“On 29 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. This will be a very sad and tragic moment. We will always regret it. But we have to respect the will of the British people.” — Lord Kerr
On the 23rd of June, Great Britain held one of the most shocking and important referendums of the 21st century. A referendum that promises to change the lives of millions of British citizens, shocking many more people around the world. So, what exactly is Brexit (Britain-exit), and what does it mean for all of us?
What is the EU, and why did Brexit happen?
The European Union is a group of 28 European Countries. Each of these countries pays to be a member and in return, they get access to special regulations or privileges. This includes being part of a “single market”, which means that countries can trade freely with each other and that people can travel freely, without borders – as if the whole of Europe was united as one big country.
The EU has its own parliament, laws and currency, and was set up after World War II with the idea that if countries work together, they are unlikely to cause conflict and that all member states will benefit united, under one set of laws.
So why did over half of voters (51.9%) in the UK want to leave this special club?
The idea of the single market was to increase trade between countries, create jobs and lower prices. However, the European Parliament decides on many rules and standards that EU countries have to follow and Brexit supporters felt that Great Britain was losing control of their own affairs and laws. Many were angry at the billions of pounds the UK was spending in membership fees, and some felt that taxpayers` money would be better spent on other things, such as the National Health Service (NHS) or education.
Also, many people are moving from poorer countries to richer countries around the world, making some people in the UK worry about the free movement rule, which allows people already in the EU to travel to any other EU country without needing authorization (a visa, for example). There was also a fear about today’s terrorist threat, with many British citizens wanting stricter border control, to prevent immigrants from having easier access to life in Great Britain. This was a key issue for many voters and the Leave campaign won by just 4 per cent.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron called for the referendum to stop pro-Brexit opposition within his Conservative party. He wanted to resolve the issue once and for all. Unfortunately for him, the anti-immigration and anti-EU arguments won.
What does Brexit mean for the UK, US and EU?
Britain’s exit from the European Union is expected to have far-reaching consequences for the United Kingdom as well as the United States and the European Union.
The main consequences for the UK include slow growth of the population in the UK, exit fees, the potential loss of Britain’s tariff free trade status with EU members, an estate collapse in the UK’s financial center, loss of the EU state of the art technologies, the risk of losing the ability to bid on any public contracts with any of the EU countries and practitioners will lose the ability to operate in all member countries which could lead to a rise of cost for services such as internet, phone services and airfares.
Another country that could be impacted heavily by Brexit is Scotland. Measured by the way it votes, Scotland has been drifting away from the rest of the UK since the 1980s. But the divergence has never been as obvious as it did the morning after Great Britain voted to leave the EU. Not one of Scotland’s electoral regions voted to leave.
The Scottish National Parliament believes the mandate for a second referendum on independence is solid: a UK outside the EU is not the UK that a majority of Scots voted to stay in in 2014.
But putting the question to the public as early as 2018 or even 2019 carries huge risks for the Scottish government. Many nationalists remain confident that the long-term direction of the future of Scotland and its citizens is towards independence. It is driven partly by age demographics: the younger generation are more likely to favour Scottish independence.
In the case of Northern Ireland, remain campaigners warned that the introduction of a harder border would once again put relations between the North and South under strain, endangering both the Peace Process and the economic dividends of peace.
The main consequences for the US include the increased value of the dollar since the drop of the euro and the pound. Since the Brexit vote is a vote against globalization, the US stability means that London’s loss could be New York’s gain. The Brexit vote could also strengthen anti-immigration parties throughout Europe. That could eventually lead to the destruction of EU. If these parties gain enough ground in France and Germany, they could force an anti-EU vote. If either of those countries left, the EU would lose its strongest economies, and would dissolve.
The UK is leaving the EU due to 53.4% of England’s votes and 52.5% of Wales’s votes being “leave” votes. On the other hand, 55.8% of Northern Ireland’s votes were “remain” votes and another 62% of Scotland’s votes were also counted as « remain ».
The area with the biggest majority of leave votes was Boston, Lincolnshire and the area with the biggest majority of remain votes was Gibraltar, which is one of the UK’s overseas territories located on the south coast of Spain.
Younger voters, and those in London, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland wanted to stay in the EU. They were outnumbered by older voters who mostly voted to leave.
Important politicians of Brexit
David Cameron was born on the 9th of October, 1966, to wealthy upper-middle class parents and was educated at Heatherdown School, Eton College and Brasenose College. Cameron became Leader of the Conservative Party in 2005 and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 2010. When the Conservatives unexpectedly won the 2015 general election, Cameron remained as Prime Minister and had to fulfil a manifesto pledge he had promised during the run up of the election: a referendum on the UK`s continuing membership of the EU. Cameron supported the “Bremain” campaign and, following the success of the “Brexit” vote, he resigned to make way for new Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Theresa May is the second female prime minister and head of the Conservative Party. Though she was born in Eastbourne, Sussex, she went to school at Wheatley Park Comprehensive School in Holten, Oxfordshire as well as St Hugh’s College in Oxford. Mrs May has very clearly stated that « Brexit means Brexit » and there will be no second referendum no matter what. She says « I want this United Kingdom to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward looking than ever before.«
Jasmine Charlton and Julian Dalli / S5ENa / EEB1 Uccle
Photos: Thomas Kelley & Wikimedia Commons