United Kingdom EU Referendum Act of 2015. Reasons and whether the benefits of the UK leaving the EU outweigh the disadvantages

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2016

19 Pages, Grade: 15


Table of Contents

1. Introduction and Main Question

2. Reasons for the Result
2.1 The ‘Vote Leave’ Campaign

3. Advantages and Disadvantages
3.1 Advantages of leaving the EU
3.2 Disadvantages of leaving the EU

4. Questionnaire on the British EU Referendum
4.1 Result of the Questionnaire in the UK

5. Conclusion

I. References

II. Attachments

1. Introduction and Main Question

After the Second World War ended in 1945, many cities, towns and villages across Europe were completely destroyed by aerial bombing and heavy artillery, which led all in all to a huge suffering of the citizens all over Europe. A common expression after 1945 was “Never again”, symbolising the desire to prevent another world war and such a devastation all over the globe, but also especially in Europe.1To make this idea come true, the six European countries Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands founded the ‘European Coal and Steel Community’ in 1950, which was the beginning of a growing supranational confederation later becoming the guarantee of peace between the European countries on their own continent, today known as ‘European Union’. Back in 1973, when the ‘European Communities’ still was in its initial stage, the United Kingdom, containing of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, officially joined the ‘EC’, raising the number of member states to nine.2

The European Union has since then changed a lot, allowing not only goods to be transported inside the EU without customs costs, but also allowing the citizens of the member states to move around without any border restrictions. Also an own currency, the Euro (€), has been introduced and used by 19 member states so far. The European Parliament in Strasbourg and the Committee in Brussels form the head of the European Union, setting rules in a wide range of areas - including on the environment, transport and consumer rights.

Despite these and further advantages, many inhabitants of the UK felt uncomfortable with the EU charing billions of pounds a year for imposing too many rules and restrictions on the UK’s business, which is not worth the benefits in their opinion. In addition, many citizens shared the opinion that the UK should take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of immigrants on their island.

Consequently, David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the UK, introduced the EU Referendum Act in 2015, which included a plebiscite to decide whether the UK will stay in the European Union or not. The vote itself took place on the 23rd June 2016 in the United Kingdom, having had the result of about 52% of the voters having voted to leave the European Union, forming the absolute majority.3 The referendum did not only result the process of the UK leaving the European Union in the next few years, but also prompted David Cameron to resign from his position as Prime Minister, since he was insisting on the UK remaining in the EU and defending the status quo. This paper will research the reasons for the result of the referendum, with a focus on the influence of mass media, and whether the benefits of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union outweigh the disadvantages of leaving, against the background of the consequences that might follow with the decision of the UK.

2. Reasons for the Result

On the 23rd June 2016, the UK European Union membership referendum was held in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar with a national turnout of 72%, making it the highest ever turnout for any national vote since the UK General Election in 1992.4The bill for this referendum was introduced to the House of Commons on 28th May 2015 and was approved by the House of Lords on 14th December 2015. The Royal Assent was given on 17th December 2015, making the bill to the official ‘EU Referendum Act 2015’, which was appointed by the Prime Minister David Cameron to be held on 23rd June 2016.5With a slim majority of 51,9%, the inhabitants of the United Kingdom voted for ‘Leave the European Union’6, deciding that the UK government has to withdraw from the EU in the next few years. Regardless of the result, the majority of EU internal politicians did not expect the ‘Leave’ campaign to be successful and underestimated its impact on the voters7, which raised the question, how such a drastic will to change could not only convince, but also cleave the British population.

