By the referendum held on 23rd in June 2016, the United Kingdom decided to leave from the European Union (EU). It was resulted in “52% to leave and 48% to remain.” (BBC, 2016) This was a little bit surprising for many people because they never expected that, neither did I because Britain’s withdrawal does not seem good for the country itself. As catching up with the news about the referendum, I had a question as to why plenty of people wanted to leave, even though it is seemed that to withdraw is not remarkably advantageous for people in the country. Also, it will have great impacts on many countries, particularly in the European region, for a pivotal country in the EU to leave. what are reasons why lots of British people voted to leave the EU and how will the withdrawal affect the United Kingdom?
In order to explore reasons why people wanted to leave the EU, in the first place, it is needed to explain what the EU is and what are advantages and disadvantages of being a part of the Union.
An idea of the EU is to try to unify countries like one country. ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) that is the origin of EU was established in 1950. It appeared in that era because of reflecting on the two tragic war, happened partly because countries had tried to exploit natural resources such as coal and steel. To prevent a great war like that from happening again, ECSC was established by some European countries by leading of Germany and France.
Being a part of the EU has some advantages in economic and political dimensions. Countries in the union can trade stuff without tariffs and, by unification of currencies, trades amongst countries can be easier. Also, people can move freely in countries amongst countries of the EU, which revitalize the economy of each country in the EU. On the other hand, all countries in the EU do not have the same level of economy, which produces some disadvantages such as immigrants and financial problems.
It is said that one of reasons why many people wanted to leave the EU is immigrants from other European countries into Britain. As mentioned above, as long as Britain belongs to the EU, people in other countries becoming to the EU can move freely. Because of that, there are huge impacts on Britain.
The first problem is about employment. Immigrants in poor countries, particularly Eastern Europe such as Poland come to Britain because they can earn more. Because of them, the number of vacant work decreases, which makes it difficult for British people to get a job. Especially, young British people cannot be easily hired. The second is that immigrants put the pressure on the British economy. Many poor people come to Britain for earning money but, they take social services from British government as social welfare. “According to a research in 2014, migration from the EU added £160 million in additional costs for the NHS across the UK.” (Full Fact, 2016) British government needs to spend a lot of money, gathered from the nation as tax, on social welfare for those disadvantaged people from other countries.
It is true that a number of immigrants come to Britain and they give some negative effects on the country. However, there is a question as to why the withdrawal is really because of them. In areas where there are various races like London, people voted to remain. If what people wanted to leave from EU was truly because of immigrants, people in London must have voted to leave to prevent people from coming from other countries. However, actually, “Remain won with getting 59.9% in London.” (BBC, 2016) It shows that the problem might not be really about immigrants. The result of this referendum is one of symbol that Britain is becoming nationalistic.
According to Benedict Anderson “Near-pathological character of nationalism, its roots in fear and hatred of the Other, and its affinities with racism.” (Benedict Anderson, 2006, p.141) in other words, exclusiveness is based on nationalistic ideas.
In London, there are various people who have different backgrounds. That is why, many races are a part of “their”. However, in other areas where there are few people different from indigenous people, in that case, who are British with the right to vote, the purity is stronger. In other words, they are intolerant to “others” like immigrants. That is why, what they think “their” are totally different from people in areas having diversity like London. People in areas with less diversity, people have the same image that immigrants are less beneficial without a real connection with them. In the condition that there is less diversity, the feeling of exclusiveness tends to become stronger. In this referendum, it can be said that British people clearly distinguish “their” and “others” and tried to exclude “others”.
In the globalized world, two types of power are produced; to accept the globalization and to refuse it. In this referendum, there were a little bit more people wanted to leave than people did not want to. One of the reasons why they wanted to leave was not about immigrants itself but the feeling of fear to unexpected existences such as immigrants. Globalization partly means to make the borderless world, but ironically, because of removing borders, people need it more.
This tendency might be appeared more often than ever because of globalization. In this last 20 years, our world has been shrunken. In other words, the physical distance amongst people and nations is not actually changed. However, the distance amongst people’s thought have been undoubtedly shortened. Because of developing various kinds of technology especially the Internet, people can easily connect with people in different regions, which is resulted in making people in different places have the same thoughts.
By Rita Furutani
・BBC, Brian Wheeler & Alex Hunt “Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU” (24th November 2016) http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887 (accessed 25th November 2016)
・Full Fact, Mark Dayan, Nuffield Trust “EU immigration and pressure on the NHS” (11 July 2016) https://fullfact.org/europe/eu-immigration-and-pressure-nhs/ (accessed 24th November 2016)
・Full Fact, Sam Ashworth-Hayes “Do half the UK’s exports go to Europe?” (09th Nov 2015) https://fullfact.org/europe/do-half-uks-exports-go-europe/ (accessed 25thth November 2016)
・東洋経済オンライン, 遠藤 乾 ”英国はEU離脱で｢のた打ち回る｣ことになる” (27th June 2016) http://toyokeizai.net/articles/-/124569 (accessed 26thth November 2016)
・Benedict, Anderson (2006). Imagined Communities, Verso Books.