Narrow Margins


Those remain voters who do not want to give up the fight have made a lot of the small majority for leave of only 3.8% or less than 1.3 million votes out of 33.5 million votes cast. Equally a certain amount of restraint has been voiced by leave voters because so many voted to remain. Yet those acknowledgements of the tight margin in the only certain statistic (how many voted for each option) did not prevent many to make very definite claims about who voted leave and who voted remain. The small margin makes it much more likely that the referendum was not won by the main bulk of leave supporters (who may or may not be primarily non-graduates in left behind towns), but by the aggregate of those who voted leave for other reasons that received less media attention both before and after the vote.

Millennials (i.e., those under 35 in 2016) who complained loudly that their future was taken away from them by older voters were taking their cue from the media who had been telling them throughout the campaign that leave voters were primarily older non-graduates from smaller cities and rural areas. At lot of those older voters will have had a wry smile at the complaints as the older generation ruined everything for us was what they had cried in whatever era they were under 35. The wry smiles would also be because the oldest of those millennials were 11 years old when the EU became the EU, as the concept is based on those who turned 18 at in the year 2000 and therefore the oldest were born in 1982. Like every other youth generation they are at the advantage of talking about the only generation they know while those much maligned older voters have seen much more of the history of what the millennials only know as the EU.

Those older voters who may have been more likely to vote leave were not necessarily doing so because a yearning to return to the days of the British Empire, especially as a large proportion of those older voters were born after the days of Empire had ended. There were however many other reasons why older voters might vote leave due to an ingrained hostility to the European project due to past grievances with its practices, policies, and democratic deficit.

The European Commission has admitted that it was guilty of overreach in its privacy related cookie law. This is the law that leads to frustration in the daily lives of EU residents, who have to click that they accept cookies being used when they visit a website that they have not visited before. The law was designed to give due warning about social media giants garnering the private data of EU citizens. The problem is that the social media giants have largely ignored the law, while smaller businesses put up pop warnings that their site uses cookies. This is an annoyance for web users as they have to tap or click a button in order to clear that pop up from their screen. It achieves little in privacy terms as most websites use cookies and educating web novices about this fact would be far more productive than forcing web designers to insert pop ups to tell experienced web users what they already know. The problem with the cookie law is evident in the fact that the company behind one of the most commonly used pop up on British websites refuse to use their own product. In fact they go further and dare the European Commission to sue them. They still offer the pop up, though, as it is wonderful marketing for them.

Very few voters are likely to take the economic risk of voting to leave the EU over a website pop up, but the problem is that these cookie warnings stand as a daily reminder that the EU can interfere with your daily life. So the cookie warning may not have made many, if any, vote leave, but it might reinforce an impression that EU regulation has become too intrusive. British culture has a strongly anti-authoritarian streak and telling someone what to do is not a good way to get them to vote the way you tell them to vote.

EU membership is attractive to those groups who have little importance within UK culture, but where they are more favoured in the rest of the EU. So while agriculture may lack political power in the UK, its importance in France might help UK farmers get more agriculture friendly policy. Equally privacy campaigners in the UK are helped by the strong privacy stance of countries that once lived in fear of the secret police. Many trade union leaders have come out in favour of remaining in the EU because of the labour friendly policies emanating from there, although less so now than in the era of the Maastricht Treaty's Social Chapter. The problems arise when the broader swathe of opinion in the EU runs counter to your community interests, e.g., VAT policies on ebooks or feminine hygiene products. It would seem safer to make these decisions at the UK level where popular protest can have more influence, than at the EU level where most decisions are made by the powerful elites of each country.

© Mercia McMahon. All rights reserved