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Sociology Essay on Brexit As A Policy Agenda


Task: Please read the case of “Brexit” and other relevant materials and write a short sociology essayto answer the following questions:
1) How did the issue emerge in policy agenda
2) Why did David Cameron make the decision to hold the EU public referendum in 2016 Was it a wise decision to hold public referendum to determine whether or not the UK should remain in EU Why or why not
3) How had the issue been framed by key stakeholders before the public referendum was held Did framing play a role in determining the outcome Why or why not
4) Were there mistakes made by the ‘remain’ camp What might be ways to correct those mistakes in retrospect


Brexit as a policy agenda
The Brexit became a political agenda. The main political aim of the proponents of Brexit mentioned in this sociology essay was to regain and reestablish the sovereignty of the United Kingdom over its own state of affairs (Sampson, 2017). They proposed that British should exit from the European Union. Britain wanted to have the sovereignty over the Brussels regulations as well as the writ of European Court of Justice, which was much-reviled. The overriding political aim of the backers of Brexit seemed to be fulfilled in the 2020 EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). However, in attaining this sovereignty Britain lost economic growth, restricted the immigration, lost the efficiency and restricted the mobility of the citizens of UK to continental Europe (Fetzer, 2019).

David Cameron’s decision to hold the EU public referendum in 2016
According to Smith(2018), on June 23, 2016, a referendum on the United Kingdom membership of the EU was held. The main question which was raised on the referendum ballot was that:
‘Should UK remain as a member of the EU or should it leave the EU’
On the 24th of June, 2016, the result of the referendum was announced. As per the recorded results, the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union. They had a majority of 51.89% in favour of leave and in favour of Remain there were 48.11% votes. Though the decision was in favour of leave, the margin was very smallof 3.78% (Offe, 2017).

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameroon, in the year 2012 had rejected the referendum to hold the membership of UK to EU. However, he had also said a year later that if the Conservative government is elected for another term Cameroon would hold a referendum for Britain’s EU membership. In 2015, David Cameroon was re-elected. He immediately kept his words and introduced the European Union Referendum Act. In 2016 February, Cameroon addressed the House of Commonsat the Parliament.In his speech, he mentioned that the referendum would be held on June 23, 2016. David Cameroon was a strong advocate of ‘remain’ with EU. Therefore, he resigned soon after the results of the referendum. The people of United Kingdom made their opinion count and ensured that Britain left the EU, unlike 1975 (Smith, 2021).

It is difficult to conclude whether the referendum of 2016 was a wise decision or not. However, Cameroon had no other option. He called for the referendum because he could sense the increasing hostility among his own Conservative party members towards the EU. The rise in immigration from the countries of Eastern Europe resulted in the increasing support for the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party. The Conservative Party and David Cameroon thought that the pledge for referendum would reduce the rising power of UKIP and threats from labour. Though the aim behind the referendum was not fulfilled immediately, the decision at that point of time was inevitable. It involved the concern of Cameroon for the rising competition from its opposition parties. Thus, the referendum would give Conservative party an electoral advantage. On the other hand, the internal chaos among the Conservative party members would also be controlled through this decision (Mölder, 2018).

Framing the issue
The issue of leaving or remaining with the EU was framed before the public referendum. The pollsters, the campaigners, the commentators, everyone made an assumption. The campaigners for and against thought that the swing voters would want to evade all risks. There was also a framing and planning done a year before the referendum, due to which the diplomatic memo was released or rather leaked. This memo said that David Cameroon believed that the people would finally vote in favour of the status quo if they realized that the alternative, i.e., leaving the EU is risky (Ker-Lindsay, 2018). The framing was such that the uncertain, unsure and undecideds would vote for status quo. This was thought and planned before announcing the referendum. The campaigners projected the status quo as certain and less risky while the option of leaving the EU as risky and almost a leap into the unknown dark. However, the problem here was that of generalization. The leave campaign wanted to assert that the status quo is not the only alternative. This is something the remain campaign disregarded, going by the referenda results across the world. The pollsters and advocates of remain camp wanted to frame and promote the idea of safe choice. The framing was faulty. The idea of choosing the status quo was safer, was a wrong projection before the public. This probably had aroused the doubt of the public in the intentions of the Conservative party and the EU.

‘Remain’ camp
The remain camp had certain expectations due to which they did not advocate for leaving European Union. The remain camp including the David Cameroon who was an ardent supporter and advocate of remaining with the EU, thought that the remain camp would win the referendum. However, even by a slight margin of 3% the vote was in favour of leaving the EU. The remain camp had wrong expectations and made faulty predictions. They estimated after the initial polls that Remain was to be ahead. The remain support also averaged around 53% (Stretea, 2018). The historical trends of referendums also suggested that the polls will incline towards the status quo. The remain camp should have made better survey among the citizens, known their opinions and resentment with the EU. They should not have generalized situations and thought that polls will be in favour of status quo. They thought that the swing voters would tend to be risk averse.

Fetzer, T. (2019). Did austerity cause Brexit. American Economic Review, 109(11), 3849-86.
Ker-Lindsay, J. (2018). Turkey’s EU accession as a factor in the 2016 Brexit referendum. Turkish Studies, 19(1), 1-22.
Mölder, H. (2018). British Approach to the European Union: From Tony Blair to David Cameron. In Brexit (pp. 153-173). Springer, Cham.
Offe, C. (2017). Referendum vs. institutionalized deliberation: What democratic theorists can learn from the 2016 Brexit decision. Daedalus, 146(3), 14-27.
Sampson, T. (2017). Brexit: the economics of international disintegration. Sociology essayJournal of Economic perspectives, 31(4), 163-84.
Smith, J. (2018). Gambling on Europe: David Cameron and the 2016 referendum. British Politics, 13(1), 1-16.
Smith, J. (2021). In or Out of ‘Europe’ The 1975 and 2016 UK Referendums on Membership. The Palgrave Handbook of European Referendums, 469-494.
Stretea, A. (2018). " BREXITOLOGY": A STORY OF RENEGOTIATIONS, REFERENDUMS AND" BREGRETS". On-line Journal Modelling the New Europe, (28), 206-216.


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