2.1 The ‘Vote Leave’ Campaign

Generally, there is a hand full of different factors having led to the result of the UK leaving the European Union, which ranges from the immigration and refugees crisis to the British pursuit of sovereignty and the desire to not be determined by Brussels anymore. However, the processing of making these skeptically viewed topics affect the inhabitants to decide for their referendum vote proceeds in the two campaign’s advertisement agenda. Therefore, one of the reasons for the fairly unexpected, but also very close result of a slim majority having voted against a remaining in the European Union, was the great influence of many different polarising politicians and campaigns on partly uncertain and easy-influenceable groups of inhabitants. Both vote options - ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ - had their own official campaigns - 'Britain Stronger in Europe’8and ‘Vote Leave’9. These campaigns had the task to spread their political view and opinions regarding the referendum in the British population, in favour of convincing as many citizens as possible to vote for their campaign’s aim. The impact, that a wide range from advertisement to propaganda could have on such an important referendum, is proven by the conflict between both campaigns, which created a widespread incertitude all over the electorate. This is being underpinned by more than 40% of the voters, who have made their decision - whether they have voted for‘Remain’or‘Leave’- not until one month before the actual referendum or even later.10In addition, Google reported, that searches for "What happens if we leave the EU" had more than tripled around eight hours after the polls closed on the referendum date.11

In the end, the winning ‘Leave’ campaign had three of the major politicians on their side, who had not only a huge influence on the campaign itself, but also determined the general outcome of the vote - Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage. Nigel Farage, however, was not a member of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign committee, since Johnson and his campaign officially took distance from the ‘UK Independence Party’ (UKIP), the party that Farage was leader of, to not count as too right-winged in public.12Consequently, Nigel Farage will be neglected in the further analysis of the actions of ‘Leave’ campaign.

Boris Johnson is the former mayor of London and was, as a politician of the political divided Conservative party,13together with Michael Gove the main politician of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign. The ‘Vote Leave’ campaign, however, was often in the focus of criticism for spreading loose assertions and falsehoods. In addition to that, critics assumed, that Johnson and Gove, who were formerly journalists, used “feature[s] of unscrupulous journalism”14such as spreading out dramatic thoughts and opinions, which needed not to be true, in order to achieve media attention, or “the contempt for practical questions”15, which includes distracting from resolving difficulties - for example the situation with Scotland, Ireland and the refugee camp at Calais - in order to support and strengthen the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign. “I think people in this country have had enough of experts”16, a quotation from Michal Gove, urging voters to ignore the opinions from economists, is an example for the general indifference from the head of the ‘Leave’ campaign towards argumentative statements. Additionally, the claim on the amount of the ‘EU membership fee’ played a great role in order to achieve media attention and more supporters for ‘Vote Leave’, but also justly led to a widespread rejection and a growing opposition. The campaign claimed that the UK government payed £350 million per week to the EU as membership fee and suggested to spend this amount of money rather into the‘National Health Service’. This claim has also been highlighted on most of the campaign’s ‘battle busses’ driving around the country during the period before the referendum to advertise for ‘Vote Leave’.17However, this figure is proven to be not correct and apparently only had the purpose of advertisement based on misleading information. The genuine amount of money the UK government has payed for the EU membership amounted to around £120 million per week, forming a net cost of £6.3 billion per year.18This and other unproven claims underpin the assumption, that the actual vote may has been significantly influenced by disregard and misinformation favouring the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign.19

However, these methods used by the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign to convince the majority of the UK by not focusing primarily on facts but more on influencing the inhabitants in particular with misinformation and media attention eventually led to the result of the majority of people voting against the EU and the‘Remain’campaign. In addition, the ‘Remain’ campaign itself did not advertise sufficiently in a provocative way such as the ‘Leave’ campaign did, and relied generally in their argumentation on complex facts - for instance the economic impact of ‘Brexit’ - and did not build on the emotional side of such an debate.20In the end, the ‘Leave’ campaign managed to shift the debate away from the likely economic impact of Brexit onto issues of national sovereignty and immigration.21

3. Advantages and Disadvantages

Undoubtedly, ’Brexit’ will change the political and financial situation of the United Kingdom in the next few years noticeably. After being part of the European Communities and its further developments for more than 40 years, the drastic exit of such an influential European country will have impacts on both sides, the UK and the EU. Therefore, the impacts can be divided into positive and negative consequences, into advantages and disadvantages for both sides. Regarding the United Kingdom, general consequences cannot be predicted exactly, since the UK is the first EU member ever to insist on Article 50 of the EU law. This article allows and leads to the member’s withdraw from the European Union.22

