What Brexit Tells Us About Democracy


Matthew Lee
Staff Writer

On June 23, the United Kingdom held a vote on “Brexit,” a democratic referendum to leave the European Union. The results concluded that the U.K., with a 51.9% majority, voted in favor of leaving. Since then, Brexit has brought a major negative economic fallout such as the British pound’s value drastically falling in a short period of time as well the racially-charged furor rising in the United Kingdom, especially against Muslim migrants.

On the positive side, Brexit has been coined as an “independence day” for Britain. Many consider it to be a win against the establishment and a democratic landmark in history, with the U.K. retaking the wheel to decide its own fate. Taking into consideration the fact that the referendum was completely up to the vote of the British people, we must pose a question. Do the people have too much power without understanding the consequences of their actions?

One may assume that this decision is what the British people wanted. The truth is that the referendum results were extremely close, as the Brexit vote won with only a 51% majority. Statistics found that citizens with higher education tended to vote to remain while citizens with lesser or no education chose to vote to exit.

Additionally, votes were polarizing across the diverse regions of the U.K., such as Scotland and London, areas that heavily favored to remain. The age of voters was also a significant factor. Statistics showed older and middle aged voters favored exiting from the E.U., while the younger voters chose largely to remain or did not bother showing up to vote.

Taking all of these aspects into consideration, was it really a fair representation of the citizens of the U.K. when there were distinct divisions in the categories of age, education, and region? In such a diverse and multicultural nation such as the U.K., we should expect a range of different opinions on a wide range of issues in politics. However, we must conclude that regardless of age, education and region, a vote is a vote. Although democracy has its faults, it is the fairest system of governance ever developed as it gives everyone a part of leading a nation. People of the modern era should be thankful of the democratic processes in Western nations. We certainly wouldn’t want to revert to the monarchies or dictatorships of the past.

Brexit’s victory delivered a set of positive and negative consequences many voters didn’t foresee. The world’s economy has taken a large hit from Britain and many nations have been forced to re-negotiate trade deals with the U.K. instead of through the E.U. Critics of Brexit say the ‘leave’ campaign pandered to white supremacists and racists who were against the E.U.’s immigration policies toward the Syrian refugees. Shortly after the vote, hate crimes and demonstrations targeted towards Muslims and migrants have been on the rise.

On a more positive note, Brexit is a landmark victory for democracy and has sparked signs of radical change in western nations. Greece, a nation with unfavorable history with the E.U., is also teasing to withdraw. However, Scotland and Wales, two regions that favored the U.K. remaining in the E.U., are on the verge of holding a referendum for independence because of their displeasure with Brexit’s results.

Regardless of anyone’s thoughts on Brexit, one must realize that the choice has been made. There are some attempting to reverse what they call a “mistake” by calling for another referendum vote. Some may call this illogical, but there is a rational argument for a second vote. Google’s top search results in the U.K. after the Brexit revealed that many people didn’t know what the E.U. was or what it did for the country.

Judging by this response, it is safe to assume that many were taken by surprise by the unforeseen consequences which sprang up from the vote. For now though, the world must look toward a future without Britain in the E.U. and the resulting consequences.

In the case of Brexit, the people’s votes have changed the world. This shows that in a democratic nation, the people hold vast power. One must observe the limits and results of such power, as exemplified in the fallout of the referendum.

As Uncle Ben said in the movie Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” As citizens, we have the duty to research on what the government and different parties stand for and what will result from our votes. The modern era offers easy access to information, so there is no excuse for ignorance.

We must be responsible and exercise our democratic power while understanding that we decide our town’s, city’s, country’s and the world’s fate through the strength of the ballot. Regardless of what you thought of Brexit, there should be one major takeaway: Ctizens have the power. Let’s use it intelligently and responsibly.