Actions

Effects of Brexit

From Londonhua WIKI

by Peter Beretich

Brexit: One Year Later
Britishflag beretich.jpg

Abstract

Within this project I explored the history of Brexit, the power of media coverage before the vote, and how the British people are coping with Brexit one year later. I contrasted the 1975 and 2016 referendum, how the party positions switched during that time, and how recent issues convinced a majority of Brits to vote to leave the European Union. I also observed a Post-Brexit conference, touted as a public discussion on the next steps following Brexit, and came to the realization of how important this issue is to some people, and how it affects the way of life of the British people. It was insightful seeing how lively people became during The Convention, and the experience broke many of the stereotypes of Brits I had originally perceived.

My creative component involved writing down my personal observations during and after the vote, and what I have noticed are most important to the British peoples way of life, what makes them tick, and what makes them angry. I also looked at bias in media coverage, and how that could have changed the outcome of the referendum. The use of language in articles led me to understand how certain publications understand that using anger to their advantage can help advance an agenda, and how this is applicable to many nations.

Introduction

On June 23rd, 2016, the entire world was watching as the results came in for the Brexit referendum. In America, Donald Trump was the front-runner to receive the GOP nomination, already indicating the increasing desire for nationalism and less globalization in the United States. But the Brexit vote would was just as important for the future of globalization and relations between the United Kingdom and its allies. Through this project I will be observing and analyzing what led to the vote, the inconsistencies of polling, and how the Brexit referendum and its aftermath looked like through my eyes, those of an American college student. The aim of my project is to determine how the Brexit vote and measures being taken affect the British people, and comparing the media's coverage to the resulting vote. Previously I have taken Modern European History and have performed my own historical research out of my own curiousity. I plan on using what I have learned to demonstrate my thoughts during the period before and after the Brexit vote. While in London I received a better understanding of how social and economic factors play a role in globalization.


Section 1: Background

History of Brexit

The desire for a British exit from the European community dates back to 1975, where a referendum was held in order to determine whether the UK should remain in what was known as the European Communities. At that time the Labour party supported leaving the European communities,[1] and Jeremy Corbyn, current leader of the Labour party, even voted to leave.[2] However they were out of touch with the British people at the time, as the referendum led to the United Kingdom staying in the EEC.

The European Union has evolved since then, and it appears that the British people changed their minds along with it. The nation went through with preparing another vote as then Prime Minister David Cameron honored his campaign promise to put the referendum to a vote, which he believed was a way to keep the conservative party united. During his re-reelection campaign in 2015, Cameron expressed his disdain with the EU, but after the European Union agreed to give Britain more power over the regulations, he became in favor of staying in the EU. This sort of flip-flopping would prove to be the same with Brexit polls and the British people.

Before the vote

In the months leading up to the Brexit vote, one question was in the minds of people worldwide; why did British citizens want to leave the EU? If this referendum was even just being put to a vote, that meant there was a significant interest in leaving, and this worried the international community. The Brexit vote came along in response to a nationalistic movement that desired more sovereignty and trade and economic that was drafted with the British people in mind,.

The case for leaving is one to do with concerns over sovereignty. According to the House of Commons Library, between 15 and 50% of United Kingdom legislation is drafted by the European Union.[3] Therefore, it is understandable why the relatively nationalistic British people were unhappy with their loss of power. Appealing to this nationalist sentiment was one of the driving factors towards the Brexit win.

HowThePollsHaveChanged.jpg

Before the vote there was much uncertainty around what the result would be, because of inconsistent polls, and a media narrative that did not accurately represent the sentiment of the people. An article from Bloomberg magazine in April 2016 claimed the probability of Brexit was 20%.[4] Then, less than a month later, the pendulum swung in favor of leaving, although only 3 percentage points ahead of the “Remain camp.”[5] This fluctuation could have been a sudden change in the sentiment of the British people, but more likely it was discrepancy in data collection.

