After decades of uneasy relations with Europe, Britain decided to take back control in the 2016 referendum and withdrew from the European Union. But why did the British people turn away from the EU?
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SOUNDBITE [English] Unknown Man: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Boris Johnson, Former London Mayor: “Why?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Unknown Man: “What have you done to this country?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Boris Johnson, Former London Mayor: “Seems to be alright to me.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Unknown Man: “What? Absolute rubbish.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Stella Toonen, EU National: “It’s a weird atmosphere to know that people have voted against having you here as a person.”
SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, Former UK Prime Minister: “Mr Speaker the British people have voted to leave the European Union. It was not the result I wanted, nor the outcome I believe is best.”
Narration: After decades of uneasy relations with Europe, Britain has finally chosen to take back control.
SOUNDBITE [English] Joanna Mludzinska, Chairwoman, Polish Centre:“I think it’s the wrong decision but there you go that’s democracy for you.”
Narration: We followed the twists and turns of this bitter breakup since the referendum, to understand the reason why the British people turned away from the EU.
SOUNDBITE [English] Man: “Europe is like a big monster.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Lucy Thomas, Deputy Director, Remian Campaign: “This was the opportunity to kick the government, kick the establishment.”
Narration: The political storm that followed,
SOUNDBITE [English] Graham Brady, British MP: “I saw on the television monitor of my feed that the Prime Minister had just resigned.”
SOUNDBITE [English] David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times: “You lose a Prime Minister, you lose a Chancellor of Exchequer, and you think well the whole country is falling appart.”
Narration: And the major consequences that have already emerged across the United Kingdom.
SOUNDBITE [English] Frankiln Allen, Economics Professor of Imperial College London:“I think it’s very difficult to run this country without immigration.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Harriet Harman: “Some people believe it is open season now for racism and xenophobia.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Lucy Thomas, Deputy Director, Remian Campaign: “I mean saying I told you so doesn’t help anybody.”
SOUNDBITE [English] John Curtis, Polling Analyst:“There is a big social division in our society.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Theresa May British Prime Minister: “The article 50 process is no under way.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Donal Tusk: “There is no reason to pretend that this is a happy day.”
Narration: It is tempting to think that Brexit was just about Britain parting ways with Europe, but to truly understand why the results of the referendum, we must look deeper into how voters across the UK ultimately made their decisions.We first visit Hull, a small town thatlies on the muddy banks of River Humber in northern England. For years the city has been a hub for ships and ferries travelling back and forth to mainland Europe, and so it has earned itself the nickname of ‘the Gateway to Europe’.With long past the referendum, the flag of the EU still flies high at the port of this- town; even higher than the flag of the United Kingdom. Ironically the people of Hull voted overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the EU with a sixty eight percent majority, a ratio of more than 2 to 1. For this long-neglected city which is home to some of the poorest and most deprived communities across the UK, the referendum demonstrated that things can’t get much worse here.
SOUNDBITE [English] David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times: “A place like Hull, I mean despite being the city of culture and so on, is essentially a predominantly working class old industrial port city, and it’s a classic territory for people who feel left behind by globalisation and I think a lot of this, a lot of the referendum was to do partly with immigration but partly with this feeling that people have lost their economic power.”
Narration: The people of Hull are just as likely to blame the politicians of Westminster as the faceless bureaucrats in Brussels. For them, all such politicians have been distanced and not concerned about their issues. Tareq Haddad is a journalist at Hull Daily Mail. Hisobservation of the referendum convinced him that there was much more to the way people voted than just the UK’s EU membership.
SOUNDBITE [English] Tareq Haddad, Journalist, Hull Daily Mail: “Even if voting to leave had a lot of uncertainty and some people knew it might make things worse but for them they knew that at least it’s gonna be some sort of change and I think for a lot of people they just needed change. I mean things can’t really much worse for a lot of people here.”
SOUNDBITE [English] David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times: “The benefits of EU membership were one that they can’t really see, even though I believe they are there, they can’t really see them. But they can see lots of reasons why a change is welcome even if they what the change is going to be, something to lift us out of this not very successful period that they feel they are going through and I think that drove a lot of those working class places such as Hull.”
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SOUNDBITE [English] Tareq Haddad, Journalist, Hull Daily Mail: “People were led to believe that things are gonna get better, they are gonna matter again, we’re gonna make Britain great again. But I think to be honest the votes happened now it’s just gone back to normal, and it kind of almost business as normal and nothing has really changed for the people of Hull, it’s just same. I’m surprised actually how they’ve just accepted it you know if I was told that things are going to be great and then everything stayed the same I’d probably be a bit more angrier.”
