For now, the spectre of Brexit continues to loom large over the British economy, with the subsequent uncertainty arguably far worse than either leaving or remaining in the European Union. This is one of the biggest ironies associated with the EU referendum, as mere threat of Brexit continues to disrupt the status quo and create an unstable, volatile and ultimately unpredictable economy.
The Brexit vote is laced with irony, however, particularly when you consider the leave camp’s demographics and the potential long-term impact on leaving the EU. More specifically, the leave vote was ultimately carried by lower-income Labour strongholds in the north of the UK, many of which may ultimately suffer when Brexit finally becomes a reality and many of the workers’ rights and entitlements that were enforced by the Union become a thing of the past.
Lies and Half-truths: How the Remain Campaign Unintentionally misled voters
The diversity of leave and remain voters highlights the confusion that blighted the entire build-up to the referendum, as both parties either unintentionally misled voters or leveraged propaganda to encourage emotional rather than logical voting. While the leave campaigners undoubtedly indulged in the latter, however, remain representatives simply chose the wrong campaign message and ultimately confused their target audience.
By constantly reinforcing the negative impact that Brexit would have on the economy, remain campaigners were seen to be pandering to big business, large corporate banks and high-end investor resources such as the IG Investments platform. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this given how invested these entities are in the UK economy and the role that they play in driving labour market growth, voters became cynical of such a message as it created a divide between the rich and working class citizens.
This was a devastating blow to the remain campaign, particularly in a debate that became increasingly emotive and passionate as the weeks progressed. Instead of introducing facts to their campaign and diversifying the message to include the impact of Brexit on normal households throughout the UK, remainers left themselves in a vulnerable position where they were accused of trumpeting big business over society.
How will Workers’ Rights suffer in the wake of Brexit?
This brings us full circle, as working class Brexit voters have failed to recognise the positive impact that the EU had on regulating workers’ rights. From the increasingly evolving minimum wage to the stipulation that no single employee should be made to work more than 48 hours per week, the evolutions that have taken place in the labour market over the course of the last 20 years have largely been driven by regulators in Brussels. These rights have protected workers many times in recent history, particularly during large-scale recessions when businesses are motivated to reduce their operational costs.
Outside of the EU, the landscape is very different. Here, countries are incentivised to compete aggressively with European neighbours for business and investment, and they achieve this by cutting rights, reducing wages and relaxing environmental regulations. So once the UK negotiates its separation from the EU and has the freedom to negotiate trade deals with countries in the Commonwealth and around the world, businesses may be tempted to optimise their own returns by capitalising on relaxed workers’ rights and the freedom to prioritise profit over the needs of society
The Last Word
Ultimately, it remains to be seen if and when the UK will actually extradite itself from the EU and its political influences. There are many legal and social complexities that could well prevent Brexit from ever becoming a reality, but if it does we will see a seismic shift in the labour market and the rights of workers. In this respect, the earnest and hard-working families who voted leave may come to believe that they were misled and empowered to vote with their hearts rather than their minds.