By Emma Emeozor
“ DEATH to traitors, freedom for Britain.” This was the response of Thomas
Mair, the gunman who killed British MP Mrs Jo Cox in broad day street attack a week ago, after he refused to give his age or address during a 15-minute extraordinary hearing held at Westminster Magistrate’s Court in central London.
Certainly, the murder of Cox exposes the acrimony across Britain as the battle over the country’s continued membership of the European Union (EU) reached a climax. But can Britain free itself from EU, a process referred to as Brexit? This is the vexed question Britons will answerp today as they vote
in a referendum. The referendum will ask voters whether the country should “remain a member of the European Union” or “leave the European Union.”
Who is qualified to vote
British citizens older than 18 can vote, as can citizens abroad who have been registered to vote at home in the last 15 years. Also eligible are residents of Britain who are citizens of Ireland or of the Commonwealth, which consists of 53 countries, including Australia, Canada, India and South Africa. Unlike in general elections, members of the House of Lords may vote, as can Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory. Citizens of the European Union living in Britain cannot vote, unless they are citizens of Cyprus, Ireland.
Tomorrow poll: Too close to call
According to U.K. Telegraph newspaper report yesterday, Opinium’s final poll showed a third of the population (34 per cent) believe the economy will be “about the same” regardless of whether Britain leaves or remains in EU, with 55 per cent saying the same about their personal financial situation.
With so much dissatisfaction about the availability and credibility of information about both campaigns, it’s hardly surprising that only 54 per cent say that they feel well informed about how they will vote in the referendum, the report said.
Adam Drummond, Opinium Research said: “This really is ‘too close to call’ territory with undecided voters holding the balance of the vote in their hands.
“Although referendum campaigns normally see a move back to the status quo as we get closer to polling day, this hasn’t yet shown up in our polls and the Remain camp will have to hope that it happens in the polling booth itself if Britain is to stay in the European Union,” he added.
No more negotiation if …, EU warns
If Britons vote to leave, there will be an initial two-year negotiation with the European Union about the terms of the divorce, which is unlikely to be amicable, according to analysts. However, as a sign that the EU is becoming wary of the position of the Leave camp, the President of the European Commission
Jean-Claude Juncker, yesterday, warned U.K. voters that there would be no renegotiation with the European Union if they voted to leave the bloc in today’s referendum.
But at Vote Leave rally in Selby yesterday, Senior Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson was quick to hit out at Juncker, angrily condemning him as an “unelected tinpot figure”. He said: “Who elected Jean-Claude Juncker to run anything in this way? Who put him in charge of us in this way?
“This gives the game away. If we stay in there is no prospect of any further change. This is it, folks. We have been told from the horse’s mouth that any hope of further change is absolute illusion.” He added: “It is time for us to show our courage and our commitment to democracy by standing up to these unelected tinpot figures.”
Debate over Britain’s membership not new
The European Union emerged from the European Coal and Steel Community formed by six nations in 1951. Then, the object was to address the problems created by the Second World War through duty-free-trade.
This body was transformed into the European Economic Community (Common Market) in 1957 through the treaty of Rome. Britain started the debate to join the Common Market way back in the 1960s. Indeed, Britain expressed its desire to join the Common Market, first, in 1963 and again in 1967. In both occasion, its bid failed because French President Charles de Gaulle vetoed its
Even then, the debate continued with frenzy, those opposed to the Market would not stop kicking. Britain would however join the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 against all odds.
Yet the dust did not settle as two years later (1975), there was a vote to remain in a referendum. More than 67 percent of Britons voted in favour.
The Leave Camp
The Justice Minister Michael Gove, and the former Mayor of London Boris Johnson lead the Leave campaigners; those who want Britain to quit the Union. Cabinet minister Michael Gove is the co-convener of the campaign’s committee. He is one of around 130 Tory MPs backing Brexit. Labour MP Gisela Stuart is the other co-convener of the campaign’s committee. He is one of only a handful of Labour MPs campaigning for Brexit.
Of note is that nearly half the Conservative members of Parliament favour leaving, as do the members of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) and its leader, Nigel Farage. Their main issues are sovereignty and immigration.