Narration: Just 50 miles to the west of Hull lies the historic capital of Yorkshire, one of the few towns in England which opted to remain in the EU. Known to be a much more cosmopolitan city compared to Hull, York enjoys hosting thousands of tourists every year. So the people here are somewhat used to the good side of foreign.
SOUNDBITE [English] David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times: “These cosmopolitan middle class cities most of them voted to remain in the EU and so a lot of the attitude you would get in a place like York would not be very different to the attitude in London, whereas Hull is miles different you know, it’s a different country almost. So it didn’t surprise me that York voted to remain, I would have thought that was classic remain territory.”
Narration: In the busy town centre of York, a young shopkeeper working in a skateboard store tells us why he thinks Britain has made the wrong choice.
SOUNDBITE [English] Will, Remain Voter: “Everyone should be open to people wanting come to this country and experience it. Vice versa I want to go travelling soon, I wouldn’t like the thought of people being judgemental towards me wanting to travel and work in Europe.”
Narration: Originally from the much more conservative town of Grimsby, Willhad sensed from early on that the prospects of Brexit was much more likely than the numbers on the polls were showing.
SOUNDBITE [English] Will, Remain Voter: “Where I come from is a bit of a backwards little town and people are very opinionated, and I kind of knew the demographic of who will be voting and what they’ll be choosing. A lot of the older generation would tend to want to vote out just from the stigma of they was younger against people wanting to come to our country I guess.”
Narration: Not all the younger voters were in favour of remaining part of the EU. Callum, a recent graduate working in an ice cream van in the centre of York, was amongst the few people of his age to vote Leave. And he had reasons for it.
SOUNDBITE [English] Callum, Leaver Voter: “I voted leave I guess for a couple of reasons, the first is what I guess the case of national sovereignty, my politicians will often hold EU as the main villain behind the reason why change can’t be enacted, in my opinion whether that’s correct or not. And then I think the second one is it kind of feels like a lie, I don’t know. Like free trade is apparently vitally important and with that comes the free movement of labour and I don’t know, I feel rightly or wrongly that it’s been damaging and people feel like their living standards have got worse and they’ve been unable to change it. From what I understand my government asked for a referendum to be introduced and then only planned for one side which was the status quo, which is mind blowing! So in that sense it’s probably fair that he resigned.”
Narration: The story of how the referendum came into place wasin fact a rather unusual one. On a normal day a government would only hold a referendum to persuade the public to back a change that they want to introduce. But to initiate a referendum and then start campaigning in favour of the status quo… well that’s something more or less unheard of. But why did David Cameron follow this rather unusual scenario?
SOUNDBITE [English] John Curtis, Polling Analyst: “It’s partly to do with David Cameron’s own view of the world, I think there is no doubt that when he first became Prime Minister in 2010 he was pretty deeply sceptical about Europe, he certainly found it a very frustrating institution, he did tend to feel it regulated too much but on the other hand he also accepted that actually being part of a free trade area was to the UK’s benefit, and I think the truth is that during the course of his premiership he became rather more convinced of the merits of the European Union.”
Narration: David Cameron’s personal journey through time wasn’t the only thing that sparked the idea of a referendum. During the course of 2012 the United Kingdom Independence Party known as UKIP, who are known for their anti-Europe and anti-immigrant beliefs, began to make electoral progress.
SOUNDBITE [English] Nigel Farage, Fomer Leader of UK Independence Party: “This is a British Passport. And what are the first two words on it? European Union.”
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Narration: A progress that perhaps appeared to be more of a threat to Cameron’s Conservative party than their fierce rivals across the parliament.
SOUNDBITE [English] John Curtis, Polling Analyst: “So he promises in a January 2013 I will hold a referendum on Europe if in the next general election due in 2015 I get an overall majority. Now at that stage he was the Premiere of a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, and Liberal Democrats historically have been the most Pro-European party in the United Kingdom and certainly the Liberal Democrats made it perfectly clear that they were not willing to allow the then coalition that they were part of to implement any legislation to clear the way for a referendum. And the truth is that we very strongly suspect that David Cameron reckoned he probably would not get an overall majority in 2015 he would hope to continue to be Premiere but probably his best chance was that there was another coalition, another coalition with Liberal Democrats, who would summarily say I’m terribly sorry but that promise is one you are not going to be able to keep. However in May 2015 somewhat surprisingly the conservatives narrowly won an overall majority and David Cameron was stuck with the pledge that he had made. He then moved quite rapidly to try to fulfil that pledge going pretty rapidly into renegotiations with the European Union which is what his party pledge has been he said I will renegotiate our terms of membership and I will then put the issue to the public. The trick didn’t work, but David Cameron was committed to a fast renegotiation, didn’t really get what he wanted, moved to a very quick referendum he wanted to get it out of the way. But in the end he hadn’t prepared to ground sufficiently to ensure that he had won.”
