Though few expected it, there are so many reasons why this is happening, but the principal one is that we were allowed a referendum on the subject and other countries were not. Other reasons include the credible threat that Nigel Farage and UKIP posed to the Conservatives and the fact that at least one third of the British wanted to leave in every poll taken since 1973. Even well-informed British opinion-formers mostly never understood that the EU was not a trading bloc, but an embryonic federal state. Free movement of people was a design fault in a trading bloc, but it makes perfect sense if Europe is a sort of country.
There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified.
Prime Minister Edward Heath, television broadcast on Britain’s entry into the E.E.C.
The most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe.
The E.U. is now widely seen for what it has become: an oligarchic structure, riddled with corruption, built on a denial of any sort of popular sovereignty, enforcing a bitter economic regime of privilege for the few and duress for the many.
Perry Anderson, former editor of New Left Review
Since the break-up of the post-war settlement which gave us decades of ‘never-had-it-so-good’, British society has been destabilised. A large section of the middle class hates the resulting liberalisation of a new order, dominated by large-scale uncontrolled immigration, crypto-socialists, so-called “modernising” Tories – and hung down by debt. Another, younger section, better at adjusting, quite likes it.
Lower down the scale, the old division in the working class between “rough” and “respectable” has been exacerbated as their settled security of jobs, full employment and welfare was replaced by employment insecurity, lagging household incomes and the death of traditional industries. The result was alienation, resentment and impotent anger, all greater among the “rough” than the more conformist “respectables”.
In June 2016, the two disgruntled groups, the alienated middle and the rough working – both left behind and resenting it – took their revenge by voting Brexit – to the horror of the modern middle and the respectable working, who saw it as a takeover by ignorant, xenophobic, racist, obscurantist, out-of-date yobs and geriatrics. On this analysis, both vote and reactions have more to do with the social antagonisms of class-divided Britain than either the iniquities, or the benefits, of the European Union.
Austin Mitchell, former Labour M.P.
For all its faults, provided that the world economy remained fairly stable, the EU would probably have been able to stagger on reasonably well. The trouble is, though, that over the past few decades the world has undergone three enormous shocks: the collapse of communism, the advent of globalisation and the communications revolution. These shocks demanded the utmost flexibility in order for the economy to adjust to them. But flexibility is exactly the thing the EU has learnt not to do.
Not only that, but more recently it has made three big mistakes. The first is the formation of the euro, which many economists, including me, correctly identified as a prosperity-destroying machine long before its inception. The second was the failure to amend the free movement rules once the EU had been extended to encompass the former communist countries of eastern Europe. The third was the introduction of the Schengen passport-free travel zone, which has proved to be a security nightmare at just the time that security is at a premium.