Not a lot in this post to do with South Palm Springs, other than that as a result of the vote our resort town should expect fewer visitors from the UK in the coming months and years as the British pound has become weaker against the dollar. Oh and you might find Cheddar cheese a bit less expensive in the supermarket.
In the last referendum on EU membership, in 1975, 67% voted in favor of staying in the EU. This time it was likely there would be less support for the EU as, in 1975 membership was largely about economic factors and in the forty years since, negative political factors like political integration and migration had influenced the electorate. As this erosion of support for EU membership was predictable and indeed the polls predicted a close result I was surprised to learn that the outcome was decided by a simple majority.
Although the percentages were 52% in favor of leaving to 48% in favor of remaining in the EU, the absolute numbers are important to understand too:
Meaning that had around 635,000 of those who voted to leave voted the other way, for REMAIN, the result would have been different. This matters because after-the-vote polling indicates that over one million of those who voted to Leave the EU, have changed their minds. Conversely some who voted to Remain now wish they'd voted to Leave! So much for the will of the people. But a seemingly momentous decision has been taken based on a snapshot of public opinion, which may well change as the implications, rammed home afterwards in British talk show host John Oliver's rant about the result , sink in.
WHY DID CAMERON DO IT?
In the last election British Prime Minister David Cameron won an overall but narrow majority for the Conservative party. The Conservatives have for decades been internally divided about membership of the European Union and had in recent years been facing additional pressure from the growing support for the right wing UK Independence Party, (UKIP), which in 2015 received nearly 4 million votes (~13%), which nevertheless translated into only one seat in Parliament. Informed friends say he decided to offer a referendum to lay to rest the dissent about EU membership and to do it now under his leadership rather than wait for his successor who would likely be less inclined to support remaining in the EU. In the end though his support was not strong enough to secure a win yet strong enough to ensure that he was associated with one side - the losing side as it turned out. Hence his resignation.
Under the British system the leader of the party with the most seats in Parliament (actually the House of Commons) becomes the Prime Minister. Cameron's replacement as PM will be decided by the 150,000 members of the Conservative Party who will vote on two candidates selected for them to choose from by the current Conservative MPs.
IS EXIT A CERTAINTY? A GENERAL ELECTION WILL DECIDE.
Although taken to be the will of the people and, according to David Cameron thus binding on a government to follow, the result of a referendum in the UK is not legally binding on anyone. It is actually only an expression of opinion at one moment in time, and opinion may change. In other countries in recent years the results of important referenda have been ignored (Greece) and reversed, (Ireland). The longer Brexit takes the stronger is the argument that the 2016 referendum result should be ignored or might be reversed. However, whether that argument will be put is not certain but the clear disjunction between the opinion of members of parliament and the general public makes it likely that it will be.
Legally the decision to leave the EU lies with the members of the UK Parliament, in which, currently, of the 650 MPs there is an overwhelming majority, (74%), who support remaining in the EU. If they do not believe it is in the best interest of the nation to leave the EU, they can, and should, decide not to do so.
Politically the UK is fractured about the decision and the fault lines run right through the Conservative party, which has 331 MPs in the House of Commons. Of those, 185, (56%), support remaining in the EU while 138, (44%), favor leaving.
Contrast that with the Labor party. Of its 232 MPs in Parliament only 10, (4%), favor leaving. None of the Scottish National Party's 54 MPs support leaving the EU and of the other 32 MPs belonging to other parties, only 10 favor leaving.
Thus though Cameron will resign and be replaced by a new leader of the Conservative party, the ability of that leader as Prime Minister to move forward the process of leaving the EU will depend on the support he or she has among the Conservative party's MPs.
If the Conservatives elect a pro-Leave supporter such as Boris Johnson the former Mayor of London and Conservative MP, and this is likely given that a large proportion of the party's 150,000 members are likely to have supported leaving the EU (compare the 2015 election results with the 2016 referendum results), the stage is set for significant conflict within the parliamentary Conservative party between a leader who wants to take Britain out of the EU and Conservative members of parliament who oppose him or her. To get sufficient support for leaving the EU the new Prime Minister would have little choice but to call a fresh election the main purpose of which would be to achieve parliamentary support for leaving the EU, i.e. to oust Pro-EU Conservative members of Parliament and to win a majority of seats. Bear in mind that Conservative MPs are selected as candidates for their constituencies from a centrally-determined list of candidates by the members of the Conservative party in that constituency.
A clear example of this disjunction between MPs and party membership is being played out right now within the main opposition Labor party, where the Labor MPs are trying to oust their inept leader, Jeremy Corbyn, while he is trying to remain in office because he was elected to it by the membership of the Labor party, not by the Labor MPs.
However, holding an election in which the central issue will be EU membership could well result in the narrow Conservative majority in Parliament being overturned and the country voting for a party that clearly supports Britain remaining in the EU because, of all the political parties, the Conservatives will be blamed for the Brexit referendum result. I say "blamed" because I believe that public opinion will shift in favor of remaining in the EU as the consequences of leaving become increasingly apparent and dire.
Thus it is likely that the next General Election will decide whether Brexit takes place, not the recent referendum.
That, in my opinion, could be a disaster for the Conservative party which may fracture as a result because eminent Conservatives have been associated with both Leave and Remain, a Conservative Prime Minister initiated the referendum and his Conservative successor would be trying to act on the result, which in the meantime the electorate will have shied away from. Thus, ironically, the referendum may achieve exactly the outcome that David Cameron wanted it to pre-empt.
(Next Brexit post will have some info for UK readers about American reaction and analysis)