A short term impact projection, released by the Her Majesty’s Treasury, predicted that the GDP would drop, unemployment would rise, and house prices would fall.[6] Chancellor George Osborne stated a Brexit would cause an “immediate and profound” shock to the economy of Britain. Brexit-supporters, including economist Patrick Minford, rebutted, pointing out how much money would be saved by leaving, specifically by “not being a member of the Common Agricultural Policy and not having to abide by EU regulation.”[7]

Historians also had their take on Brexit. In his book, “Britain’s Europe”, Brendan Simms makes the case that Britain’s future is not being cut off from Europe, because its past is deeply rooted in the continent. Britain has always fought to keep power from a single source, from The Napoleonic Wars to the World Wars.[8] Without taking a side, meaning can be found from these insights that support both “Stay” and “Leave.”


Section 2: Deliverable

An American's Observations on Brexit and Media Coverage

It has been a year since the Brexit vote, and with the current conservative government pursuing a deal with the EU leaders before the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, it is a good time to analyse the media coverage and its role in Brexit. I examined right wing newspapers and tabloids' coverage, as well as that of left wing papers. Conservative leaning papers include the Sun, the Daily Mail, and the Daily Telegraph. Labour-leaning papers consist of the Daily Mirror, The Guardian, and the Independent. What should be considered while reading this is that conservative papers constitute the majority of print papers in circulation. However, considering younger generations read news mostly online and through social media, and since television networks are not necessarily conservative biased, this could be somewhat irrelevant. This paper only looks at UK newspapers, which is just one facet of news consumption in the United Kingdom.

Media Coverage and Bias

Barack Obama's Comments about Brexit, an example of media bias

An article by the Daily Mail in April of 2016 ran with the title "Obama infuriates the Brits as he threatens to send UK 'to the back of the queue' if they vote to leave the European Union."[9] The only example of a Brit furious with Obama's statement, however, was pro-Brexit advocate and at the time mayor of London Boris Johnson. This title and article are therefore somewhat misleading, and throughout the article there is a use of inciting anger in the reader-base. After all, if your fellow Brits are angry, shouldn't you as well?

In The Guardian, a Labour leaning publication, an article on Obama's same comments was also published. The Guardian did not attempt to incite anger from President Obama's comments, but did still mention Johnson's concerns as well as Cabinet minister Chris Grayling's comments, who states that Obama's speech was about "politics and not reality."[10] The Guardian mentioned Obama's popularity in the United Kingdom, whereas the Daily Mail did not.

In his 2005 book "The Defeat of Solidarity: Anger and politics in postcommunist Europe," author David Ost claims that "Propo­nents of an alternative globalization, universal human rights, or "fair" rather than "free" trade are all more likely today to organize on the global rather than the domestic level."[11] These are the pillars that left-wing parties have traditionally built themselves on top of, and according to Ost, this group of people is less likely to use the anger of the people in its favor. As we can see with the right-leaning publication the Daily Mail, they know how to use anger to evoke a reaction from their readers.

The Convention, a discussion of post-Brexit Britain

I had the opportunity to visit the Convention, which is self described as a "public debate on the deep impacts of Brexit and the Political Crash." I went there with an open mind, keen on observing how the British people - or at least those from the Greater London area - were reacting to what had happened almost a year ago at that point. This happened in early May, before the General election in June. I was not surprised to find that the majority of voices in the crowd were individuals not happy with the outcome of the vote. After all, why would Pro-Brexiters go to an event like this, since they had essentially already "won."

I only came for the second day, but what I noticed was the large selection of voices the Convention was hosting. There was still more keynote speeches from the Remain camp, but during panel discussions both sides were represented equally. I was very appreciative of this, considering that in America, most political conventions are more of an echo-chamber. However, I cannot draw conclusions about the politics of the British people, because it could have just been a well run convention, or they were hoping for clashing between the two sides, which they got.

