“Brexit: how the government and media laid the foundations” – Jessica Herrington

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By Jessica Herrington

On the 23rd June 2016, the British public were given a unique opportunity to vote in a referendum to decide whether to stay in the EU or not. A referendum is where the British public vote directly on an issue, rather than allow the Government to decide on their behalf and it has only happened three times. We voted to leave the EU by 4%, a result which has divided the nation.

Turnout at the referendum was 72.2%, a much higher percentage than we have seen at recent general elections. This shows a motivated nation, determined to be heard by the government who they felt was ignoring them.

The relationship between age and turnout, along with age and voting preference, was clear. The older generation were not only more likely to turn out but also more likely to vote to leave the EU, many having experienced life before the union. They believed that we were fine before EU membership and we would be fine long after. In their eyes, we don’t need the EU and EU membership is more trouble than its worth.

Region was also influential in the voting outcome. Excluding London, England overwhelmingly voted to leave the union, along with Wales, whilst Northern Ireland and Scotland were voting to remain. Whilst the decision to remain was stronger than the decision to leave, the areas which voted leave had a stronger turnout meaning they were heard more than the remainers. From the stark differences in Regional votes, it can be seen that some areas felt disaffected whilst others were able to clearly see the benefits of EU membership.

Immigration is impossible to ignore when discussing the referendum. A lot of people voted to leave the EU with this issue at the forefront of their minds, and, with British media becoming increasingly opposed to immigration and refugees, UKIP’s membership grew. With free movement of people being at the core of EU membership, British politicians found themselves unable to deal with this key issue whilst retaining membership.

Reasons the UK voted to leave are complex and subtle. We didn’t vote to leave the EU simply because we are a nation of ignorant racists, we voted to leave for many reasons. Britons are overwhelmingly Eurosceptic. Its not our fault, its not a mindset we consciously chose. We have been conditioned into hating and blaming the EU for everything that’s wrong in our lives since our membership began in 1975.

Politicians blamed the EU for their mistakes, saying their hands were tied due to EU laws. The media portrayed the EU as a scapegoat, stating that our grievances were the EU’s fault. No matter the issue, our politicians and media blamed the EU. Through shifting the blame and making the EU a scapegoat, for years the government and media laid the foundations for Brexit and the Remain campaign didn’t have a leg to stand on.

Prominent politicians were turned to to lead the way. David Cameron, the Prime Minister who called the referendum and who had spoken out against the EU in the past, struggled to convince people to remain due to conflicting decisions made by him throughout his career. Jeremy Corbyn, who had previously slated the EU, suddenly abandoned the remain campaign and disappeared. When he did show his face, he either didn’t seem like he cared, or undermined the cause he was supposed to be campaigning for. Ultimately, our leaders let the side down.

Following such a high profile vote with huge social and economic consequences, it’s no surprise that there are increasing numbers of people who claim to regret their vote. Furthermore, many now claim that their vote to leave was simply a protest vote. The didn’t really want to leave and didn’t think that we would, so they voted against the government’s wishes to make them notice discontent with the way things were. Arguments over morality and democracy have broken out, with everyone being fair game.

The younger generation feel disenfranchised and disaffected, calling for a second referendum but with an age restriction, as they feel cheated out of their membership to the EU by the older generation. However, democracy is democracy. 52%, a majority, voted to leave the EU and that is what we will do. We can argue and blame each other until we are blue in the face but the fact of the matter is: its done, its beyond our control and we need to pull together to make the best of the situation.

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