BREXIT: Resentment & Marketing Chaos
Written by: Lise Pernin, Design: Monika Monko
On June 24, 2016, the news fell: only 27 countries were now part of European Union as 51.9% of British voted to leave. Many were surprised by such an outcome. After all, United-Kingdom had joined EU in 1973, 23 years after EU ancestor (ECSC) was born. The UK was directly associated with Europe in numerous people’s minds. Nevertheless, there always was a separation between the 2 entities. One can notably think about UK’s refusal to adopt a common money in the form of Euro, with Tony Blair’s Five Economic Tests as a justification. The process that will trigger United-Kingdom definite exit from EU is to start this month. Under the agreement referred to as Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the term of the split will be agreed within two years by both UK and EU. With Brexit becoming more tangible, a lot of people are asking themselves this question: how did such a thing happen?
Brexit, contraction of Britain and exit, was born mainly from resentment. British felt their own Parliament lacked power to act, in contrast to Brussel’s. They sensed that their sovereignty was threatened. Brexit’s referendum was the first time since 1975 where British voted to join a “Common Market”, that people were asked how they felt towards UK being part of EU. In 1975, only 2 years after the UK had joined, there were already doubts. Nevertheless, 67% voted to Remain, as so UK stayed part of EU. Since 1975 numerous events went down, illustrating the tumultuous relationship between Queen’s Elizabeth country and EU. For instance, it took 27 years for British chocolate to be allowed to be sold in European markets because of disputes over ingredients from Chocolate purists (such as Belgium and France). Nowadays, we can all savor our Dairy Milk while watching Doctor Who’s adventures, small testimonies of UK’s part in our lives. However, throughout the years, UK’s relationship with EU was not only strained by chocolate issues. Thus, control of immigration was perceived as hindered by EU. With some Eastern Europe countries joining, such as Poland and Hungary in 2004, immigration flow increased in the UK. The country was initially supporting countries like ex-USSR satellites joining, as it prevented further integration between EU countries that the UK feared. However, this perspective changed after 2008 recession. People’s outlook on immigration started changing, and resentment that was initially underestimated by numerous British politicians appeared. Eventually, to secure a Conservative win for presidential elections, Cameron promised a referendum on the matter of UK staying in EU if he won. That guaranteed him the votes of people that wanted to leave the Union, as the Labor Party was not ready to organize such a referendum.
Before the referendum, two sides clashed: the advocates of Leaving and those of Remaining. The campaign was chaotic on both sides. Marketing was not truly mastered by any of them, and some insights can be gathered from that. Firstly, both did not offer a positive message that voters could identify and feel passionate about. Thus, they were mostly displaying negative aspects that would arise if they did not win. Just like a business would fail without an inspirational vision, Remain and Leave sides fell flat on that matter. They did not manage to uplift their audience and build a relationship with them that went to the next level. Another marketing problem was centered around credibility. On the Remain side, failure to deliver on the promises made for immigration was masked with redirecting debates on economic factors. This refusal to face an important issue that worried voters engendered mistrust with people feeling they were being manipulated. In contrast, the Leave side did not do any better. It chose to link every single one of UK’s problems with EU. The British EU membership was the sole cause of its economic and social difficulties. This was not a realistic angle and some struggled with the lack of facts backing such arguments.
In conclusion, the decision to leave EU resulted mainly from people’s perception and their resentment that grew over time. Marketing could have better be managed on both sides, to have a more important effect. Nevertheless, Brexit will have numerous repercussions over the UK itself, EU and also the whole world in years to come.