Is the UK the only country holding a referendum on staying or leaving the EU? If so, why is only the UK doing this?

This question isn't a duplicate of this one, which asks why other countries in Europe can't vote on changes to prevent Britain's leaving the EU. This question is asking if only the UK is holding a referendum or if any other countries are holding one too.

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    Possible duplicate of Why aren't any other EU Member states holding a referendum on Brexit?
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 19:49
  • @SJuan76 Sorry, haven't seen this question. This is my own question and I am quiet curious - I just wanted to know, that's all. I could delete if that makes you happy?
    – J. White
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 19:50
  • You don't need to do anything. If enough people agree, this question will be marked as a duplicate, otherwise it stays here and you can receive answers. Either way, there is nothing inherently wrong.
    – A. Darwin
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 19:58
  • Sorry, but nothing will be enough to make up for this mistake, short of harakiri :-P. Now seriously, the "close dupes" mechanism is only to "encourage" users to search before posting already answered questions, because else the site would be unworkable if question kept repeating again and again, so it is nothing personal. And yes, if the refered question is close enough to what you want to be a dupe, you should delete it; if it is not, you should explain what exactly is your question and how the refered question does not address it.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 20:01
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    This seems like a different question to me. The other question is why other countries in Europe can't vote on changes to prevent Britain leaving. This question is why other states aren't leaving too. The two questions are only related in that both involve leaving the EU.
    – Brythan
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 20:09

4 Answers 4


It is only the UK that is holding a referendum on leaving the EU.

The reason is largely party political. For a number of years there has been a divide in the Conservative party between a Eurosceptic wing and a pro/neutral wing. Over a similar period there has been a significant rise in support for UKIP, the UK Independence Party, whose platform is centred on leaving the EU. There was concern that support was leaching from the Conservatives to UKIP exacerbated by a couple of high profile defections of Conservative MPs.

So, in order to maintain unity through the 2015 General Election and, presumably, to kill off the divisive issue, the Conservatives included an EU referendum in their manifesto. When the Conservatives won an outright Parliamentary majority in the General Election, this became government policy.

Edit: added links

  • Isn't British people's feelings also part of the reasons? If the Brits aren't sick of the EU, Cameron wouldn't promise a referendum. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 14:17
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    @Dylan Chensky - it's highly unlikely that Cameron called the referendum because he thought enough people wanted to leave. Bear in mind he campaigned against it and resigned when he lost. He called it in order to blunt a very real electoral and party issue. If he'd won, UKIP would have been neutered and party dissent diminished. It would also have left the Tory party, with this and the Scottish ref, in a very strong position for years to come.
    – Alex
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 14:54
  • Oops, David Cameron kind of left a legacy in the UK history then. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 15:10

Alex's answer gives a great explanation of the current political landscape in the UK and explains how the referendum came about at this particularly time. However, there are broader reasons why the UK would seek to leave the European Union while other countries do not.

First, the UK has never been as well integrated or invested in the EU as other nations. It was not among the founding members. Also, it often excepts itself from various EU policies whenever it can; a prime example of this is the fact the UK still uses the pound and did not adopt the Euro.

Secondly, though the World Wars may have brought an end to the British Empire, the UK still maintained a considerable amount of its economic, political, and military might. It's in a position of strength so being independent is more feasible.

Lastly, being geographically isolated, the people in the UK generally don't have the same cultural ties as many other parts of Europe. In many EU nations, national boundaries are kind of blurry because of cultural similarities.


Actually Greenland had a referendum, and left.

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    It actually left the European Communities, which is a predecessor to the EU. Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 13:24

In addition, although there may be other countries that are thinking of leaving, an exit from the EU has never happened.

So the wise course of action would be to 'wait and see' what happens if the UK exits. After all, predictions have ranged from 'nothing' to 'war in Europe'.

As the UK are one of the more successful economies in the EU the act of leaving may well trigger more countries wanting to leave.

It may be that after a UK exit, other countries might re-evaluate their position or even the desirability of the EU.

So, as I said before, the EU is holding its breath and waiting to see what happens.

This article: Independent - "The world is on hold over the EU referendum. Why have we failed to notice?" sort of sums this up.

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    "an exit from the EU has never happened" - If you count the European Commitee, exits happened at least once: Algeria left the French 5th Republic, which the latter was a member of EC. Although it was not caused by a referendum. If you only count referendums, Greendland (according to @Olav) Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 15:16

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