Nazi propaganda, which showed a similar stream of refugees. Jeff Mitchell, the man who originally took the photo, claimed, ‘the people in the photo have been betrayed by UKIP.’ Nigel Farage dismissed the criticism, pointing to Godwin’s Law – the rule that it is inevitable in any debate that one side will eventually mention either Hitler or the Nazis and, that in doing so, void their argument.
Timeframe: June 16th
According to Chancellor George Osborne, a split from the European Union would open up a -£30 billion black hole in public finances. He addressed this problem by releasing an emergency budget, which contained details of tax hikes and further austerity measures in order to fill the funding gap.
However, pro-‘Brexit’ Tories were furious with the Chancellor’s claims, pointing out that – for starters – it contradicted a Tory manifesto pledge not to raise taxes. A joint letter, signed by Iain Duncan Smith and Liam Fox, amongst others, argued;
‘If the Chancellor is serious, then we cannot possibly allow this to go ahead. It would be unnecessary, wrong and a rejection of the platform on which we all stood. If he were to proceed with these proposals, the chancellor’s position would become untenable.’
By the end of the day, 65 Tory MPs had signed the letter vowing to vote to block the emergency budget in Parliament should a ‘Brexit’ occur, with Labour also promising to do so. The budget was backed by Alastair Darling, former Labour Chancellor, however, who said;
‘Nobody wants to have an emergency budget. Nobody wants to have cuts in public services. Nobody wants to have tax increases. But I would say this. There is only one thing worse than not addressing a crisis in your public finances through a budget, and that is ignoring it.’
Referendum week saw the markets at odds with the pollsters. While the polls mostly showed that ‘Remain’ was in the lead, a couple gave a marginal advantage of ‘Leave’. The final week of survey results gave a mixed picture, with poll findings including:
By Monday the 20th of June, bookmakers’ ods of a ‘Leave’ vote had fallen from 40% to 23%. On 23rd of June aggregate Betfair odds showed that gamblers were predicting a 76.6% chance of a ‘Remain’ victory, which was slightly lower than the highest 82.1% odds, but significantly higher than the lowest 59.8%.
According to polling analyst Adam Drummond, ‘This really is ‘too close to call’ territory with undecided voters holding the balance of the vote in their hands.’
UK voters clearly thought so, with numerous reports of long queues of Brits waiting to buy their travel money ahead of the voting on fears that a ‘Brexit’ vote – and therefore a subsequent drop in the Pound – could be on the way. Rupert Jones of the Guardian noted that: ‘The Post Office said branch sales were up by 48.8% on the same period a year ago, while online purchases had increased by 381%….’
The markets, however, had a different perspective. Risk appetite was firmly on during the week, with safe assets such as the US Dollar and gold losing value. Government bond yields rose again, re-entering positive territory, meaning prices were falling due to weaker demand. The week before, when ‘Leave’ had held a strong lead in the campaign, investors were so desperate to put their money somewhere safe that German bond yields dropped negative for the first time in history, meaning people were essentially paying the German government to lend it money.
High-risk assets such as stocks and the Australian Dollar (AUD) and New Zealand Dollar (NZD) were sent bullish. This all happened because the markets predicted that the UK would reject a ‘Brexit’ at the polls; with the potential for a ‘Brexit’ to cause negative economic shocks, a vote to ‘Remain’ was strongly linked to stability in the markets. Therefore, the fact investors were happy to pursue high-yielding, risky assets, showed that they were confident there would be no deviation from the status quo after the polls.
Sun Global Investments CEO, Mihir Kapadia, summed up the mood:
‘With the EU referendum now only a day away, markets are braced for the impact. Polls are very close at the moment, global stocks and the pound continued to rise today, while safe haven assets continue to slip – an indication that investors, at least, are optimistic of a Remain vote come Friday morning.’
By the time trading ended on Wednesday 22nd, the markets had strengthened such that Tony Cross, Trustnet Analyst, stated:
‘There can be little doubting the way that sentiment has swung round – in the region of £100bn has been added to London’s blue chip equities since those lows last Thursday, and the market is pricing in less than a 25% chance of the Leave camp now winning.’
The final result was as close as everyone had predicted it would be; that ‘Leave’ came out on top took many by surprise, however. But as the dust settled, it became clear that ‘Remain’ had failed to secure strong margins in those areas that polls had indicated would back remaining a part of the EU. For instance, while the London ‘Remain’ strongholds showed a clear pro-EU stance – with the votes in Hackney and Lambeth both split 78-22 in favour of ‘Remain’ – areas further away from the capital yielded more meagre leads. In the Cotswolds, ‘Remain’ won just a 2.21% majority, while Bromley returned a majority of just 50.65%.