Narration: Soon after the 2015 general elections, two campaigns came into life to make the case for both sides of the argument on Europe, the remainers...
SOUNDBITE [English] Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Labour Party: “A Tory Brexit negotiation would be a disaster for Europe.”
Narration: and the Leavers.
SOUNDBITE [English] Boris Johnson, Former London Mayor: “Can we go forward to victory on June the 23rd? Yes we can.”
Narration: The advocators of remaining in the EU campaigned behind the banner of ‘Stronger in Europe’.
SOUNDBITE [English] Lucy Thomas, Deputy Director, Remian Campaign: “There was a group of us at the beginning who all sat around looking at what people though about the EU and testing lots of different names and lots of different messages. So Andrew Cooper from Populus was our main pollster and did a huge amount of research, and looking at the names and the words that people associated with the EU strength and being stronger was something that people did associate with Europe and we wanted to keep reinforcing so it made sense for that to be part of the name.”
Narration: It was the biggest cross-party campaign ever created in the UK. Old foes came together from the majority of political parties - with the obvious exception of UKIP - to promote why Britain is better off in the EU.
SOUNDBITE [English] Tony Blair, Former British Prime Minster: “If we were to vote to leave all those problems would become significantly worse.”
Narration: But gathering all such high-profile politicians on the same side turned out to besomewhat of a disadvantage to the remain campaign.
SOUNDBITE [English] Lucy Thomas, Deputy Director, Remian Campaign: “I think on the one hand it’s good to demonstrate that you have cross-party support that politicians off all different kinds are putting their differences aside and coming together to argue for this thing so it must be important. But on the other hand the leave campaign made people think that the establishment and the politicians weren’t to be trusted, or experts. So while we were busy building a campaign with politicians, economists, historians, scientists, farmers, you name it, all these people saying we are better off for all these reasons, actually the Leave campaign sort of flipped it around and said we don’t need to listen to experts, it’s about you. So in a way one of our greatest strengths and that diversity of voices arguably turned into weakness. This was the opportunity to kick the government, to kick the establishment and to be listened to.”
Narration: The government took some extreme measures to make their case on why it is important to remain part of the EU. At times the scaremongering was so extraordinary that it was hard to be taken seriously.
SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, Former British Prime Minister: “If we vote to leave on June 23rd we will be voting for higher prices, we will be voting for fewer jobs.”
SOUNDBITE [English] David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times: “What they did in the case of the EU referendum and I think it was a mistake, was that the remain side did project fear on steroid. And I think the moment came and I get a lot of correspondence about this a lot of people ring me up, the moment came when just before the referendum George Osborne the then Chancellor said that if there is a vote to leave then there will have to be what he described as a punishment budget we will have to increase taxes and cut public spending to keep the public finances on an even keel.”
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SOUNDBITE [English] David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times: “And I think that was the point where people just stopped believing it, it sounded too imposable. If your economy is hit by a shock the one thing you don’t do is increase taxes and cut public spending. So I think he was responsible and the remain side was responsible for just doing too much of that. In the end it swung people to the leave side rather than kept them on the remain side.”
Narration: On the other side of the spectrum was a coalition of Euro-sceptics, including the leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage, former London mayor Boris Johnson, and notable conservative politicians. Their message was to ‘Take Back Control’ from the EU.
SOUNDBITE [English] Boris Johnson, Former London Mayor: “Take back control of this country, can you hear me at the back?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Lucy Thomas, Deputy Director, Remian Campaign: “They managed to encapsulate all of their arguments in this phrase ‘Take Back Control’, and that allowed every problem anybody had in their life, whether they didn’t like their job or they couldn’t get a job they didn’t like the government they thought the public services was under pressure, it’s fine, vote leave, take back control. Stick everything in the ‘take back control’ bin.”
SOUNDBITE [English] John Curtice, Polling Analyst: “It was a way of psychologically summing up or addressing in part the sense of uncertainty about the world in which people are living and also also appealing to the way in which they feel their sense of sovereignty their sense of Britishness was compromised. It brought those things together and it provided a very convenient strapline that in a sense encapsulated the underlying psychological argument in a few words, and of course that’s what any political campaign always is looking for: few words that tells this message that anybody can pick up and can understand.”
Narration: One of the senior Conservative politicians refusing to side with the leader of his own party was Graham Brady. He argued that the British people never got used to integrating into Europe.
