Anand Menon, UK in a Changing Europe director, said: “The uncertainties are myriad. First is the fate of the two main party leaders. Who will occupy 10 Downing Street? The position of Jeremy Corbyn is also far from secure. When will the formal process of British secession from the EU, under Article 50, begin? It is unthinkable parliament will not be involved in a decision that so profoundly affects the government and influence of the UK. Meanwhile, nationalist politicians, be they in Scotland, Northern Ireland or England will be making hay too.”
John Curtice, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “The Remain campaign was in trouble from the moment that Mr Cameron’s renegotiation of Britain’s terms of its EU membership failed to unite his party and move public opinion. Thereafter its attempt to secure support through warnings of the economic consequences of leaving failed to move opinion in its favour, not least because they appeared rather overblown in the eyes of many voters. In contrast the Leave campaign had a simple and straightforward message, ‘take control’, that resonated strongly with many voters. It was a recipe for potential defeat – and in the event that was what happened.”
Damian Chalmers, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “David Cameron’s resignation has signalled that the formal withdrawal process will not begin until October at the earliest. The EU will probably accept that as reasonable given the leadership vacuum. It also gives other member states time to formulate a common negotiating position and a series of red lines in negotiations. Less easy to predict is the mood music for this. Candidates for the Conservative party leadership may be tempted to outbid each other in what they will claim from the EU in negotiations. Equally, leaks over the summer about what other states will demand from the UK may also sour the mood.”
Jonathan Portes, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “The Prime Minister’s foolish pledge to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands has come back to bite him. It ensured that the key question for the referendum was whether the ability to “take control” of immigration policy was worth the risk to the UK economy from Brexit. The electorate have given their verdict.”
Sara Hagemann, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “The referendum result will have great implications not just for the UK but also for the rest of the EU. We can expect two scenarios in Europe: Either the British vote will have a contagion effect to political debates in other member states, perhaps even resulting in referenda in countries such as The Netherlands and Hungary. It may also have great implications for general elections in France and Germany, giving momentum to anti-EU parties there. There could also have divisive territorial consequences, such as returning Gibraltar to Spain and a referendum on unification of Northern Ireland and Ireland. On the other hand the referendum could compel remaining EU leaders to unify and react with a strong common message for how the EU should now move forward. The EU is famously known for its ability to ‘muddle through’ whenever it is faced with a crisis. But this time strong leadership will be needed from the EU leaders if the Union is to remain.”
Iain Begg, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “Many in Europe thought it would not happen, but now that it has, it is clear that this political earthquake will have after-shocks throughout the world. The immediate financial instability is only the first of many big challenges for the UK authorities around the future of a divided UK as a trading nation. But perhaps the biggest uncertainty will be what happens next in the rest of the EU where the fundamental question will be whether an evidently successful 20th Century project remains valid for the 21st Century.”
Michael Keating, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “Scotland has voted decisively to remain. The only way this would be possible is by becoming independent. The SNP said in advance of last year’s Scottish elections and the EU referendum that this was a change in circumstances what would justify a new independence referendum. That will now be on the agenda. Perhaps Brexit on its own would not be enough to win such a referendum, given that it could introduce a hard border with England, but the prospect of being ruled by the English nationalist Brexiters might. The Scottish Government will likely keep its options open until it sees how opinion develops.”
Richard Whitman, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “The UK’s EU referendum result sets a new direction for the UK’s foreign policy. Britain has had European Union membership as the centrepiece of its place in the world for over 40 years. In the first instance it will focus its diplomacy on reassuring its allies and other international partners that the result will not alter Britain’s overseas commitments. It will, however, face unprecedented demands on its politicians and diplomats to simultaneously renegotiate its new relationship with the EU and its member states whilst determining a new trade policy for the UK. The UK has also thrown the EU into a crisis and paradoxically, even as it is seeking to Brexit, Britain will be primarily concerned with the stability of Europe as a key priority for its security policy.
Jo Hunt, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “The voters in Wales have broken ranks with the other the devolved nations and have voted in support of Brexit. On a large turnout, 17 of the 22 local authorities returned a leave vote, with support for continued membership coming only from Cardiff, and Wales’ more affluent areas. On one level, the vote is unsurprising – Wales has been polling in line with England for much of the campaign, and the overall split was 52.5 to 47.5. However, the vote is out of line with the almost unanimous remain position of the main political parties in Wales, and of major interest groups. The First minister, Carwyn Jones has already called for the funding arrangements to Wales to be substantially reformed, particularly as Wales stands to lose significant funding streams which have supported economic development and the agricultural industry. The Prime Minister’s resignation speech spoke of fully involving the Devolved Administrations in the withdrawal negotiations, and the Welsh Government and Assembly will now need to work to ensure this is the case.”
Laura Cram, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “’The existence of competing imaginings of the EU and of its relationship with the UK publics has never been clearer. Disconnect between the perceptions of party elites and popular perception within their publics, deep territorial divisions and metropolitan exceptionalism reveal meaningful schisms in UK society that will resonate well beyond this referendum result.”
Angus Armstrong, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “Uncertainty has gripped financial markets in the UK and around the world. In the space of six hours sterling has fallen against the dollar to its lowest level for 31 years. Further gyrations are expected over the coming days and weeks as market participants grapple with the economic implications of the results. The key area to watch will be the interbank markets. The longer the market volatility continues, the more reserves will be required. The Bank of England has made clear that it stands ready to meet these needs to prevent any escalation. Given the stability risks the Bank is almost sure to look at higher inflation in the short term and not raise interest rates.”
Simon Usherwood, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “This is a decision that will have huge implications for the UK and EU. In the UK, the immediate decision is how to handle the vote to leave. As these first hours have shown, there is no consensus on the next steps, so we can expect lots of politicians trying to set the tone and agenda for the coming weeks, months and years. EU leaders will want to find a quick resolution to the UK’s decision to leave the Union, especially as they have enough problems to occupy them, which might work to Britain’s advantage.”
Alison Harcourt, UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow, said: “A key finding was that Brexit would have a significant effect on communications companies’ ability to function within the UK. This is because the EU has taken a lead in this regulatory sphere and EU regulation has acted as a sizeable control on company behaviour. The effect of a possible Brexit is sufficient enough that a significant number of companies are considering contingency plans to switch activity to other EU member states.”
The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative.