On the evening of the 23 June 2016, I was at an Awards Dinner for the Royal Academy of Engineering, which is held each year to recognise excellence in engineering of all varieties. Talking to colleagues around the table that night, the majority were sure that the UK electorate would vote to remain in the EU. Although only one person I talked to admitted to having voted to leave, I was not convinced that this was going to be such an easy victory for the Remain Campaign. I had been worried for some time that many people from “my generation”, who had voted to join the European Community in the last referendum in 1975, were coming out in force to reverse that decision.
Like many physicists in the UK, I spent the final Friday of June in shock. Voters in Britain had just opted by a margin of 52% to 48% to leave the European Union (EU) – and suddenly nothing in the world seemed to make sense any more. I’d never really thought a majority would want a British exit (Brexit) from the EU. As with the referendum over Scottish independence from the UK in 2014, I’d assumed voters would come to their senses at the last minute.
What a summer! After the Brexit referendum of June 23 the international events rolled in at an incredible pace: killing of police officers on July 7 in Dallas (TX-USA) followed by another one in Baton Rouge (LA_USA) on July 17 (without mentioning Orlando (FL-USA) mass shooting a month before), the truck attack in Nice, FR on July 14, the Turkish military coup on July 15, etc., and this is only a small excerpt of what has happened in that month. Not easy to write an editorial under such an avalanche of negative events, reported and amplified over the normal and social media. Under such circumstances it looks to me that the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union was a long time ago. This is certainly the consequence of all the news that we collect worldwide and integrate over a short period of time. Even the European Football championships already long gone.
Mulhouse, 24 June 2016 – The European Physical Society (EPS) regrets the outcome of the vote by the British people and their decision to leave the European Union. In spite of all possible consequences that might arise from this choice, the popular decision must be respected like in all democratic processes. The result of the UK’s referendum will certainly bring the leaders to start a wider discussion on the future of the union.
Many people have expressed their concerns about the consequences of the 23 June vote in the UK for CERN, and for the UK’s relationship with CERN. CERN is an intergovernmental organisation subject to its own treaty. We are not part of the European Union, and several of our Member States, including Switzerland, in which we are headquartered, are not EU Members. Britain’s membership of CERN is not affected by the UK electorate’s vote to leave the European Union. We look forward to continuing the very constructive relationship we have shared with the UK, one of our founding members, long into the future.