On 23rd of June, 2016, Britain went through a messy divorce with the European Union. The United Kingdom voted to become the first country to leave the modern EU. The world knows it as Brexit – which is a combination of two simple words – Britain and Exit. Following the Brexit, are now the years of uncertainty of the future that is prevailing over the British empire
After years of uneasy relationship with the Europe, Britishers finally decided to leave the EU in the referendum that was promised to them by former Prime Minister David Cameron in the run-up to the 2015 General elections. Eurosceptic anti-EU parties and groups supported the Leave side while those who wanted to stay in the EU campaigned for the Remain side.
17.4 million people (51.9%) voted to leave the EU to a narrow number of 16.1 million (48.1%) who voted to stay. The referendum saw a total electorate turnout of 72.2%. And while Britain readies to transition from an EU nation to a non EU nation, WTD attempts to explain the technicalities of the new divorce.
- EU Red Tape
- Article 50
- Soft Brexit
- Hard Brexit
- Withdrawal Bill
- Repeal Bill
- Transition Period
- Divorce Bill
Why Britain left EU?
In 1957, the European Economic Committee (EEC) was formed to foster stronger economic ties and prevent war between European countries in the aftermath of the two World Wars. The Treaty of Rome which established the EEC was initially signed by France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The UK became the member of EEC in 1973.
Just two years after the Britain joined the EEC, the ruling Labour Party held the UK’s first referendum in 1975 on whether the Britain should leave the EEC. The Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher, who later became the first women British PM had campaigned heavily to remain in the EEC. The result, people voted to remain by a majority of 67.23% to 32.77% with a 64.6% turnout.
The EEC became the European Union after the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992. The EU expanded to 28-member states, nurturing a flourishing economic and political relationship across Europe. The EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 for transforming the European landscape that has once seen centuries of war being fought on it.
The Britain, however, had a troubled relationship with the EU. Many people believed that the EU held back the UK with too many rules, not allowing the country to achieve its full potential. The EU Red Tape was holding back businesses in the UK to make their own decisions and expand beyond the EU rulebooks. The UK had also chosen to maintain its British Pound as its currency instead of adopting the Euro and also didn’t like themselves to be referred to as Europeans. Brexiters felt they were losing out their sovereignty to a much larger European superstate. They wanted to take back the controls of their border which allowed free migration of people from any EU nation.
Millions of refugees who fled their war throne countries began to find shelter in European countries like Germany. Anti-immigrant sentiments and Euroscepticism rose among many people in the UK. Anti-EU parties highlighted the billions of dollars which the UK paid for its membership in the EU but didn’t get much back in return. The UK was also taking in many migrants as compared to other EU nations. Europe was also hit by terrorist attacks some carried out by immigrants. All these factors led to the UK’s exit from the EU.
The Brexit Process
Majority of polls cast in England and Wales went in favour of Leave while Scotland and Northern Ireland saw the majority of people voted to remain. Financial capital of Europe – the city of London voted by a huge majority to remain in the EU. This was due to the large no of businesses and institutions that feared the economic consequences of the UK leaving the EU.
After the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron post referendum, former Home affairs secretary Theresa May took over as the PM. On 29th March 2017, Theresa May triggered the Article 50 (for any country that wants to exit EU) of the Lisbon Treaty, formally initiating the Brexit. This followed the start of a two-year time limit for both the sides to negotiate the terms of exit. Until these two years end, Britain will be the part of EU and all rules of EU will apply on the country.
The negotiations broadly lead to two groups. A Soft Brexit could mean the UK staying in the EU single market or customs union. Then Britain might have to keep the current rules of free movement of people, goods, services and capital. A Hard Brexit would probably mean the UK giving up full access to the single market and customs union, breaking away completely from the European Union. This will also create a hard border with the Northern Ireland and fuel further tensions with Scotland. A soft Brexit that involves fewer repercussions is what the British govt and the European members prefers, but it would probably anger the Brexiters who voted to isolate Britain from the rest of Europe.
The European Union Withdrawal Bill or known as the Great Repeal Bill copies all the EU legislation into British domestic law which takes effect after the Brexit. The government will decide over a period of time to keep which of the rules and not. This will also end the jurisdiction of European Court of Justice over the UK.
The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on Friday, 29th March 2019. Whether both the sides negotiate the exit or not, Brexit is due to happen at 11 PM on that day. Once the Britain and EU reach the deal before time, at least 20 out of the 27 members of EU must approve it.
The UK and EU negotiators meet for a week every month to sort out the terms of exit. Both the sides have agreed for a Transition Period straight after the Brexit that will allow Britain to settle everything before the post-Brexit rules kick in. The transition phase will start from 29 March 2019, to end on 31 December 2020. The UK will establish new trade deals and its future partnership with EU during this period. However, free movement and other EU rules will apply in the UK for these 21 months.
A major part of the current Brexit negotiations surrounds the ‘Divorce Bill’. It is the payment that EU is demanding from the UK to cover its commitments for leaving the bloc. There is currently no definite amount that any side have agreed upon, but it would surely mean a huge loss of finances to the UK. EU sides have suggested upto €60 billion. However, PM Theresa May has reportedly offered upto £40billion.
If no formal agreement – No deal – is reached between both the sides, the UK would suddenly crash out of EU overnight, leaving many things in turmoil. The UK would operate under the World Trade Organisation rules which would create customs checks with tariffs on goods. UK citizens living in EU and vice-versa would lose their residency. Britain would cease from many obligations to the EU. Politicians on both the sides are also preparing for this worst-case scenario.
Is the UK regretting its decision to leave EU?
The Brexit Regret (Bregret)
PM Theresa May has promised a ‘vote to approve the Brexit deal’ in the House of Commons and Lords after the end of two-year time limit. MPs can either vote to accept or reject whatever the deal has been achieved with EU. If MPs vote against the deal, the UK would crash out of EU without any deal. If this happens, anti-Brexit MPs can use this as a leverage to back for a ‘second referendum’.
Just after the Brexit vote, “What is the EU?”, “What does it mean to leave the EU?” became the most searched phrases in the UK. Many of the Britons are saying that they were wrong to have voted to leave the EU. A significant shift has been observed among those who voted for such a step that has put the fortunes of the country on stakes. Bregret is increasing according to surveys and polls conducted. More than 4 million people had signed a petition calling for a second EU referendum in the initial days after the Brexit vote. However, the British government had rejected the prospects of another vote.
Apart from trade and politics, Brexit has individually affected certain nations and its people. The repercussions have transcended from economics to nationhood. Read here to understand more.