Saturday, 6 August 2016



As a resident in the UK, fate has made it possible for me to part take in two elections for my short stay here. First, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that I was eligible to be entered into the electoral register of the United Kingdom! 

When I decided to, it took less than two (2) minutes for me to be regularly entered into the register (online) and my voters’ card delivered in just two weeks! I voted in the local elections of Members of the Scottish Parliament of 5th May 2016 and the European Referendum of 23/06/2016.

Don’t ask how I voted! I am concerned here with two things;
-          -The fact that a referendum was called for the British people to exercise the right to stay or leave the EU and
-          -That they voted to leave.

Though not generally encouraged, there is nothing that is brought together that cannot be given the opportunity to separate. Because separation is not an ‘of course’, the then British Prime Minister David Cameron thought it wise to organize a national referendum for the people to decide whether the Union with Europe should continue. 

It is being labelled here a gamble that failed because the PM actively and energetically campaigned for a ‘remain’ which never won. So, question; if the PM really wanted a remain, why did he call the referendum? Was it absolutely necessary for a referendum to be called?

This is a society of rights and the respect of the rule of law. This is a Country where politicians vote as per their conscience and the aspirations of their constituency and not necessarily on Party Lines. Unlike other Countries the world over, Great Britain does not have a written Constitution. 

However, they have succeeded in maintaining high moral standards in managing public office. The public eye does not blink! The British are very proud of their System. Very proud of their Pound Sterling. Very Proud of their Public Order. The idea of the European Union started in 1950 with the Schuman Declaration. It took off as the European Coal and Steel Community. 


The six founding countries were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. This progressed to the European Economic Community or the Common market in 1957. 

The government and people of the United Kingdom only joined the Union in 1973. The Maastricht Treaty brought in the European Union in 1993. Membership of the Union has grown from the six founding members to 28 when the British voted to leave on the 23/06/2016.

The relationship between the Union and the UK has not been honey and milk. This is not the first time the British have been consulted by referendum whether they want to stay in the EU. In 1975 when it was still called the Common Market, a referendum was called and 67% voted to remain. Though voting with a comfortable majority to stay, the British never really fully integrated into all the facets of life of the Union. 

When the Shengen Agreement was signed in 1995 allowing for free movement within the Union, holders of the ‘Shengen’ visa were and are not allowed entry into the UK. Where a visa is required for entry, you must obtain a UK visa before you could be allowed through the border control. The Agreement instituting the EURO as a common monetary denomination in the Union has never been functional in the UK. As one Briton asked when the EURO was introduced, “Does this mean that Her Majesty’s Pound Sterling will be controlled from Brussels?”

It can therefore, be safely stated that from inception, the British have been ‘one foot in, one foot out’ in their relationship with the EU. This raised concerns amongst certain members of the Union who thought rightly or wrongly that the British had preferential treatment in the marriage. 
While there were complaints from outside that the British were given privileged treatment, there was growing discontent at home that too much of the Tax payers’ money was being used on Europe. That locals were losing jobs in favour of the new influx of Europeans from member states of the union.

This led the government of David Cameron to go into negotiations with the Union for certain guarantees in order to go for full integration. He did obtain positive guarantees which he deemed favorable for the UK in the case of full integration. Being a democracy, he then called a referendum to sell his new brand full integration with the EU or leaving it altogether. The leave campaign won with 52%. 

David Cameron resigned and Theresa May was asked by the Queen to form a new Government. Today, the government is on the path of negotiating the exit.This is a democracy that is ready to listen to the people! David Cameron went out of office smiling, though he ‘lost’ in the referendum. He respected the wish of the people. Calls for a second referendum have simply been ignored.

Can we and the government of Cameroon learn anything from the British Experience? Theresa May campaigned with the PM on the remain Ticket. Today as PM, her Foreign Secretary is someone who was very vocal in the exit campaign team!
No political marriage or union can last forever if the people wish otherwise. We might just be playing with a time bomb if we decide that ‘the right to leave’ does not apply in the case of Cameroon.

Barrister at Law,
Chevening Scholar,
Aberdeen, UK

Disclaimer: All the views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of the Chevening Secretariat or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

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