SOUNDBITE [English] Graham Brady, British MP: “There has always been a desire in the United Kingdom for a relationship with Europe which is based on trade and close friendly cooperation, and the European Union was developing increasingly into a federal structure with its own currency, potentially its own military forces and that level of integration was something that was never right for the United Kingdom, so I think the tensions were constantly building and at some point were going to have to be resolved.”
SOUNDBITE [English] John Curtice, Polling Analyst: “For most people in the UK Europe is still something that’s other rather than part of us and British Social Attitudes has regularly asked people look here is a list of identities, all the identities that are commonly associated with the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and typically and consistently only around 15% of people even chose European as one of their identities. Certainly very few people convinced about the idea of the European Union as an ideal that they would want to argue for irrespective of United Kingdom’s own interests.”
Narration: One British industry that has perhaps struggled to see the good side of integration into Europeis the fishing industry. Fishing has been embedded into British life and popular culture for centuries. But the hardworking fishermen across the UK were fed up with restrictions and laws that were unfavourably imposed on them by Europe, including the Common Fisheries Policy that assigns fishing quotas to each member state. To understand the pattern of votes by the fishermen, we speak to Barrie Deas, chief executive of the UK’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations.
SOUNDBITE [English] Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of NFFO: “I would guess that most fishermen in the United Kingdom voted to leave because the Common Fisheries Policy has been especially in the early days very unsuccessful, spectacularly unsuccessful actually and that has left a legacy of mistrust/distrust. At one time for example the iconic North Sea Cod stocks, our members were obliged to throw away every one fish for each fish that was landed and that was entirely down to the politics, the regulatory framework that was imposed on us.”
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Narration: Tony Delahunty is a Lobster and Crab fisherman from Selsey in the Southern port of England. For years he has shared his fishing territories in the English Channel with his French and other European counterparts.
SOUNDBITE [English] Tony Delahunty, Fisherman: “We work up to about six miles off shore. On the six mile line the French fishermen come in and fish on a regular basis, but also while we are in the EU our fleet fish out to their territorial waters too so it’s a shared access at the moment.
From the fishing industry it was totally because they see fish on the ground, they are not allowed to catch it, and their foreign counterparts are. The regulation like the Driftnet ban … all the things that are bad about the EU the fishermen blame the EU for it and they just went away from it, manage it ourselves. Say for argument’s sake we had a hundred tons of fish, and once that hundred tons of fish is gone you have to tie the boat up, you are not allowed to go to see again.
The young fishermen, the older fishermen all wanted out, I don’t think there was any difference at all in that. Very strong feelings in the south east because the smaller inshore fleet feel that they’ve actually come out a lot worse with the EU regulations. As a nation I think it was mixed I think the younger generation possibly more likely to have voted to stay, and the older generation - my age and older - I think were more towards leaving rather than staying.”
Narration: The pattern of votes by different age groupsprovided some interesting insight into how voters made their decision. More than 60% of people over the age of 65 voted in favour of Brexit, while this figure stood at%25forthose aged24 or younger.There are many reasons as to why the majority of leave voters were from amongst the elderly, but the explanation sometimes boiled down to simple cultural differences.
SOUNDBITE [English] John Curtice, Polling Analyst: “If you think of somebody who is a hotel porter in a declining seaside resort such as Marget on the coast of Kent. He is an older person, he’s been doing the job for a long time. Now traditionally what happened in this hotel, he worked, he knew all the cleaning staff, he knew all the waiting staff, and they would get together in the communal area for coffee time or whatever, they would be able to talk about the television programmes they’d been watching such and such, what was in the newspaper. There was a common cultural discourse. The hospitality industry is one of the industries above all in the UK which has succeeded in drawing in Eastern European migration. It’s now very common experience, particularly amongst the cleaning staff, that the conversation happens in Polish and not in English. Now think of an older hotel porter! Instead of sharing a common culture with other members of hotel staff, he no longer understands what they say, they no longer have a common set of cultural references. Meanwhile bear in mind he probably hasn’t had a pay increase in the last 7 or 8 years ever since the financial crash. Now in contrast, take your classic young university graduate, I mean somebody who’s read Spanish and Economics, they’ve got a job in the city, they work alongside people from Poland, France, Germany or wherever. So for this group – young university graduates – globalisation means opening up the world, they’re comfortable with it, culturally this is what they are used to they actually enjoy living in diverse environments and they have the labour market skills to cope. So young graduates virtually to a man and a woman voted to remain.”
Narration: The results of the referendum came as a shock to many, including Nigel Farage himself who almost conceded the battle hours before the results were announced.
SOUNDBITE [English] Nigel Farage, Former Leader of UK Independence Party: “No I’m not conceding, but my sense of this is that the government’s registration scheme, getting two million voters on, the 48 hour extension, maybe what tips the balance.”