A particularly insightful event was when Conservative Minister of Parliament Michael Gove went up to give his keynote speech. Despite a lengthy opening from the host, asking the audience to be tolerant and respectful, Gove entered the stage to a chorus of booing. I wanted the stereotype of polite Brits to apply to their politics too, but this issue must have really struck a chord with the people present. Which is completely understandable, considering they had lost certain opportunities and would have to change some of their ways of life. As hecklers took to shouting at the speaker, I was a little disappointed, but this sort of thing would likely have happened at any other political forum brave enough to show both sides of the argument in the United States, or anywhere for that matter.

The media player is loading...
At the end of the day, however, I cannot help but feel like no plan of action was produced. After all, there was no realistic way to go back on leaving the EU, and even if they did so, the British government and its people would appear weak on the global stage. From what I can tell, the British people only have one choice, adapt to the changes being made. If not, Britain will lose many people seeking what the EU has to offer.

Conclusion


Through my observations on Brexit and the circumstances surrounding it, I have learnt more about bias in media coverage and the reaction Brits gave to Brexit. There was much talk at the Convention about conservative news bias, specifically through newspapers, and how it was responsible for the pro-Brexit win. If this is true, it is clear that through each publications use of language, one was more effective in reaching their audience and causing them to move in support of whichever cause was promoted. The conservative papers happened to be talented in this, using anger and the Brits' love of nationalism to enable a win for the Leave camp. While this is probably not the only factor behind the Brexit win, it is naive to believe it had no part in it.

At the Convention, I could see just how much the Brexit win affected those who wished to remain in the European Union. The emotion coursed through the assembly, which was at time frightening and sad, but not very hopeful. These people, many of whom were international, were making use of what Brexit had to offer and had now lost it. There is no other country with an English speaking majority in the EU that they could have turned to, so they either have to deal with Brexit, or learn an entire new way of life somewhere else. Once you understand this, you can empathize with their fear and anger.

References

  1. 1975: Labour votes to leave the EEC. (1975, April 26). Retrieved June 21, 2017, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/26/newsid_2503000/2503155.stm
  2. Chorley, M. (2015, September 11). I voted for Britain to LEAVE Europe, Corbyn admits as fears grow in Labour that he will lead join the out campaign again. Retrieved June 21, 2017, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3230499/I-voted-Britain-LEAVE-Europe-Corbyn-admits.html
  3. Miller, V. (2010). How much legislation comes from Europe?. Economic Indicators, 7(10).
  4. Hutton, R. (2016, April 20). Probability of Brexit Drops to 20% as Polls Move Against 'Leave' Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20161010010708/https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-21/probability-of-brexit-drops-to-20-as-polls-move-against-leave
  5. Beattie, J. (2016, May 31). Pound falls after shock poll puts Leave ahead in EU referendum. Retrieved June 21, 2017, from http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/pound-falls-after-shock-poll-8089662
  6. Her Majesty's Treasury - Analysis of the Immediate Economic Impact of Leaving the EU
  7. Treasury, H. M. (2016). HM Treasury analysis: the immediate economic impact of leaving the EU. May, Cm, 9292.
  8. Simms, B. (2016). Britain's Europe: A Thousand Years of Conflict and Cooperation. Penguin UK.
  9. Correspondent, F. C. (2016, April 23). Obama infuriates the Brits as he threatens to send UK 'to the back of the queue' if they vote to leave the European Union. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3553788/Obama-flies-Brexit-storm-President-faces-furious-backlash-downright-hypocritical-decision-tell-British-voters-stay-EU.html
  10. Asthana, A., & Mason, R. (2016, April 22). Barack Obama: Brexit would put UK 'back of the queue' for trade talks. Retrieved June 21, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/22/barack-obama-brexit-uk-back-of-queue-for-trade-talks
  11. Ost, D. (2006). The defeat of solidarity: Anger and politics in postcommunist Europe. Cornell University Press.