CLS Strategies Insights: Great Britain's Great Debate

March 9, 2016

CLS Strategies Insights: Great Britain's Great Debate

There’s one word that’s taking the UK by storm this spring: Brexit. 

Brexit, or ‘Britain exit,’ is the colloquial term that has been used to describe the debate taking place on whether or not the UK will leave the European Union. Recently, Prime Minister David Cameron and other EU leaders met to negotiate new terms for the UK’s EU membership, and on June 23, people across the UK will head to the polls and vote in a referendum which will decide the future of the UK’s status as an EU member. 

Although there have been calls for the UK to leave the EU for decades, recent political developments have led to renewed interest in a Brexit. Notably, contentious EU bailouts of member countries such as Greece, the refugee crisis spurred by the civil war in Syria and terrorism fears in the wake of the Paris attacks in late 2015 have all played a role in increased calls for the UK to split with the EU. Meanwhile, supporters of the EU point to the benefits of continued membership on the economy and for UK companies doing business across the region.

Whatever decision the voters make will impact a number of British policies, ranging from the obvious to the not-so-obvious. While immigration and trade policy will undoubtedly be impacted by a Brexit, it could also lead to increased support for the independence movement in Scotland, where EU membership is more popular, and eliminate funding for dozens of peace projects across Northern Ireland. Recent polls show that the country is split on whether to stay or leave, leading to a spirited debate that has pulled in average citizens, celebrities and politicians alike.

The issues raised by a Brexit are so complex and intertwined that the campaign has even divided traditional political allies. Prime Minister David Cameron, a member of the Conservative Party, is advocating for remaining in the EU, while Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson and several members of Cameron’s cabinet have sided with the Brexit movement. Although the Labour Party as a whole has endorsed staying in the EU, a handful of its members of parliament have declared their support for leaving as well. 

The ultimate result of the Brexit referendum will depend on which campaign is better able to frame the UK’s relationship with the EU. Has membership spurred trade growth and allowed for companies to conduct business in several countries with a friendly regulatory environment? Or, as detractors argue, has it decreased the security of the EU and forced the UK to meddle in the financial affairs? Groups such as Vote Leave and British Influence are now tasked with making their case to the general public and convincing voters whether they are indeed Stronger In or if they are Better Off Out

The final decision that voters will make in the Brexit referendum in June remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: we’re in for a very lively debate over the coming months as stakeholders dissect all of its possible implications.


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