Narration: It was as if the Brexit campaigners did not do their homework to prepare for their unlikely win.
SOUNDBITE [English] David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times: “You know I don’t think they prepared anything. The government itself would have carried on as before had we remained in the EU. The leave side, I mean many of them are not part of the government and there was no plan. It was just if we can achieve this victory we are going to think about what happens next.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “Mr. Johnson aren’t you responsible for implementing Brexit?”
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SOUNDBITE [English] Boris Johnson, Former London Mayor: “Well, that would be up to the next government.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “Do you intend to play a part in that next government?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Boris Johnson, Former London Mayor: “That would be up to the next Prime Minister but that can’t be me.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Lucy Thomas, Deputy Director of Remain Campaign: “I got a text message from one of the Leave Campaigners saying I’m scared by the market, we don’t feel like winners. And I think that tells you everything which is that they didn’t think they were going to win and that real sense of shock was the case for everybody and I mean saying ‘I told you so’ doesn’t help anybody.”
Narration: Within hours the country was in turmoil. The markets were plunging, the value of Pound slumped to a 31-year low, and with David Cameron offering his resignation, there was no one to lead the country through the difficult times.
SOUNDBITE [English] Graham Brady, British MP: “My message on breakfast television was that it was critically important that we should have a period of stability and calm and reflection from the government and I thought it was critically important that David Cameron should remain the Prime Minister. I was saying that live on air as I saw on the television monitor of my feed that the Prime Minister had just resigned.”
SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, Former UK Prime Minister: “I do not think that it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.”
SOUNDBITE [English] David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times: “If you look at measures of consumer confidence they fell very sharply immediately after the referendum people were quite worried. You lose a prime minister, you lose a chancellor of the exchequer and people think well the whole country is falling apart. The surprise for me was that looking at this from an economic perspective as I tend to, most elections tend to what we’d call in a jargon ‘pocket/wallet election’, that people will vote for whatever is in their best interest, and either people in this case didn’t believe that there would be an economic downside from leaving the EU or were prepared to sacrifice some of their income, some of their future income because they thought this idea of taking back control was more important than that.”
Narration: In the end the new prime minister to lead Brexit was chosen from amongst the strong supporters of remain. With former London Mayor Boris Johnson backing down and the veteran Conservative politicians such as Michael Gove out of the picture, the then Home Secretary Theresa May emerged as the sole front-runner. A politician who only weeks before the referendum had warned of dire economic consequences if UK was to leave Europe.
In a secret meeting at Goldman Sachs just weeks before the referendum, she was heard saying "I think the economic arguments are clear… one of the reasons people invest in the UK is because it is in Europe. And if we are not in Europe, I think there would be firms and companies who would be looking to say, do they need to develop a mainland Europe presence rather than a UK presence? So I think there are definite benefits for us in economic terms."
SOUNDBITE [English] Nigel Farage, Former Leader of UK Independence Party: “The problem we have in this country is that whilst the people have spoken the same players have just been shuffled around the chess board and we are still being run by the career professional political class.”
Narration: For ordinary UK households, Brexit has so far been an uphill economic struggle. With the Pound value tumbling by as much as %18, the cost of the Dollar or Euro-priced goods imported from the UK’s biggest trading partners such as United States and Germany have risen sharply. This means more expensive cars, electronic equipment, pharmaceuticals or groceries. Even Apple’s UK App Store prices have not been immune from this, with a rise of %25 following the Brexit vote.
SOUNDBITE [English] David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times: “Now you see that most at its extreme when you look at the costs for industry. So the costs for industry are currently rising at a rate of about 15 percent a year, and not all of that 15 percent gets passed on to shop prices but some of it does and you move from having had no inflation in 2015 to maybe having 3 or 4 percent inflation at some stage over the next couple of years. The number to bear in mind there is that the wages earnings are rising around about 2 percent, so you could get a situation/we will get a situation where prices are rising much more rapidly that people’s incomes.”
Narration: Undoubtedly some of biggest victims of Brexit have been the migrant communities. Prior to the referendum, the leave campaign had focused much of their efforts on how the country was at ‘a breaking point’ with regards to immigration, and arguably it was this fear of immigrants that shaped the outcome of the referendum.
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SOUNDBITE [English] John Curtice, Polling Analyst: “It’s probably true that but for the relatively high levels of inwards migration that the UK has experienced over the last 10-15 years that we would not have voted to leave the European Union at the end of the day the crucial political success of skip a party that is principally originally campaigning for leaving was to link the idea of European union membership to the level of immigration.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Graham Brady, British MP: “Graham Brady: Of course within the single market it isn’t possible to control the EU migration and this was the fundamental stumbling block that David Cameron encountered in his attempts to negotiate a better deal before the referendum, had there been some flexibility on the issue of freedom of movement within the single market then perhaps the referendum would had a different outcome.