A significant weight of criticsm was levelled at the Labour party, in particular Jeremy Corbyn, after accusations were levelled that the party’s campaigning efforts had been lacklustre, half-hearted and at odds with the wishes of its supporters. Jeremy Corbyn arrived fairly late into the referendum debate and used many of his speaking opportunities to attack the Tories. Corbyn’s own motivations were under question from the beginning – the Labour leader has been famously anti-EU for the majoirty of his political career, so his backing of the ‘Remain’ campaign was always veiwed as fairly disingenuous by politicians on both sides of the debate. As The Economist claimed, ‘hailing from the rump of the old Eurosceptic left, [Corbyn] sees the EU as a capitalist conspiracy. He voted to leave in 1975 and probably would again if Labour’s pro-EU MPs and supporters let him.’
Both sides believe that Corbyn undermined the ‘Remain’ camp’s economic arguments – considered to be its strongest suit in the debate – by rubbishing the Treasury ‘Brexit’ forecasts as ‘hysterical hype’, while also attacking the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal between the US and the EU. Speaking of the Treasury forecasts, Corbyn stated;
‘There are just three weeks to go until the referendum vote on 23 June, but too much of the debate so far has been dominated by myth-making and prophecies of doom. In the final stage of this referendum, as we get closer to what is expected by many to be a very tight vote, it does not help the debate over such a serious issue if the hype and histrionic claims continue or worse intensify.’
One unnamed Labour MP told the Telegraph;
‘Corbyn has to go. The referendum proved he is worse than even his worse critics said he would be. Even people who supported him have seen he is not up to it. He can’t motivate Labour voters, let alone persuade anyone else. He can’t handle a campaign or even manage to get a message across in an interview.’
‘But it is not just that he is incompetent and not up to the job: he has no ideas beyond the vacuous slogans he repeats. He hasn’t set out a single serious policy since he became leader and the views he does have – like on immigration and free movement – are diametrically opposed to the public’s.’
Criticism wasn’t reserved entirely for the Labour leader, however. While 85 pro-‘Brexit’ MPs may have signed a letter urging David Cameron to remain Prime Minister should a ‘Brexit’ vote occur, the PM was not without his share of detractors. He was apportioned equal blame for the barrage of figures and forecasts directed at the public; part of a campaign many had labelled as ‘scaremongering’. Following the results Nigel Farage, UKIP leader and ‘Brexit’ supporter, claimed:
‘The first thing we have to do is have a government that is committed to Brexit. That is absolutely key. I think it is very difficult for [Cameron] to stay on as prime minister given that he involved himself so heavily in the campaign, told us that dreadful things would happen to us if we were to leave, recession, threats of war and all the rest of it. I find it difficult to believe that he could become a Brexit prime minister. I might be wrong, but I doubt it.’
It seems that the ‘Remain’ campaign was never able to tackle one of the key issues motivating voters to back a ‘Brexit’; immigration. As campaigning progressed, Cameron was forced to admit that the Government had failed to meet its immigration target. Initially intending to cut immigration to ‘tens of thousands’, the PM was left red-faced when the latest figures showed net migration of just under 300,000, a 90,000 increase on the same figures for a year prior. Furthermore, the OBR commented the government’s targets for reducing immigration over the next few years were unreasonable, stating;
‘A reduction over time seems consistent with the international environment and the Government’s declared efforts to reduce it, but in light of recent evidence, it no longer seems central to assume it will decline so steeply.’
In the end, ‘Leave’ triumphed because of the fervour of their supporters. It had been highlight right at the beginning of campaigning that ‘Brexit’ supporters were more motivated and enthusiastic. This energy saw ‘Leave’ commanding larger-than-expected leads in some key polling areas. Traders fled the Pound as the first announcements came in after ‘Leave’ secured a much greater-than-expected victory in Sunderland, where the camp earned 61% of the votes. ‘Remain’s first big announcement, Newcastle, was conversely a large disappointment, showing just a 2% majority, instead of the 12% predicted. This theme continued throughout the night, yielding the result currently splashed across the papers.
As predicted, the Pound fell sharply, racking up its biggest losses in 31 years, with a -10% drop recorded against the US Dollar. Sterling’s drop represents the biggest one day ever recorded, even beating the drop on ‘Black Wednesday’, when the UK famously crashed out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.
Meanwhile, stock markets plunged across the globe, with the FTSE 100 extending losses of -7% at one point, while the German DAX dropped -8%. UK stocks lost -£120 billion in value at the start of trading, with around a morning’s worth of trading occurring in the first 30 minutes of the session; that’s 463.9 million trades. The Footsie calmed a bit after Mark Carney announced the BoE would provide £250 billion of emergency liquidity to help smooth market turbulence, with losses narrowing to -4.4%.
Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, while Jeremy Corbyn confirmed that he would remain as Labour leader. He also urged the government to trigger Article 50 – the EU exit clause – as soon as possible. Many are speculating that there will be a General Election called before the end of the year.
The BoE has announced it is watching developments carefully and will take every necessary measure to ensure monetary stability.
Leading political figures in Scotland and Northern Ireland have called for independence referendums; both were overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU, so England’s votes have ‘dragged’ them out of the EU against their will.
While the jubilant ‘Leave’ supporters hope, and the downhearted ‘Remain’ campaigners fear, there is only one thing we can be sure of; nothing is certain.
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