The European Community

2016 EU Referendum
The 'European Union Referendum Act 2015' was passed by UK Parliament to hold a referendum for the United Kingdom and Gibraltar on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union (EU), with the election to be held no later than 31 December 2017. This had been a Conservative Manifesto promise for the 2015 General Election. The Referendum was held on Thursday 23rd June 2016, with all results returned by about 8am the following day.

The UK Government had strongly promoted the 'Remain' case, led by the Conservative Party and supported by Labour and most UK political parties. Every UK household received a leaflet from the Government (costing about £9m) outlining reasons to Remain, mainly on economic grounds but also referring to security in a time of high alert to terrorism. Leaflets fell through local letterboxes, on both sides. As the date came closer, the campaigns gathered in intensity with testimonies from leading industrialists and financiers on either side (Branson, Dyson, etc.) and facts and figures were commissioned to support each side. The JD Wetherspoons pub chain boss, Tim Martin, promoted the Brexit cause on pro-democracy grounds (and suffered a share crash, post-result), while the opposing side drafted in celebrities and supposed experts on international affairs (such as Prof. Steven Hawkings) for TV adverts. The sovereignty argument featured little in Scotland.

Official Groups:

The UK Independence Party (UKIP), led by MEP Nigel Farage, was not included in the official 'Leave' campaign but proved to be very effective in its own campaign. Their red tour bus was much criticised for displaying a £350m/week figure of what the UK pays to the EU, supposedly to be recovered upon Brexit and used to fund the NHS. But that had been misleading as, although the UK is pays more to the EU than it receives, the actual payments ought to subtract the arranged rebate. In any case, the net savings would have to go to more than the NHS. A later UKIP poster featuring a line of impoverished-looking refugees/assylum-seekers, to raise the fear of uncontrolled immigration, also attracted criticism, even from the Leave side (notably Mr Gove).

Voting Areas
Penistone Mug from Hallmark Card ShopThere were 382 Voting Areas, with 326 in England, 32 in Scotland, 22 in Wales and single areas for Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. The Voting Areas fed into twelve Regional Counts, overseen by Regional Counting Officers.

Referendum Spending:

The Results
On Friday 24th June, after an all-night TV programme covering the event, the results came in early and showed a narrow majority in favour of leaving the EU. Overall turnout at 72.2% was the highest since 1992 and better than the 2015 General Election (66.1%). As the vote count began, surveys predicted 52% for Remain and 48% for Leave. In reality, the figures were almost right - but in the wrong direction, the difference being about 1¼ million votes (nearly 4%).

London and Scotland were most strongly for Remain, leading to speculation about another Scottish Independence referendum. The northern (Labour-supporting) industrial areas were particularly in favour of Brexit. Wales also favoured Brexit in about the same proportion as the full vote. The Barnsley Borough proved to be a Brexit hot-spot, with more than two thirds voting to leave.

The Results
A YouGov Exit Poll revealed a split along age lines (and education), with 71% to Remain for under 25s and about 36% to Remain for over 65s. As expected, turnout among older voters was much higher than the young, although a few university students were said to have voted twice, home and away. If there had been the same turnout from all age groups, Remain would have had an easy victory (see the 'Demographic Divide' at FT).

Electorate Note
The 'UK Electorate' number in the list above comes from the Office of National Statistics (47,350,696 in 2016, ONS), but the calculated electorate from the 72.2% turnout was 46,506,025. From the ONS, the discrepancy could be due to administrative practices for including people who failed to complete the annual voter registration form on the electoral register (known as ‘carried forward’ electors).

Decisions, Decisions
Each side had their own strong and convincing arguments but, as of early June 2016, the polls suggested an equal number of votes each way. The UK newspapers were also divided, with such as the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail in the Leave camp and The Times and Mail on Sunday backing Remain. Facts and figures stacked up on either side.