The argument goes as far back as a crucial decision in 2004, when the then Labour Government opened up UK borders to Eastern European migrants. Originally it was thought that 13,000 European citizens would head to UK in search of jobs and financial benefits every year. In 2015, this figure came close to quarter of a million.”
SOUNDBITE [English] John Curtice, Polling Analyst: “The United Kingdom for most of its post war history despite the fact that it had experienced quite a lot inwards migration from the common wealth in 1960 and 70s was a net exporter of population. More people from the UK found jobs abroad than came here, not surprising, economically for much of the post war period we were not that successful, but for the last 10-15 years the UK actually has experience more inwards migration that it has since the flight of the Huguenots in the 17th century, so that, inevitably all experiences of immigration in virtually any society creates tensions, it creates issues.”
Narration: Immigration however has been extremely important in filling up gaps within the UK labour market. There are particular sectors in the UK that are heavily dependant on EU migrants. In manufacturing, %10 of the total workforce come from Europe. 8% of those in retail, restaurants and hotels are EU workers, and in Finance, this figure stands at 7. Above all, the highest number of EU workers are found in the building and services sector which continue to be a huge part of the UK economy. It will be a massive challenge to replace such a huge part of the UK workforce once Britain closes its borders to Europe.
SOUNDBITE [English] David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times: “People again have the wrong idea about this. They think it’s the jobs that British don’t want to do, but it’s often jobs that British people can’t do. There are skill shortages in quit a lot of sectors, in industry, in the building sector is a good example of that, where we just haven’t trained enough people, enough domestic people over many years, so a lot of these industries are quite worried about what will happen when the EU migrants stop arriving and they’ve been responsible for a significant proportion of the employment growth that we’ve had in recent years, they filled gaps in the labour market and loss of them I think will lead to quite extreme skill shortages.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Frankiln Allen, Economics Professor of Imperial College London: “I think it’s very difficult to run this country without immigration. Because they said, the top end they’re not going to be restricted, it’s the talented people who are well qualified there seems to be no debate that these people should be allowed. I think at the lower end, for many industries, as I say it will be very difficult to run the food processing for example, British people don’t have much experiences in that industry and there are many other industries like that . In some of these industries if there isn’t immigration then the industries will move to where they can hire workers.”
Narration: A prime example of how Brexit has led to shortage of staff is the UK’s National Health Service known as the NHS. The UK’s hospitals have already been described by the British Red Cross as being in a humanitarian crisis, and Brexit has only been adding to the problems.
SOUNDBITE [English] Mike Adamson, Chief Executive of British Red Cross: “The definition of a humanitarian crisis is a crisis effecting a large number of people for a long period of time and that is what we are seeing in the health and social care system at the moment.”
Narration: Doctor Rachel Marangozov is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies. Her research has shown that Brexit along with other factors will leave some NHS trusts short of nurses.
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SOUNDBITE [English] Rachel Marangozov, Director of Migration Work: “The key thing to mention about the NHS is that its already struggling. Take Brexit out of the picture its already struggling financially, there are increased demands for its services, we have an aging population which is going to place much greater pressure on NHS services and provision. So Brexit will only complicate matters and I think Brexit really couldn’t have come at a worse time for the NHS given that context. We are not training enough domestic nurses to fill those gaps, so take all of that in mind, the nursing work force is already on the pressure and is already experiencing shortages which has meant that the work force is particularly vulnerable to any post Brexit shocks to the system. So if there is any squeeze on the requirement channels from the EU that will place greater strain on the NHS. NHS trusts will struggle to recruit from EU countries and there will be an increasing number of nursing vacancies.”
Narration: Stella Toonen came to UK as a student. She is currently a programming coordinator at the Cultural Institute of King’s College London. Like many other Europeans living in the UK, Stella was shocked at the results of the referendum.
SOUNDBITE [English] Stella Toonen, EU National: “I do feel slightly unwanted now, it’s frustrating to feel im not as welcome as I thought I was. It’s a weird atmosphere to know that people have voted against having you here as a person, and that’s a bit strange.”
Narration: Originally from Hollande, Stella had a difficult time explaining to her family back home why Britain would choose to leave the EU.
