History Made: Britain Leaves the European Union

Topographic map of the United Kingdom.

Topographic map of the United Kingdom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A majority of the British public voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd. It is a huge step for the island nation, who had been a part of the EU since 1973.

British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to schedule the referendum so that Britons could vote and, after many months of rigorous debate between the “leave” and “remain” sides, the referendum culminated in a leave vote. Whether they voted in or out, the most important thing was that it was left to the British people to decide.

Both the leave and remain sides will now, I hope, shake hands and get on with the business of establishing Britain as a completely autonomous nation and successful player on the world stage. Any lingering doubts about leaving will, I am sure, be addressed in the coming weeks by the leave leaders and subsequently the new prime minister in October.

I think I can safely speak for many people when I say that there is excitement and hope in the air. Maybe I am a bit biased in my excitement. I’m an American whose country was built on breaking away from a system that wasn’t working for us. And as history has shown, United States has flourished from colonies to what you see today. Importantly, the United States and Britain have become friends and allies who still to this day regard one another as “cousins”.

So when Cameron did not step down as Prime Minister – or remain neutral throughout the campaign – it bothered me. Despite being an American who is outside this matter, it concerned me that our British cousins’ elected leader was still campaigning in this issue even after not gaining what he needed for his country in EU negotiations.

Most of all it struck me as a conflict of interest; Cameron’s position as Prime Minister was on the line if Britain voted to leave the EU, so his actions made it look as though the leadership of Britain was attempting to sway the majority of its people just to hang on to power. When the results for Brexit were announced the following day, Cameron called a press conference and announced his resignation. It was fin for him, but not until after it was all over. I call it a stain on Cameron’s legacy.

Despite this, the “Brexiteers”, as the leave supporters were dubbed, face a new future to carve as their own. They are not the first nor will they be the last to be positive and forward-looking when faced with a new world of opportunities. When the status quo has been shaken up, when the old regime has changed, how can one not feel the wind at their back? When Obama became president of the United States, the side that supported him trumpeted hope and optimism of a bright new world. His whole campaign itself was framed on “Hope and Change”. Why can’t the side that supports Brexit and things that go against the typical grain of today’s world also lay claim to that same hope for change?

It was change that seemed to be sorely needed. An example of some worrying signs that signaled need for change was when European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made note of his disappointment of the recent Dutch “No” vote in April. He claimed that he was “sad” over the Dutch refusal over an EU cooperation agreement with Ukraine.

Juncker’s spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, responded to the Dutch vote by dismissively declaring that it would have “no impact” on the EU’s agreement with Ukraine. Then, Alain Lamassoure, a French leader in the EU Parliament, called the vote “dreadful” and said it was unfortunate that national referendums could be used to “challenge” foreign policy decisions taken at an EU level. The question that lingers: what if it really isn’t a good policy for a particular country? What if it IS damaging? If you challenge the EU leadership for the good of your own country, then your decisions are labeled dreadful and sad. You become the bad guy. That is where Britain had been led, and the majority of Britons weren’t having any more of it.

Comedian John Cleese answered the Remain campaign’s desires perfectly:

In the words of Seamus Heaney, “noli timere” – don’t be afraid. If there is a concern about an uncertain future, that lies with the EU. If it’s as big and beneficent as it claims or that Remain supporters believe, it will still behave as a mature, considerate global partner. Unless they try to bully the U.K. for leaving? Nahhh.

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