It was not an easy decision to make but likely to have long-lasting effects. Television debates covered: economic downturn, border control issues, trading relations, tariffs, a proposed EU army, homeland security, new accession countries, democracy, autonomy, repercussions, etc. On the economy, the Remain side was clear that the value of the pound would decline upon Brexit and some on the opposing side side agreed, but only as a passing phase and a 'price worth paying' for self-governance. An apparent consensus in the press and on radio was that both sides had fought dirty and misleading campaigns, at a time when voters had been struggling for hard facts. Bloomburg TV said that Britain lacked any seasoned negotiators within the EU to arrive at a good deal for Britain. Mr Juncker poured scorn on Britain. In return Mr Farage poured scorn on Mr Juncker. It was all a good spectator sport, as ordinary people were being largely forgotten after the vote.

There were also some tasty Home Goals. Chancellor Osborne's threat that house prices would plummet was actually seen in a positive light by some young people aspiring to climb on to the housing ladder. The campaigning image of the Leave red bus was also a home goal as the £millions of net EU contributions to be re-claimed after Brexit could never be achieved.

An ebullient MEP Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party (at the time) said that 'This was Britain's Independence Day', echoing Boris Johnson's parting shot in an EU debate. Mr Cameron gave a heartfelt retirement speech outside No 10 and a responding speech by his chief opponent, Boris Johnson of the Leave camp, gave credit to Mr Cameron as a brave and principled man, of a 'one nation' Conservative Party. Boris said that the EU Referendum had been about the very principle of democracy.

Within the Labour Party, Peter Mandelson said that the Brexit result had been a victory for the Far Right. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn took the view that Brexit was a vote against austerity. Mr Corbyn was denounced by some in his party for not having fought a strong enough campaign in favour of Remain, although he was probably being cautious about upsetting his northern supporters. Others took the view that the Labour Party had been out of touch with the mood of the electorate and that it had long avoided issues of popular concern, such as excessive or inappropriate immigration.

Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party said that, in view of the strong Remain vote in Scotland, this could lead to a second Scottish Independence Referendum, then promptly joined the Lord Haw Haw of the broadcasting world - Russian propaganda TV channel, 'RT'. The SNP First Minister (who replaced Salmond), Nicola Sturgeon, made the point more emphatically and said that she would start the process soon.

Comments from Ireland suggested a renewed move towards reunification. As time went on, the Irish border became more central to the debate, it appearing to be impossible to avoid border controls while one side of it would be outside the EU. The obvious remedy might have been to put controls on northern Ireland ports and include Eire in an EU customs union, but Mrs May's reliance on the Democratic Unionist Party to support her in Parliament prevented this as a solution. The DUP is dead against anything which might lead to the re-unification of Ireland, although in many ways that would have been the perfect solution.

In the Wall Street Journal, the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said that Britain's vote to leave the EU will not change the country's role in the military alliance.​ He said that NATO would become “more important” than ever as a platform for European cooperation. The UK, he said, will remain "A strong and committed NATO ally."

German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that "The news from Britain is really sobering. It looks like a sad day for Europe and Britain." A side comment on Bloomberg stated that Germany could well be about £3bn out of pocket per year, as a result of Brexit. The Daily Telegraph gave it as: 'Germany's contribution to EU annual budget could rise by £2bn after Brexit.' Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen, and her nephew Marion Le Pen of the French National Front hailed the result as a "Victory!" and called for French exit or ‘Frexit’. Also on the right, Geert Wilders of the Netherland's Freedom Party tweeted: "Hurrah for the British! Now it is our turn. Time for a Dutch referendum!"

The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Bohuslav Sobotka, said the European Union must change quickly to support its citizens. Not because Britain has left, but because the European project needs much stronger support of its citizens; to be more ready to act, be flexible, less bureaucratic and much more sensible to the diversity that the 27 member states represent. Little mention was made of how the remaining EU countries might make up the sizeable financial hole left by Britain's departure.

The PM's Speech
Mr Cameron described it as a giant democratic exercise. He said that the people's decision must be supported and that he would do all that he could to make it a success (to 'steady the ship'). He said that the way that people travel, goods and other services used will continue as before. He also gave assurances to Brits living abroad that there would be no immediate changes to their dealings with the UK. He said that stability was important and that he would stay in position until a new Prime Minister is found in time for the next Conservative Party conference in October. He reminded us that he had already stated that he would not be standing for the next General Election. He also urged those who had lost the referendum to work for the best interests of our country. At the end of his statement, he said (with a lump in his throat) that he would do everything he could to help this country succeed.