SOUNDBITE [English] Stella Toonen, EU National: “I am kind of all for democracy clearly and I think a referendum is a very good way to give the people more of a say in what needs to happen but the point of democracy is also to vote for someone who is an expert in politics to then kind of make the decisions for you because they’ve been in politic for ages and they know exactly what is happening so they can make a better informed decision, and I think with the referendum you kind of cutting out that middle man, so you’re giving people a direct say in what should happen even though they are not that expert clearly. What we’ve actually done with this referendum is instead of giving power to the people we gave power to the media and I think that’s why a lot of people voted Brexit, just because they read newspapers they read articles but they mainly read the headlines and they kind of only heard the short soundbites the things that re kind of, the short bits that were taken out of context and didn’t have the right nuisance. So I think a lot of people voted brexit, just because that’s what the media seemed to kind of tell them and not because they made an informed decision.”
Narration: For EU students and academics like Stella, the process of exiting the European Union has posed many uncertainties and complications.
SOUNDBITE [English] Javier Espinoza, Education Editor, The Daily Telegraph: “The government has not yet been clear as to what are the terms and conditions that EU students will have post 2017. This is even before brexit actually materialises this is of course the university’s minister George Johnson has been clear that its part of the negotiating aspect of the whole brexit, so they kind of using EU students as a bargaining tool to see what better deal they could get, so this has created a lot of uncertainty.”
Narration: The uncertainties are not just limited to academics, but the UK universities are also feeling the heat of Brexit.
SOUNDBITE [English] Javier Espinoza, Education Editor, The Daily Telegraph: “The universities feel like they will no longer have a stream of money coming from EU students, which is quite significant in the funding of universities and also they worry that they may not be able to recruit top talent. Why if I’m a top academic at Germany why am I going to have to go through a lot of hoops and bureaucracy to get to the UK? I might decide to go elsewhere, I might even decide, if I’m having to go through the same bureaucracy I might as well go to the US or to China.”
Narration: Perhaps one of the most unwelcome impacts of the referendum has been the social implications for the migrants and minorities across the UK. The official figures by the National Police Chief’s Council showed a worrying 58% surge in reported hate crimes following Brexit, compared to the previous year. Amongst the prime targets of the racism and hatred unleashed by Brexit were the Polish community.
SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, Former UK Prime Minister: “In the past few days we’ve seen despicable graffiti drawn on the Polish community centre.”
TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00
Narration: Joanna Mludzinska is the chairwoman of the Polish Social and Cultural Association in London. On the Sunday immediately after the referendum, xenophobic graffiti was found scrawled across the doors of the centre one of the many racist incidents against Eastern European migrants that followed Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
SOUNDBITE [English] Joanna Mludzinska, Chairwoman, Polish Centre: “That obviously shocked people greatly, it was cleaned off quickly so people don’t have to read it as they came into the building on that Sunday. There was some people in East Anglia, there were cards, actual printed out cards saying Polish vermin go home, scum go home, put through people’s doors and given out to them. And there was in Plymouth where somebody shed next to the house was set on fire which could have been very dangerous.”
Narration: The growing racism was not only limited to the European migrants, but the ethnic and religious minorities were also affected. If we consider only the islamophobic incidents, more than 100 cases of hate crimes were reported by the Muslim Council of Britain in the weekend that followed the referendum. It was the open season for racism.
SOUNDBITE [English] Harriet Harman, British MP: “The leaders of the Brexit campaign have engendered an atmosphere where some people believe it is open season now for racism and xenophobia.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Miqdaad Versi, Muslim Council of Britain: “The reality is that this may have unleashed a pandora’s box that has emboldened those who wanted to say things in the past and haven’t felt that they’ve been able to.”
Narration: Whitechapel; a densely populated borough in the heart of East London, home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the UK. EzmatJeraj is an activist who has worked in the Whitechapel area for many years. She was one of the many Muslims to be a target of racism following Brexit.
SOUNDBITE [English] Esmat Jeraj, Racism Victim: “It was a Wednesday afternoon as I was walking to work from the station from down there that I had a gentleman walk towards me quite purposefully and tell me to F-off out of his country. Now of course of was both shocked, angry, and very much surprised as I hadn’t faced such blatant racism in a very long time especially in an area that was so diverse. It was very worrying that such an incident happened in the middle of the day, and with it being so close after the referendum on whether UK should leave the European Union it was clear that this was part of a much broader worrying trend around post-referendum racism and xenophobia.