3.1 Advantages of leaving the EU

Apparently, one of the main nearsighted advantages of leaving the EU is that the UK does not need to pay the EU membership fee anymore. Consequently, the net expenditure of £6.3 billion per year will be saved and can be invested into national needs and other priorities. In addition, ‘Eurosceptics’ underpin the futility of this membership fee by assuming that more developed western countries in the EU would fund developments such as roads, railways and agriculture of financial and economically weaker countries, such as Estonia, without achieving any financial benefits of their own.23

Another important advantage of leaving the EU is the full sovereignty the UK is getting back of their country. Indeed, the EU is a supranational institution that may exercise sovereign acts, such as laws, currency and border agreements,24 which partly takes over the control over the United Kingdom’s own affairs. In addition, in areas for which the EU is responsible, EU laws override any conflicting laws of member countries. These areas include legislation and policies among agriculture, fisheries, external trade and the environment.25 The total amount of influence the EU has on the British laws in general is controversial and ranges from calculations of 13% to 65%, whereas other experts describe this counting method as “comparing apples with pears”.26 This opinion is also supported by the official EU Parliament itself, saying “a big portion of the laws adopted by the House of Commons and House of Lords actually are EU-laws that are made into national laws by the national parliaments”,27 meaning that both UK laws and EU laws are complementary. In addition, not every law that has been passed by the European Commission between 1993 and 2014 affects the UK, such as laws guiding olive and tobacco growers.28 But regardless of this, the EU is working as a confederacy, meaning other member states could also theoretically force through decisions against the UK’s wishes and laws, having bundled control over British affairs,29 and this is partly seen as unacceptable in British tradition of sovereignty. The issue of sovereignty many other EU member states have, leads to another advantage that leaving the EU is leading to. The UK will now obtain back full control of their borders, restricting and regulating net immigration as the government arranges. Although Britain was not part of the ‘Schengen Area’, which abolishes any type of the border control inside the EU, the United Kingdom was not allowed to refuse the entry and work permission of EU citizen. Chiefly immigrants from Eastern Europe, who supposedly came to the UK to obtain social benefits, were not always welcomed, especially by the Britons.30 This was, in addition to the immigration of refugees, one of the main reasons for many citizens to vote ‘Leave’.


1Carleton: Europe after WWII http://carleton.ca/ces/eulearning/history/europe-after-wwii/ (2016, Sep. 11)

2Europa: The history of the European Union http://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/history_en (2016, Sep. 11)

3New York Times: Britain Votes to Leave E.U.; Cameron Plans to Step Down http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/25/world/europe/britain-brexit-european-union-referendum.html (2016, Sep. 11)

4BBC: EU Referendum Maps and Chats http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36616028 (2016, Sep. 11)

5Independent: EU referendum outcome on a knife edge, new poll reveals http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-outcome-on-a-knife-edge-new-poll-reveals-a6773551.html (2016, Sep. 11)

6BBC: EU Referendum Results http://www.bbc.com/news/politics/eu_referendum/results (2016, Sep. 12)

7The Telegraph: EU referendum: Brexit is more likely than you think http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11899929/EU-referendum-Brexit-is-more-likely-than-you-think.html (2016, Sep. 13)

8Britain Stronger in Europe: Britain Stronger in Europe http://www.strongerin.co.uk (2016, Sep. 14)

9Vote Leave: Vote Leave, Take Control http://voteleavetakecontrol.org (2016, Sep. 14)

10Lord Ashcroft Polls: When they decided http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2016/06/how-the-united-kingdom-voted-and-why/ (2016, Sep. 12)

11Washington Post: The British are frantically Googling what the E.U. is, hours after voting to leave it
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/06/24/the-british-are-frantically-googling-what-the-eu-is-hours-after-voting-to-leave-it/?tid=a_inl (2016, Sep. 14)

