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With new updates left and right, the current Brexit situation can be a bit confusing to understand. Is Brexit actually happening? By the end of this article, I hope to have answered all of your questions and concerns about the topic.
Let’s start from the origin of the word “Brexit”. According to BBC News, Brexit is a merged word to refer to Britain exiting the European Union (EU), originally coined by Peter Wilding, founder of the British Influence think tank. Across the United Kingdom, a referendum for Brexit was held on June 23, 2016, resulting in the decision to leave winning 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent, as stated by The New York Times.
You may ask, “Why did Britain want to leave the EU in the first place?” Although there was no singular cause, History Department Chair Donna Gilbert believes the political shift toward the right was one factor toward the Brexit decision.
“[There] is a pendulum swing back in the direction of the right wing, in this case, the extreme right wing, which is going on all over Europe,” Gilbert said. “[Britain] felt like the EU was leaning too far left, and if they [stayed in] the EU, they [felt that they] were forced to comply with certain policies that the far right disagreed with.”
One of those policies of the EU that caused and is still causing much tension in Britain is immigration. According to the European Commission, over 65 million people today, due to natural disasters or other catastrophes, are considered displaced people, of whom one million have gone to the EU for shelter.
As a result of the refugee crisis, people within Britain viewed immigration negatively and wanted to leave the EU for England to have greater control over its borders, as stated in the Irish Times.
“With the downturn in the economy, there was a push to look for blame, and [Britain] placed blame on immigrants,” Gilbert said. “I think immigration was the tipping point for Brexit.”
Thus, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, signed the letter to the EU to start the process of Brexit on March 29, 2017, as said in a BBC News article. Under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which is part of the EU’s constitution, the EU and the United Kingdom were given two years to come to an agreement on Brexit, with the date of departure scheduled to be March 29, 2019.
Clearly, however, Brexit did not happen on March 29. The situation became more muddled since on March 12, the UK Parliament turned down May’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, according to the Atlantic Council.
May then held a vote on March 13, which determined that the majority of Members of Parliament opposed the having Brexit without making an agreement with the EU. Although May wanted to hold another vote for her Withdrawal Agreement, John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, restricted May from proposing the same agreement to the House, as stated in the Atlantic Council.
To allow Parliament more time to consider her Withdrawal Agreement or an alternate draft, May requested an extension for Brexit until June 30, said the Atlantic Council.
What dates in the future should readers look out for? Before European Parliament elections on May 23, May hopes to put forward her Withdrawal Agreement one more time, according to Financial Times.
If the treaty is not approved by May 22, the EU ordered that elections must be held. May might not be leading her party depending on the results of the elections. On June 1, however, the UK will leave the EU regardless if a deal is made with the EU or not. Oct. 31 is the new latest day where Brexit might happen, as said in the Financial Times.
If Brexit does happen, what could it mean for the future of the EU?
“[Brexit] definitely would [affect the EU] since Britain has always been known to be one of those great powers—in all of the world wars, Britain has always been one of the big five or the big three,” Model UN student Julia Biswas (10) said. “Britain leaving the European Union would definitely [mean] a power shift, since from what I’ve read, they’re a really big leader within the union, so if they leave, it would create somewhat of a power vacuum.”
While Gilbert is unsure if Brexit will set an example for other countries, history teacher Dr. Meyer believes that Brexit will surely cause more European countries to want to leave the EU.
“If we do leave, other countries will follow. There will be others,” Dr. Meyer said. “That’s why the EU is trying to negotiate really tough terms with England or tougher than we thought they might be, because they don’t want other countries to start leaving.”
Although Dr. Meyer thinks that Britain should be able to recover in the long term, she fears that Britain will not have enough preparations made post-Brexit for the short term.
“My main concern is that [after Brexit,] England will have a giant economic slump for at least five years. We never really recovered from that giant financial crash of 2007 where the world markets crashed and there was the stock exchange crash,” Dr. Meyer said. “[Economic disorder] is already happening: jobs are starting to erode, workers are going and companies consequently are shutting down. I don’t know if we’ve made enough for provisions for what’s going to replace those companies.”
At the end of the day, it is still unclear whether or not Brexit is happening. Although Oct. 31 is the next date placed for Brexit, no one can be sure if the decision will be carried out. One last vote will be held on June 3, a fourth, and most likely, final vote on the referendum.
“We just don’t know exactly what’s going to happen next,” Dr. Meyer said. “I think there’s enough effort [that has] been made to make some form of Brexit, [but] I think there’s a lot going on behind the scenes [that] we don’t know about.”