What’s Brexit again?
‘Brexit’ is name for the exit of the United Kingdom (U.K.) from the European Union (EU). The referendum to leave the union passed on June 2016. The decision was highly controversial, as it only passed with about 52 percent of the vote.
Okay, but why did they want to leave the EU?
To put it in the simplest way possible: nationalism. Europe is experiencing what has been called an ‘immigration crisis': Nearly 2 million refugees, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, have arrived in the EU since 2014. People began to feel insecure about their borders and about the people who were coming in, and those who were against the European Union capitalized on this uncertainty. They talked about the strain immigrants put on government welfare programs and education.This amplified worry about the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. As a member of the European Union, the U.K. was subject to its regulations regarding immigration. If they remained in the EU, they couldn’t make their own choices on who to let in.
Some extra information: a survey confirmed that immigration was one of the major issues in the Brexit vote. Young people, people with college degrees and city-dwellers largely wanted to remain, while older people, those without degrees and people in poor, rural areas voted to leave. Sound familiar?
That was all two years ago. Why are we talking about it now?
When the referendum passed, the United Kingdom didn’t automatically leave the EU. The vote triggered Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which states that a country that wishes to withdraw is given two years to broker an exit deal with the European Union. The goal is to decide what the country’s relationship with the European Union will be after they leave, especially in terms of trade.
Thus far, the two parties have brokered no deal. The March 2019 deadline is looming large, and some citizens are getting frustrated.
Earlier this month, an estimated 700,000 people took to the streets of London in the People’s Vote march. They were calling for a ‘People’s Vote.’ This would be a second Brexit referendum after the terms of the U.K. departure have been determined. The group proposing the second vote claims that the public didn’t know what they were getting into before the first vote, and what the actual repercussions of leaving the EU would be.
Why does any of this matter?
If they don't reach a deal, then the U.K. will have a very tricky trade relationship with the EU due to the changes in customs standards as well as regulations. This could have an impact on essential goods, like food and medicine. Scotland is also considering an independence vote in the wake of the decision to leave.
Brexit may also pave the way for other countries to leave the European Union as well. ‘Frexit’ was a hot topic in France’s 2017 presidential election, with candidate Marine Le Pen saying she supported a similar referendum in France. Grexit and Nexit (for Germany and the Netherlands, respectively) have also been mentioned.
In global terms, the Brexit vote was one against globalization. It’s difficult to say what the exact effects on the global economy will be, but right after the vote, the Dow fell 611 points. Is Brexit a step back towards isolationism, or merely a bump in the road on the way to global cooperation? Only time will tell.