Ahead of the University of Edinburgh’s free online course Towards Brexit? The UK’s EU Referendum and exactly one month before the referendum, Anthony Salamone, one of the educators from the course, takes a look at five things you need to know about Brexit.
- We’ve been here before
In 1975, the UK held its first-ever nationwide referendum on whether to stay in the European Economic Community (the precursor to the EU). The result was a two-thirds majority in favour of remaining in the Common Market. That said, it’s very unusual for a country to hold a vote directly on the question of EU membership. Most past referendums on the EU in member states have been about ratifying new treaties.
- The UK’s not so different
Over the years, the difficult relationship between the UK and the EU has become legendary. For instance, it has opt-outs from a number of European policies, like the euro or borderless travel (Schengen). This reputation can sometimes give the impression that the UK is particularly alone or different. However, that’s not really the case. In reality, every member has its own issues with the EU – some are just more obvious than others.
- Global interest is high
Although the referendum will be decided by UK voters, many countries, along with companies and organisations around the world, have a substantial interest in the outcome. For this reason, a number have broken with the convention of not engaging in a country’s internal debates and have expressed their views on the UK’s EU membership. However, it’s not clear what impact these interventions actually have on public opinion.
- The facts? It’s not as easy as that
The EU can be quite complicated and the referendum debate has featured topics such as the economy, migration, security and democracy. Many people will be looking for information before the vote. However, most of the questions around these issues come down to personal opinion, rather than factual answers. While facts and evidence do naturally exist, they can only inform. In the end, voters will have to make up their own minds on whether EU membership is worthwhile or not.
- The referendum won’t end the debate
This June’s vote is just the latest landmark in the UK’s history with the European Union. Whatever the outcome on 23 June, the referendum won’t settle the issue. If the result is to leave, the negotiations that follow will focus on what kind of relationship the UK will have with the EU going forward. If the result is to remain, the debate on EU membership will continue and calls for a second referendum will likely materialise. Either way, the saga will carry on.
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