By Kathyrn Chaney
In January 2013, the government of the United Kingdom announced its intention to hold a referendum deciding whether they will leave the European Union. The referendum is expected to be held at the end of 2017. However, according to BBC, the vote could take place as early as May 2016. The referendum has several goals including strengthening the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and increasing economic competition.
Political parties in the United Kingdom have been split over the idea of the referendum. Liberal Democratic parties and the labor party argue against leaving the European Union unless additional power is transferred from the United Kingdom to the European Union. The Independent and Green Party both favor the referendum. The United Kingdom’s news forum Express relayed the controversy surrounding Prime Minister David Cameron’s recommendation to leaders of the Tory party in which he advised them to ignore the opinions of members of the Tory Party who wished to see the United Kingdom leave the European Union. The Prime Minister went on to make the statement that, “If you passionately believe in your heart that Britain is better off outside the EU, then you should vote that way. If you think, even if it’s on balance, I think Britain’s better off in, go with what you think.” Nevertheless, conservatives, who are strong supporters of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, won the recent election, and the referendum will take place as planned.
According to the Independent, in the first public survey, 45 percent of the polled population were in favor of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union while 36 percent voted against the idea. The survey went further to ask public opinion on the proposed changes connected to the referendum. 56 percent of the polled population commented that they felt the changes did not go far enough and additional adjustments would be needed in the future.
However, there are consequences to consider when entering the referendum. European response to the potential outcome of the referendum concerns the possible withdrawal of other members. For example, BBC reported Tony Blair’s opinion that if the United Kingdom were to leave the European Union, Scotland would follow suit. For Northern Ireland however, there are different concerns. The leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party in Northern Ireland, Colum Eastwood, expressed that the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union is “the biggest immediate threat to the economy of Northern Ireland and to the island as a whole.”
Another aspect to consider is the impact of the severance on the United Kingdom’s Economy. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggested in 2004 that leaving the European Union would set back the United Kingdom’s GDP by 2.25 percent. The Centre for Economic Performance also conducted an analysis in which it determined the United Kingdom’s GDP would potentially fall by 6.3 percent to 9.5 percent. It seems it will be important for both the population and the government of the United Kingdom to weigh the positives and negatives when entering the referendum in 2017.