The UK has finally ‘left’ the EU but why did the leave argument succeed? Business Leader investigates

Brexit jigsaw

The UK voted to leave the European Union on 23rd June 2016, now, nearly five years on and the nation is officially out, but why did Brexit succeed?

The success of Brexit can be attributed to many things, however, the combination of increased eurosceptism; society’s changing attitudes and a high-profile ‘Vote Leave’ campaign can all be classed as key factors.

The Guardian reported in early 2020 that support for Eurosceptic parties across the EU has more than doubled in two decades, with public opinion on the EU changing not only in the UK but across the continent.

Famed Eurosceptics such as Nigel Farage campaigned for Brexit for many years and initially backed the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign, which made a series of pledges and promises about what would happen should the UK leave the EU and strike up a new relationship. The campaign, headed up by well-known Conservative names such as Dominic Cummings, Michael Gove and current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, focused their efforts on dispelling the positive outcomes of being in the EU and drew attention to several key factors in favour of leaving.


According to the British Social Attitudes survey published in 2017, concern over immigration was one of the overwhelming factors in deciding whether to vote leave or remain. 73% of those surveyed that named immigration as an issue they were worried about, voted to leave to the EU.

Concern over immigration was a key reason why many voters chose to leave the EU and was spurred on by comments from politicians such as Nigel Farage. Playing into wider topics such as cultural identity, the worry surrounding immigration was fueled by Nigel Farage’s UKIP roadshow as well as the official ‘Vote Leave’ campaign both proclaiming that levels of immigration could not be controlled by the UK, whilst within the EU.

The implementation of the points-based immigration system has signalled the end of free movement with the EU, meaning that citizens will now be treated the same as from anywhere else in the world. This came into play when the freedom of movement between the UK and EU ended on 31st December 2020 and means that anyone coming to the UK for work must now meet a specific set of requirements in order to get a certain level of points.

Cost of EU membership

Figures from the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign revealed that being part of the European Union cost the UK £350m a week and although this figure and the wording of the comment caused some controversy, did persuade many people that this was money that could be well-spent elsewhere. The claim that leaving the EU would free up this money was written across the campaign’s ‘battle bus’ alongside the fact it could be spent on the NHS, something which captured the attention and hearts of many.

Whilst the campaign was some years ago, the slogan about the cost of the EU undoubtedly remains one of the most memorable parts of the whole campaign, serving as a powerful illustration as to how the UK would benefit financially from leaving.

Law Making

The ‘Vote Leave’ campaign stated that the UK is always overruled and outvoted when it comes to passing laws on items such as tax, which leads to the British public paying the price. The campaign stated that by leaving the EU, laws wouldn’t need to be passed by the EU court. This was a key campaign statement for the leave side and demonstrating the cost for British people on topics such as tax, would have undoubtedly resonated with many.

Trade and Economy

Trade deals and the economy were two of the biggest topics of debate throughout the Brexit campaign, with one side believing it would be stronger and more stable to remain and the other stating it was about independence and power to make change.

The leave campaign’s focus on the EU’s rules and regulations preventing trade deals with other countries and causing a delay in processes is something which likely stood out to many business owners.

A survey conducted by Instant Offices of over a 1000 SMEs in Britain, just before the EU referendum in 2016, found that 23% of those who planned to vote leave stated their reason for doing so as Britain being able to benefit from negotiating a new trade model. A further 27% said that SMEs would benefit from being free of perceived ‘EU red tape’.

So, why did Brexit succeed?

It is impossible to pinpoint one reason as to why Brexit succeeded. A combination of factors surely influenced the final vote for many and with the popularity of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign during the lead up to the referendum, it would be remiss to say they did not have an overwhelming impact.

There is an abundance of factors which could explain why Brexit succeeded, and with the small margin between remain and leave on the final vote, perhaps it would not have taken much to have swung the other way.