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Why the British voted to leave the EU
An English Rose in Georgia
Lesley Francis - 2016
Lesley Francis grew up in London, England, and made Georgia her home in 2009. - photo by File photo

Over the last two weeks (fortnight as the British say) I have been asked by a lot of people in coastal Georgia what I think about the decision made by those in the land of my birth for "Brexit" (shorthand for the British exit from the European Union).

The referendum saw a very high turnout, with more than 33 million British citizens voting. A majority of 52 perecent who live in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar opted to leave the EU.

The British chose this in the face of almost every major U.K. institution, media source and politician from both of the main parties, all frantically trying to persuade the voters to stay in the EU with forecasts of doom and gloom in almost every imaginable aspect of life if they left.

However, despite the British reputation for enduring the status quo, this was a clear message to the political classes that people were sick of the problems with the EU and wanted out, demonstrating just how very dissatisfied the average British citizen is with the way things are.

Of course, the entire "establishment" and most media pundits were predicting a victory for "remain," so the media has reacted with shock.

The financial markets in particular were not expecting Brexit to win, and the pound sterling was significantly weakened because of the uncertainties about the British economy, the future of the city of London as the financial heart of Europe, and even speculation that Scotland might again seek independence from the U.K. and try to join the EU as a separate country.

Everyone should remember, however, that the divorce from the EU is not something that can be done overnight. By law it will take two years, and many are predicting five or six. No one really knows since it has never been done before.

My own view is that there was no "safe" vote — a decision to either "remain" or "leave" carried risks. However, it is clear to all that the great European experiment is not working well. What started as a trading block has morphed into an undemocratic and unelected federal European super state as EU law takes precedent over each member nation’s own sovereign law. This was simply unacceptable to millions of Brits.

A good friend of mine — an American who lives in the U.K. and now has British citizenship — got really fired up on this subject. She wrote to me and others that "the right for a nation to self-govern based on the will of its people is a pillar of democracy. Yet the EU project, its commissioners and thousands of Brussels-based bureaucrats, ran roughshod over this concept. The British, in their quiet, measured, informed and deliberate way, told them that the grand European project was beyond reform following the undemocratic mission creep of the past 40 years."

Another important factor that pushed a majority of British people to this decision is the issue of open borders. The EU is currently reeling from the strain of mass migration, and the U.K. with its socialized health care and free education is enticing to many poor migrants.

Unfortunately, Britain is an island not quite as big as the state of Oregon, but with a population of 65 million versus just 4 million Oregonians. British cities in particular are overcrowded, affordable housing is rare, traffic is in gridlock, and government services are overburdened.

I firmly believe that British people are not racist, xenophobic or insensitive, nor do they want "closed" borders. They simply wanted to get control back into their own hands and away from bureaucrats who don’t care about their interests.

As I celebrated Independence Day last weekend — my fourth since becoming a American citizen — the parallels in history were not lost on me.

It was a brave group of British colonists who did not want "taxation without representation" 250 years ago, who would not bow to the tyranny of the British king, and decided to unshackle themselves and build our great U.S. nation.

Only time will tell if British people have once again started a people’s revolution via the ballot box.

Finally, here is a quote from U.K. Justice Secretary Michael Gove, one of the few members of the British cabinet who supported the "leave" campaign: "I believe that the decisions which govern all our lives… should be decided by people we choose and who we can throw out if we want change. If power is to be used wisely, if we are to avoid corruption and complacency in high office, then the public must have the right to change laws and governments at election time."

God bless America, as well as the future non-EU United Kingdom.

Contact Francis at or

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