12The Guardian: Nigel Farage's anti-migrant poster reported to police http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/16/nigel-farage-defends-ukip-breaking-point-poster-queue-of-migrants (2016, Sep. 14)

13Lord Ashcroft Polls: How the parties divided http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2016/06/how-the-united-kingdom-voted-and-why/ (2016, Sep. 14)

14 The Guardian: There are liars and then there’s Boris Johnson and Michael Gove - by Nick Cohen
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/25/boris-johnson-michael-gove-eu-liars (2016, Sep. 14)

15 The Guardian: There are liars and then there’s Boris Johnson and Michael Gove - by Nick Cohen
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/25/boris-johnson-michael-gove-eu-liars (2016, Sep. 14)

16Telegraph: Michael Gove’s guide to Britain’s greatest enemy... the experts http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/10/michael-goves-guide-to-britains-greatest-enemy-the-experts/ (2016, Sep. 14)

17 WebAchieve: Achieve of the ‘Vote Leave’ Website from the May, 1st 2016
https://web.archive.org/web/20160501144836/http://www.voteleavetakecontrol.org/ (2016, Sep. 21)

18InFacts: UK doesn’t send EU £350m a week or £55m a day https://infacts.org/uk-doesnt-send-eu-350m-a-week-or-55m-a-day/ (2016, Sep. 21)

19Washington Post: Brexit,“Regrexit,” and the impact of political ignorance https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/06/26/brexit-regrexit-and-the-impact-of-political-ignorance/?utm_term=.8987dfa3570a (2016, Sep. 14)

20Forbes: How Europe Was Lost: Five Ways The 'Remain' Campaign Failed In Britain's European Union Referendum http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewcave/2016/06/27/how-europe-was-lost-five-ways-the-remain-campaign-failed-in-britains-european-union-referendum/#37b98fec4f47 (2016, Sep. 21)

21The New Yorker: Why the Remain Campaign lost the Brexit Vote http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/why-the-remain-campaign-lost-the-brexit-vote (2016, Sep. 21)

22Europe Parliament: Article 50 TEU: Withdrawal of a Member State from the EU http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2016/577971/EPRS_BRI(2016)577971_EN.pdf (2016, Sep. 21)

23DebateWise: The UK is more prosperous as a result of membership of the EU http://debatewise.org/debates/820-the-uk-is-more-prosperous-as-a-result-of-membership-of-the-eu/#no1 (2016, Sep. 21)

24DebateWise: Greater Competition http://debatewise.org/debates/820-the-uk-is-more-prosperous-as-a-result-of-membership-of-the-eu/#yes1 (2016, Sep. 22)

25 Full Fact: Everything you might want to know about the UK's trade with the EU
https://fullfact.org/europe/uk-eu-trade/ (2016, Sep. 23)

26Swissinfo: Switzerland poised to keep EU at arm's length http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/20-years-on_switzerland-poised-to-keep-eu-at-arm-s-length/34083578 (2016, Sep. 23)

27Full Fact: Letter from the European Parliament https://fullfact.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Election-Press-Kit.pdf (2016, Sep. 21)

28Mirror: How many of Britain's laws REALLY come from the EU? http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/how-many-britains-laws-really-7420612 (2016, Sep. 22)

29BBC: UK and the EU: Better off out or in?: Sovereignty and laws http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32793642 (2016, Sep. 21)

30Handelsblatt: Brexit Pro/Contra http://www.handelsblatt.com/politik/international/brexit-referendum/brexit-pro-contra/ (2016, Sep. 22)

Excerpt out of 19 pages


United Kingdom EU Referendum Act of 2015. Reasons and whether the benefits of the UK leaving the EU outweigh the disadvantages
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
UK Referendum Act 2015 EU european union
Quote paper
David Kirchbach (Author), 2016, United Kingdom EU Referendum Act of 2015. Reasons and whether the benefits of the UK leaving the EU outweigh the disadvantages, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1127641


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