The Scottish independence referendum 2014 and the Bregzit in 2016, were two events that dominated the UK political scene in the second decade of the 21st century. Although the decision on leaving EU is the most important political decision that the UK citizens made after the Second World War, the victory of the anti-EU bloc and of the Unionists in the Scottish referendum still failed to solve either the issue of the status of Scotland or the issue of the relationship between UK and mainland Europe. Moreover, the decision of UK citizens on referendum held on 23 June 2016 to leave the EU re-opened the question of a new Scottish referendum because its citizens predominantly voted to remain in the EU at the same referendum. Couple of days following the referendum which voted UK out of the EU, Prime Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgen announced that new steps will be taken to enable a new referendum on independence.
The purpose of this analysis is to analyze the consequences of both referenda on UK political and legal structure. As stated earlier, the Scottish referendum failed to resolve the Scottish issue but opened up an English one instead. Likewise, the EU referendum failed to resolve the UK–EU relations but re-opened the Scottish one again. In this analysis, we shall focus on how the British constitutionalists tried to resolve the English issue through the principle – English votes for English laws. The second part of the analysis will deal with the difficult UK-EU relations, i.e. the island vs the continent. It shall be noted how history in a way repeated itself in some of its aspects in the case of both referenda, the one in 1975 and the other one in 2016. How both Prime Ministers, Wilson of the Labor party and Cameron of the Conservative party from radical goals to change fundamental contracts with the EC i.e. EU over time embraced more moderate reforms which they sought to present to their voters as huge negotiating successes. The same as in 1975, the British Prime Minister in 2016 did not expect to achieve any major changes in EC/EU. Instead, referenda were used to overcome internal divisions regarding Europe within their ruling parties. The same as Labor Prime Minister Wilson failed and his party later split, Conservative Prime Minister Cameron also failed and following the unsuccessful outcome of the referendum, he not only resigned but left his party and British society divided in a measure unprecedented since the Second World War.
Of course, above all, we shall deal with the reasons why the Brits in 2016 decided to leave the EU as opposed to 1975 when they decided to stay. In this, most copious part of the study, we shall speak of the reasons that brought about the referendum and how the remain and leave campaigns were led, the arguments of both blocs and finally, we shall analyze why Brexit won.
In the beginning of the 21st century, the key issue for British politics is how to reconcile these conflicting issues while maintaining the unity of the Union. The referendums on EU and Scotland dramatically opened key issues not only in the UK but in entire Europe concerning questions like national identity, multiculturalism, migrants and an increasing resistance to the ruling class and political establishment.
In any case, following UK’s exit from the EU, it will take outstanding efforts, tolerance and mutual respect to keep Northern Ireland and Scotland in the UK in the foreseeable future.
he future relationship between EU and UK is not a lesser challenge. By voting out of the EU, UK has chosen a risky path of acting on its own at the international economic and political scene at a time when most of other countries are more and more connecting. By voting out, the British demonstrated their frustration with EU’s inability to cope with global issues. It was felt that Europe obviously does not have an answer to problems caused by the burgeoning Brussels bureaucracy, ageing population, growing unemployment of young people, migration problems, etc. The majority of UK citizens felt that they would be better off outside the EU. The first direct consequences of such decision was the fall of the national currency against other global currencies, anouncement of departure of some major international companies, crumbling of UK already diminishing role at the international political scene including Scottish and Irish drive for independence. It can hardly be expected that in these new circumstances London will manage to preserve its leading financial position over the long term or that UK outside EU will be as attractive as it used to be to foreign companies, bankers, wealthy Arabs, Russians or Chinese. It will probably be less important to the USA which is likely to turn to Germany as its future key partner in Euro-Atlantic relations. It remains to be seen how UK will manage to cope with these internal and external challenges in the new framework and with its current capacities. It can hardly be expected that the UK will restore its former imperial status since that time has long gone. Even if the EU concept fails, UK will not be spared from the consequences of that failure, in or out of the EU. In the present-day computer age, mobile phones and drones, the English Channel can hardly protect the UK from unwelcome processes and events taking place in the continental Europe.
On the other hand, we have to keep in mind that through wholle history UK showed unprecedented ability to accustom to a new political and economic world trends. Even more UK still holds some of the most important tools of world power such as strong economy, dominace of English language, nuclear power and veto right in UN.