England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island form the sovereign state of ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island’ (UK) also known as Britain.
On June 23, 2016 a referendum was held in the UK on whether to leave the European Union (EU) or not. 52% of the population voted “Leave” whilst 48% voted “Remain”.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, resigned that very day and a new PM , Theresa May, took over. She has announced that by summer of 2019 the exit plan will have been completely executed. This whole process of UK or Britain leaving the EU has been called Brexit (shorthand for Britain and Exit).
These are the facts that everyone has memorised by now, but ….
What is the European Union?
Why was a referendum held to leave the EU?
Why would it take so long to leave?
Why was the UK was a part of it in the first place?
After WWII, Europe realised that some radical steps were required to prevent another global scale war, so France came up with a solution. They suggested pooling theirs and Germany’s resources thereby making war impossible between trading partners. So in 1957 France, West Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed the Treaty of Paris, which established the European Economic Community (EEC).
The First Referendum
The UK joined the EEC in 1973 but two years later (1975), was on the brink of backing out. A referendum was held; 67% of the populate said ‘Remain’ whilst 33% said ‘Leave’.
The European Union
In 1993, The Maastricht Treaty saw the formation of the EU. It was formed and was designed to integrate Europe’s nations politically and economically, including a united foreign policy, common citizenship rights and (for most member nations, not including the UK) a single currency, the euro.
The EU has a single market and all the member states trade within it.
“The single or ‘internal’ market is the EU’s main economic engine, enabling most goods, services, money and people to move freely”
The UK is one of 10 countries in the EU who give more than they receive in direct financial terms. This factor prompted the UK to stay out of a single monetary unit (the Euro) and it chose to keep its original Pound.
With regards to border controls, 26 out of 28 EU members, have agreed upon a passport-free border system with people moving freely between member states – unrestricted. The UK, once again, along with Ireland chose to stay out of this agreement.
The United Kingdom decided to keep control of its borders but still there are regulations granting the right of movement to anyone in the EU to travel to UK with relative ease. With the UK facing mass immigration the recent migrant crisis, the argument was made to stop this migration. This formed the basis for the ‘leave campaign’.
This leaving process is complex. The Treaty of Lisbon, with its very famous ARTICLE 50, deals with the voluntary withdrawal of a member state from the EU. In order for the UK to leave, it will have to ‘trigger’ ARTICLE 50. Which is an official notification from the UK to the EU for withdrawal and would start the actual process of pulling out.
One of the consequences of leaving will be that all the agreements and regulations working as law and imposed by the EU would be null and void and would have to be replaced. New laws will have to be drafted and it will be decided how the EU deals with the UK from then on. This raises questions such as:
-what happens to the people living in UK according to the free movement act
-what happens to UK citizens living in the EU states
-what happens to the companies working off of the Single market policy (Cheap Airlines depend heavily on this policy and it would be almost impossible for them to operate in UK and EU simultaneously at the previous rates.)
Experts are saying that the European Union will impose very strict regulations on UK as this is the first country to leave. It appears the EU is determined to set an example for other member states who might be thinking about leaving the Union too.
Since I began this post, the landscape shifted several times.
The Supreme Court has ruled that Parliament must be given a vote before Article 50 is triggered and Britain formally begins the process of leaving the European Union.
Since then, the House of Commons have voted overwhelmingly in favour of triggering Article 50 despite members of parliament (MPs) being divided along the lines of ‘Brexiters’ or ‘Remoaners’ (colloquial terms coined by the press).
31st March 2017: Theresa May has placed this deadline to invoke Article 50
30 September 2018: Date by which EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, wants to wrap up terms of Britain’s exit from the Union
31 March 2019: Date by which Theresa May wants to wrap up negotiations over Brexit
Let’s watch this space…….