British citizens voted June 23 for the U.K. to leave the European Union. Votes in favor of the British exit, or Brexit, won by a small margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.
Though far from their homeland, some British citizens were able to vote on the referendum by mail and by proxy.
Chris Sebastian, an England native and a sophomore studying international relations, said more people turned out to vote for the referendum, as if more were concerned about this topic than who is voted into an internal political position. He and many young British voters wanted to stay in the EU.
“I think the younger generation just really wants to broaden themselves out, not just in Britain of course, but within mainland Europe and take advantage of the membership,” he said.
Sebastian said he is concerned about Britain’s political and economic future and recognizes his country’s dependence on other entities through globalization.
Christian Mawlam, a professor in the communication department, said he was happy with the outcome of the vote, having voted for the British exit from the EU. He said that in making his decision, he went to news outlets with varying opinions on whether or not the Brexit should or should not happen.
“Personally, I think responsible government is required and great relationships are needed for nations to work together in an evermore connected world, but essentially, what I perceived the EU had grown into since its inception, was (…) another tier of government that we could really do without,” Mawlam said.
Some of those favoring the “leave” campaign voiced concerns about immigration and the monetary costs of membership in the EU.
“With both of those arguments on the ‘leave’ campaign – for me, I very much feel like there’s a lot of xenophobic feelings towards outsiders,” Sebastian said. He pointed out the misinformation that was taking place in some of the leave campaign where falsely inflated numbers and misunderstandings of immigration existed.
But for Mawlam, the thoughts and feelings people characterize as the “leave” camp’s concerns were not ones that motivated him.
“This was not for me a dewy-eyed yearning for a bygone day of British greatness, nor was it a fearful knee-jerk reaction to immigration,” Mawlam said. “I’m sentimental but also a realist. I firmly believe the UK is a phenomenal place, and the USA is likewise, because of good, talented people coming from wherever in the world to share work, insights, experience and be richer culturally for it. Who is a native anyway?”
The vote puts Britain on a road of disentangling themselves from the European Union. They were expected to remain for two years before their official break. With the results of the referendum in, Prime Minister David Cameron said he would step down and allow another to lead Britain into the coming changes. Cameron had been in favor of Britain remaining in the EU.
Sebastian said he was upset at Cameron’s resignation.
“I do respect and admire his integrity to come forward and say that he will not do something that he doesn’t believe that is Britain’s best interest and for the benefit of Britain,” Sebastian said. “Because from here on out, Britain is now going to have to decide which laws they keep and which laws they give back to the European Union.”
Even though Mawlam said he voted Cameron into a position in Parliament, he recognizes the need for him to step down.
“David Cameron’s position became untenable when the ‘leave’ vote came in, and he’s doing the right thing in stepping down,” he said. “Fresh leadership in this new environment is required.”
The results of the Brexit vote surprised investors. Many saw the ripple effect of worry over the decision. Even the US’s Dow dropped 500 points upon opening. European trade and British banks took a hit. The pound’s value dropped to its lowest in over 30 years.
Mawlam, in the “leave” camp, feels differently. He remains confident that things will stabilize with time.
“I would advise any Americans planning a last-minute break for the summer to find a cheap flight to the UK, enjoy its many wonders and get more bang for your buck, because this is not a permanent fixture,” Mawlam said.
But Sebastian looks to the future with much more concern.
“I feel very much worried about Britain’s future in terms of its economic and political development,” Sebastian said.
About two-thirds of voters in Scotland favored staying in the EU, and with the vote for Britain to leave, it will be having its own vote on whether or not to stay a member of the UK.
“There’s that debate of whether the United Kingdom will remain the United Kingdom, which we very much pride ourselves in having that status,” Sebastian said.
Mawlam said he can see why Scotland would want to be in the EU, but a sentimental part of him wants Scotland to stay a part of the UK.
“Is Europe at a loss? No. Bureaucratically marred? Yes,” Mawlam said. “Yet we can still all make a united effort as European nations to get along successfully in newer and more innovative ways. Nobody ever said we didn’t want to be friends after all.”
Mawlam said there may be some lessons for Americans to learn from the recent happenings in Britain.
“Don’t let elections become an us-and-them, polarized, tribal, binary thing,” Mawlam said. “Appreciate that in this world society is a pluralistic, shared space. Differences will naturally abound, and a willingness to compromise is actually a hallmark of democracy. Learn to respect and live with people of different thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and practices to you.”
Mawlam also encouraged others to vote.
“We might be divided, but we still have a lot to contribute to the world, and we most definitely need the world,” Sebastian said.