See the PM's Speech of 24th June 2016.
Also, see the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Statement of 27th June 2016.

Next Steps
As the Referendum was only 'Advisory' to the UK Parliament, it was possible but 'political suicide' to ignore it. As Mr Cameron said in his retirement speech on Friday 24th June 2016, the procedure to leave the EU would not commence until a new PM is in place, to happen before the Conservative Party Conference in October 2016. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty would then be invoked to start the 'Divorce'. One problem is a shortage of civil servants to establish new trading arrangements with other countries.

Immediately post-referendum, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker (in a peevish mood) announced that the divorce ought to be initiated immediately. He also stated that the UK could not expect any favourable trading terms with the EU. A meeting took place of all except the UK representatives to decide the future of the EU. They needed to balance some punishment to the UK, as a deterrent to at least three EU member states considering their own referenda, while not disrupting essential UK trade. One in every five German cars is exported to the UK.

A joint statement was issued by Martin Schulz (President of the European Parliament), Donald Tusk (President of the European Council), Mark Rutte (Holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU) and Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the European Commission). Part of this read: 'As agreed, the 'New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union', reached at the European Council on 18-19 February 2016, will now not take effect and ceases to exist. There will be no re-negotiation.'

Continuing Echoes
In the months following, the dust has never settled. There had been a strong 'Remoaner' reaction to the Brexit result throughout, as the Brexit side had no particular need to continue campaigning. The BBC appeared to favour more arguments for Remain than for Leave, for many months after the vote had been taken. Radio 4's 'right-on' comedians (who might also be opinion-influencers) take it as read that Brexit was an unmitigated disaster.

A mostly left-wing-supported 'People's Vote' march occurred in London, April 2018, with all of the usual mass-produced placards. Not all of the protesters were from the extremes and some of them even knew how to use soap. They said that they were not trying to overturn the EU Referendum (the original 'People's Vote') but that, somewhat bafflingly: 'Leaving Europe is too important a move to be left just to Parliament'. It wasn't clear how that might work in the real world.

Info Sources:
'By Area' and Turnout: Daily Telegraph.
'Barnsley Area' - BMBC.
International Reaction: Euronews.
Main results, Mr Cameron's speech and other items from BBC Radio 4, 'Today' and News.
Some additional material: Bloomberg
New EU Settlement - Negotiated by Mr Cameron, Feb 2016.
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Joint Statement from the EU, 24th June 2016.

2014 EU Elections
The European Parliament has elections every five years and is composed of 751 members. It has powers over the entire EU budget.
In the 2014 EU Elections, the top three parties (nationally) were: UKIP (26.6%), Labour (24.43%) and Conservative (23.05%). Turnout: 34.19%.

The Penistone area comes under the EU'Yorkshire and the Humber' constituency. These are the voting figures for this constituency:

6,868 - Total Rejected Votes, Turnout 1,296,701 - 33.5 %.

New MEPs
The six elected MEPs for the 'Yorkshire and the Humber' Region were:

  1. Jane Maria Collins - UK Independence Party (UKIP)
  2. Linda McAvan - Labour Party
  3. Timothy John Robert Kirkhope - Conservative Party
  4. Amjad Mahmood Bashir - UK Independence Party (UKIP)
  5. Richard Corbett - Labour Party
  6. Mike Hookem - UK Independence Party (UKIP)

Election Day was Thursday 22nd May 2014. The list of EU candidates was published on the BMBC website: EU Candidates (pdf). Full results for our region were published on Leeds Council website.

National EU Election Results
All 28 member states of the European Union held elections for the European Parliament in May 2014.
The number of MEPs rose this year from the 736 elected in 2009 to 751 in 2014..
The UK list of candidates was almost endless, see BBC EU Results page.

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