“To be or not to be in Europe”. This is the question David Cameron promised to ask the British people during his electoral campaign in 2015.
At that time, it was a purely rhetorical question. It’s true that Eurosceptic tendencies were apparent but nobody thought Britain really would abandon ship.
But that wasn’t taking into account the armada the BREXIT supporters were about to launch. This group wanted to leave the European Union which it had joined 44 years earlier in 1972.
To lead this campaign, the pro-brexiteers had two outspoken characters from British politics, Nigel Farage, the leader of the independent party UKIP, and Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London and free spirit of the Conservative Party. For two months they put forward their pet slogan “We want our country back” and backed this up with what they claimed were rock solid arguments.
“We don’t even have a british passport anymore,” said Nigel Farage. “We have a European Union one!”
“It’s now or never,” added Boris Johnson. “If we fail to make the change now, then we will continue to be like passengers locked in the back of a minicab with a wonky satnav driven by a driver who doesn’t have perfect command of english and going in a direction we frankly don’t want to go.”
The British people formed two camps. While the “leave” campaigners were convinced they would all be stronger and richer without Europe, the “remain” camp threatened economic catastrophe and was generally backed by most international leaders.
“I deeply believe that the United Kingdom needs Europe, announced the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. “And Europe needs the United Kingdom.”
“The United States wants a strong United Kingdom as a partner,” added US President Barack Obama.” And the United Kingdom is at its best when it’s helping to lead a strong Europe.”
The campaign remained well regulated until this drama occurred. Just days away from polling day, Jo Cox, who was leading the campaign to remain in the European Union, was murdered in broad daylight, by an individual who shouted “Britain first” as he shot the labour MP.
The campaign was suspended for several days and during this time the anti-brexit vote increased. It was generally believed that this drama had swung the balance. So as early results began to come in, on 23rd June, it was complete shock.
Nearly 52% of the British population voted to leave and after years of waves of increases in members, Europe was to experience its first departure.
Nigel Farage considered it to be mission accomplished and withdrew from politics, while Boris Johnson turned down the position of Prime Minister that David Cameron had promised to retire from in case of defeat.
Still reeling from his defeat, Cameron attended the European summit meeting a few days later which had been organised following Brexit.
And thus began the long divorce process with the European partners, which would be led by Theresa May, who had been chosen by the Conservative Party and named Prime Minister by the Queen. She maintained that she wanted an ‘ordered and harmonious’ exit.
As 2016 draws to an end it is still too early to know what the consequences on Europe will be after this departure, and on the country after that. So while the legislative debates heat up, Brexit still means Brexit and the remain camp can only hope it’s a soft one.