by Leila Dayan, Intern
Last weekend the United Kingdom was supposed make a historic and previously unseen move by leaving the European Union since gaining membership in 1993. This momentous event was kick started by a referendum held in June of 2016 that begged the question of whether the UK wanted to leave the EU, an economic and political alliance involving 28 European countries whose foundation is based on fostering economic co-operation in the hopes that countries which trade together are less likely to go to war with each other, a fear leftover from World War II. Prime Minister David Cameron put forth the vote and a staggering 30 million people, 71.8% of the population, turned out to vote. A slim majority of 51.9% voted in favor of leaving to 48.1% wishing to remain, beginning the UK’s process of withdrawing from the European Union. As a result PM Cameron stepped down, stating that the leader of the United Kingdom should be aligned with the desires of the people.
In October of the same year Prime Minister Theresa May assumed office and announced her intention to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union. On March 29th 2017, the formal exit process started and in accordance with the law, the scheduled time to officially leave was March 29th 2019 at 11pm, two years after Article 50 was invoked. The European court ruled that the UK may halt the process at any time, an attempt that was made by many citizens in the days leading up to Brexit. Since the deal did not get enough votes, UK lawmakers took control of parliamentary business and the motion will go back before the House today Monday, April 1.
Prime Minister Theresa May
What happens next? The European Union leaders gave the PM until April 12th to come up with a Brexit solution, but since her deal was defeated a third time, May now has until that date to seek an extension otherwise the UK will leave the EU without a deal. This means that there will be no 21-month transition period and all businesses and citizens will have to immediately respond to changes resulting from leaving the EU. It is unclear how the residency of the estimated 1.3 million Britons living abroad across the EU and 3.7 million Europeans living in Britain will be affected if there is a no-deal Brexit. The UK will revert to World Trade Organization regulations and will have to face the EU’s external tariffs on imported goods, meaning the price of goods will likely go up while shortages of food and medicine will affect parts of the UK.
Lawmakers will be voting on a series of Brexit alternatives today, two of which favor a “soft Brexit”, meaning that the UK would stay within the EU’s Single Market by becoming a member of the European Economic Area. This option minimizes the disruption to trade and supply chains, though Britain will have no say in EU rules and tariffs while still being bound by them. The third vote will be on whether to hold a second referendum, giving the country another choice to decide if they want to remain in the European Union. The final vote will be whether or not to revoke Article 50, halting Brexit all together. A petition to revoke has been signed by more than 6 million people and crashed Parliament’s petition website this weekend.
Who is against Brexit? The Conservative Party is against leaving because the country benefits from the single market system established by the EU. They also believe that open boarders allow for an influx of immigrants that are eager to work and help fuel public service projects. There is also the worry of possible political backlash from the nations still in the EU. It is also important to note that Northern Ireland and Scotland both had a majority Remain vote with 55.7% and 62% respectively. The EU will encourage a border crossing between the Republic of Ireland and the UK if Brexit continues, though both countries have expressed that they wish to avoid a hard boarder.
Who is for Brexit? The supporters of leaving the EU are mainly those in the UK Independence Party, who believe that membership is a restrictive element for the country. Their main argument revolves around regaining boarder control, business rights, and foregoing the high membership fees all member countries are required to pay, instead using that money to benefit the UK. Now that Prime Minister May’s deals have been shut down, it seems more and more likely that there will be a no-deal Brexit, which some pro-Brexiters believe to be the best course of action.
With so many options, it is difficult to say what the future of the UK’s relationship with the European Union will be. It is clear though that there will have to be concessions made from all sides if leaders hope to move forward with Brexit.
“Theresa May Awaits Votes on Brexit Alternatives: Live Updates.” CNN, Cable News Network, 1 Apr. 2019, edition.cnn.com/uk/live-news/brexit-indicative-votes-monday-gbr-intl/index.html.
“How a Soft Brexit Differs from a Hard One.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 25 June 2018, www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2018/06/25/how-a-soft-brexit-differs-from-a-hard-one.
“Brexit: Theresa May Ponders Fourth Bid to Pass Deal.” BBC News, BBC, 30 Mar. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-47756122.
Guy, Jack. “Theresa May Seeks Fourth Brexit Vote, Reports Say.” CNN, Cable News Network, 30 Mar. 2019, edition.cnn.com/2019/03/30/uk/may-brexit-fourth-vote-gbr-intl/index.html.