Unfortunately this isn’t helped by the way in which the media reports incidences. You will rarely find a positive news story about the Muslim community, and in fact whenever there is something negative, faith is brought into it if it’s a Muslim. Now of course this heightens that fear and in fact it creates this kind of white noise that often mutes out some of the more logical aspects or the everyday contributions a Muslim can make and exacerbates this fear and makes people a lot more suspicious of their neighbour who might be Muslim, and I think you’ve seen this on a daily basis with incidences of Islamophobia, with individuals reporting Muslims who are travelling to authorities in fear that they might be joining Daesh, and just kind of an overall suspicion and distrust of the Muslim community or more broadly anyone who doesn’t look like them. I think both politicians and the media have a very strong role to play here in relaying allaying some of these fears with greater religious literacy but also greater responsible reporting and carefully thinking about the words that they use rather than just speaking blindly about a community or about a population.”
Narration: The rising racism and xenophobia has not only been a caused for social concerns, but also impacted Britain from an economic standpoint. More specifically in relation to the Tourism industry which is worth a whopping 10% of the UK GDP. After the initial surge in tourism as a direct result of a cheaper pound, figures from the global hotel data firm STR showed that the number of empty hotel beds in the capital increased by more than one-third in October 2016 compared to a year earlier.
SOUNDBITE [English] David Smith, Economics Editor, The Sunday Times: “Racist attacks and the kind of nastiness that had emerged, they do make people think twice about visiting a place. So I think there was maybe a perception amongst some potential tourists that we have become less friendly, less welcoming, and if you are coming from rest of the EU you’ve just voted essentially to reject them, and it’s not surprising that that changes attitudes. So the pull is that suddenly the UK is very cheap because of what’s happened to the pound, but there is this reserve about whether it’s such a friendly place to go to and I think that will affect us over the years. In time people will put it behind them but during the process of exiting where I think feelings run quite high, that will have a negative effect on tourism.”
TIME CODE: 45:00_50:01
Narration: Further to causing social divisions across Britain, Brexit has also threatened to harm the unity of the United Kingdom. One of the biggest headaches for Theresa May remains to be Scotland, with calls for a second Scottish Independence Referendum now stronger than ever. Support for Brexit was very low amongst the Scottish people, with %62 of voters choosing to remain part of the European Union. The Scottish National Party sees that as a great indication of why Scotland needs to have its own say on such crucial matters.
SOUNDBITE [English]Tommy Sheppard, British MP: “We don’t yet know what Brexit will actually mean, so the government is just beginning the negotiations with the European Union but we are pretty confident that whatever it is the United Kingdom will change quite dramatically from what it is today and therefore the question that was before people in the last Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 has changed dramatically and as a result a lot of people have changed their mind and in a democracy when people change their minds they get the chance to have another vote.”
Narration: One of the people who may change her mind is Chloe Singh from Edinburgh. Chloe voted against Scottish independence in 2014, but she is now considering to choose Europe over the UK.
SOUNDBITE [English] Chloe Singh, Scottish Voter: “I was against Brexit and now I’m unsure if there was another referendum. I kind of think maybe there should be another one I’m now unsure what I would vote. I would consider the Yes side more I think, because Brexit was so unexpected I really did not think it was going to happen. Being part of the European Union there are a lot of benefits that we have so I thought why are we going to segregate ourselves from that. Brexit is going to cause a lot of damage so I’m thinking maybe Scotland would be better off independent.”
Narration: The blue colours of the UK flag are fading more strongly than ever. Theresa May’s unwillingness to allow Scottish politicians any say on the Brexit process is further encouraging calls for Scottish independence.
SOUNDBITE [English] Tommy Sheppard, British MP: “It doesn’t very respectful at the minute because people in Scotland voted to remain in the European Union, the Scottish government has tried very hard to find a compromise position which would allow a different expression of opinion in Scotland. It would also take into account the different economic circumstances in Scotland, and they have been met with indifference and contempt by the British government who refuse to talk to the Scottish government. That’s hardly respect, that’s hardly partnership of equals, and unless something dramatically changes then I think most people will conclude that we are probably better off trying to take control of our own destiny in the future. In a country the size and diversity of Britain that’s a remarkably arrogant attitude to take to say that one side fits all and whatever London thinks is right you will have.”
Narration: One year on since the EU referendum, Britain will be heading to polls again. This time, to choose a new government.
SOUNDBITE [English] Theresa May, British Prime Minister: “I have just chaired a meeting of the cabinet, where we agreed that the government should call a General Election to be held on 8th June.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Labour Party: “We welcome the general election, but this is a prime minister who promised there wouldn’t be one, a prime minister who cannot be trusted.”
Narration: Whatever the outcome of the elections, Britain has a difficult road ahead in its quest to exit Europe. With the Brexit negotiations only beginning, there is still a long way to go to understand whether the British people have made the right choice or not. But what is certain is that for better or worse, the UK has changed forever, and so has the EU. Only time will tell if this is the beginning of the end for a united Europe.