On the 23rd June 2016 the UK people voted to leave the European Union (EU). The result of the vote was narrowly in favour of leaving the EU by 51.9% to 48.1%. The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, resigned on the morning of the result as he was in backing the remain in the EU campaign. This decision has been nicknamed BREXIT (Great Britain Exit from the EU).
The result of the vote, which saw around a high 70% turnout for the referendum, has caused many questions to be addressed for both Europe and the UK. It will take a while for a clear plan of what is going to happen to emerge: this may take many months although the rapid replacement of the Prime Minister with Theresa May and a change of Government to deal with the outcome may mean it will be progressed more rapidly than had been thought. A new ministry has been set up to oversee the leaving process which is likely to take at least two years. This will require a formal request under the Treaty of Lisbon.
Initial Reactions to the result were varied: the impact was felt globally with adverse reactions to stock markets and with the value of the UK pound falling against other currencies including the US dollar and the euro. The pound fell to very low levels against the dollar, levels not seen since the 1980s. The economic fallout was caused by uncertainty of the political futures of the UK and Europe.
Across Europe there were several political responses to the result. Some right wing political parties called for their countries to leave the EU (notably in France and the Netherlands for example). Additional comments called for European Union reforms to prevent others following the UK.
Within the United Kingdom there are political calls for a break up of the Union (Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England) and the Scottish vote outcome highlighted the desire to stay in Europe. The picture of the referendum results shows some interesting paradoxes geographically. As an example many areas voting to leave are area that have benefited from European Structural and Regional Development funding as they are generally poorer areas. The results had a marked geography of areas that voted for remain and leave. There is a map on this BBC web site link. Scotland, for example had an overall vote to remain in the EU.
The impact of the UK leaving the European Union will be reviewed over time. The European Union has been expanding across Europe for several decades and the political impact of this change will see an initial end to that continual growth, perhaps before it resumes or perhaps it may have the consequence of influencing other countries to reassess their place within the EU. With mounting economic issues in Portugal there may be more challenges for the EU to overcome very shortly.
Solar Impulse’s Circumnavigation
The innovative solar plane, Solar Impulse 2 has completed its pioneering around the world journey having made it back to Abu Dhabi. The plane proved it was possible to use solar energy to propel an aircraft. The Solar Impulse 2 plane has 7,000 solar cells that fuel electric motors. The wingspan is larger than a large commercial airliner and it is very light weight. Energy from the solar cells are stored in batteries for night time flying.
The journey took from 9 March 2015 until 26th July 2016. The journey was formed of a 17-stage journey covering around 42,000km. It crossed four continents, three seas and two oceans. The longest section of the journey was a flight of 8,924km (5,545-mile) from Nagoya in Japan to Hawaii, US. The stretch lasted almost 118 hours and broke the world record for longest time for an uninterrupted solo flight. The Pacific flight (originally around June/July 2015) saw the planes batteries being damaged which saw the journey temporarily stopped for ten months.
This innovative and inspiring journey, which used no conventional fossil fuel, has led to some new technological developments, great practical knowledge of those technologies and has developed an International Committee of Clean Technology (ICCT) and solar powered drones. Full details of the journey and highlights of some future benefits that may come from the project are on the Solar Impulse website. The project has advocated clean technology and aims to provide options for a sustainable future and to solve some of the challenges that face society today.