Interestingly, the battle has not been devoid of international politics and diplomacy. The move by the Leave camp immediately exposed the degree of distaste a cross section of European leaders have for the Union. For example, the French National Front leader Marine Le Pen, other anti-Europe parties
in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere favour Brexit. They have given strong backing to the Leave camp even as their countries are members of the Union.
The Remain Camp (Britain Stronger in Europe)
The former Executive Chairman of Marks & Spencer is the chairman of the Remain camp (Britain Stronger in Europe), those who want Britain to remain in the EU. Other leaders are Prime Minister David Cameron, Lord Rose, Son of former Labour home Secretary Jack Straw, Will Straw. Will is
the executive director of the campaign.
Cameron enjoys overwhelming support of the Conservative government he leads, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, which is strongly pro-Europe.
Others giving the prime minister backing include: most independent economists and large businesses, most recent heads of Britain’s intelligence services. On the international front, United States President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, NATO and Chinese President Xi Jinping of China have express strong support for the Remain camp.
A pain in the neck of Cameron
Brexit was a major issue during the campaign for Cameron’s re-election.
“To pacify his party and undermine the anti-European Union U.K. IndependenceParty, or UKIP, Mr. Cameron promised to hold the referendum should he be re-elected prime minister, “ UK media said.
As the country goes to poll today, the fate of Cameron is on the balance.
This is because he would have to quit office if the Leave camp wins the vote. Already, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that voting to leave the European Union could present
the risk of a “right-wing Tory takeover”.
Leave camp’s argument, outline of action
Even ahead of today’s vote, the Leave camp has started “acting as an alternative Brexit government in waiting”, according to BBC report. It has reeled out its argument and outlined the immediate action it would take if Britons vote to quit the Union. It said the government should invite figures from other parties, business, the law and civil society to join the team that would negotiate with other EU members to “get a good deal in the national interest”. It called for immediate legislation in the current
session of Parliament to “end the European Court of Justice’s control over national security and allow the government to deport criminals from the EU”.
“After we vote Leave, the public need to see that there is immediate action to take back control from the EU,” Leave campaigner and Leader of the Commons Chris Grayling said.
“We will need a carefully managed negotiation process and some major legislative changes before 2020, including taking real steps to limit immigration, to abolish VAT on fuel and tampons, and to end the situation where an international court can tell us who we can and cannot deport.”
It said over subsequent sessions of Parliament it wanted to introduce: Finance Bill: This would abolish the 5% rate of VAT on household energy bills by amending the Value Added Tax Act 1994. It would be paid for by savings from the UK’s contributions to the EU budget, Vote Leave said. National Health Service (Funding Target) Bill: The NHS would receive a £100m per week real-terms cash
“transfusion”, to be paid for by savings from leaving the EU Asylum and Immigration Control
Bill: “To end the automatic right of all EU citizens to enter the UK.”
Free Trade Bill: The UK leaves the EU’s “common commercial policy” to
“restore the U.K. government’s power to control its own trade policy.” European Communities Act 1972 (Repeal) Bill: The European Communities Act 1972, “the legal basis for the supremacy of EU law in the UK”, will be repealed. “The EU Treaties will cease to form part of UK law and the European Court’s jurisdiction over the UK will end.”
Remain camp argument
But Chancellor George Osborne who is one of the leaders of the Remain camp disagrees with the thinking of the leaders of the Leave camp. While dismissing the Leave camp “Blueprint”, he said the UK would be left with “no economic plan” if it voted to leave the EU, requiring drastic measures such as
tax rises and spending cuts to stabilize the public finances.
Osborne is not alone. Cameron recently wrote: “We can choose economic security, not an unnecessary leap in the dark. We can choose to be stronger, safer and better off.” Lending his voice in support of Osborne and Cameron, a spokesman for Britain Stronger in Europe said: “The Leave campaign do not
have a credible plan for Britain’s future, all they offer is a leap in the dark that will put our economy at risk.” He said leaving the EU would mean, “Years of uncertainty that will risk jobs, risk investment and lead to higher prices in the shops.”