Labour Migration Restriction Problem as the Main Reason for Brexit

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2017-61-8-57-66

T. Andreeva (
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow 117997, Russian Federation 


The article is devoted to the problem of the renegotiation of the UK membership conditions in the EU in connection with the British Prime-Minister D. Cameron’s decision made in 2013 to hold a referendum on the topic of the British membership in the EU (June 23, 2016). This event is widely known as Brexit voting. There is also a brief history of the British society’s attitudes to immigration problem and their influence on transformation of the British electoral system. While scrutinizing the causes of the Leave campaign victory at the referendum, the author covers in details the progress of the renegotiation of the British status in the EU at summits during 2015–2016. The research highlights views and attitudes of 27 EU member states on the British plan of the EU reforms. Special attention is paid to the debates between leaders of the European states about the change of such basic principles as the freedom of labor movement around Europe and the movement of all member states to a closer union, mainly in British interests. The author underlines that the most difficult point of the renegotiations for the British Prime-Minister was the obtainment of these changes. The Greek problem, the migration problem and the EU existential crisis are given as main reasons that helped D. Cameron to get the UK “special status” in the EU after many disputes and delays in Brussels. The article shows the impact of the European states leaders’ attitudes and the influence of the aggravating immigration problem in Britain on organization of two campaigns in the British society in the light of the forthcoming referendum. The author also scrutinizes the path of agitation campaign before the referendum. The results of different public opinion polls made by the leading British sociological agencies such as Ipsos MORI, ComRes, NatCat are also widely used in the research. They help to monitor the dynamics of public preferences and attitudes to the EU, to its rules and practices, to the migration problem and to expectations among British politicians of the future possible economic dilapidation of the UK in the case of Brexit. The study stresses that the Leave campaign used the discussion of the immigration problem during the last two weeks of agitation before the referendum because it was the most apprehensible, worrying and important problem for ordinary British. The author attempts to answer the question whether the immigration problem was the key one for the victory of the Brexit supporters’ views at the UK referendum. 


Great Britain, “special status”, European Union, Germany, France, Brexit 


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For citation:
Andreeva T. Labour Migration Restriction Problem as the Main Reason for Brexit. Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2017, vol. 61, No 8, pp. 57-66.

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