Brexit: What Happens Next?

After World War II, European nations had the task of ensuring that war would never break out again in Europe. Thus, the the European Union, more commonly known as the EU, was formed: a coalition of 28 European nations working toward stability, democracy, and economic growth (“What is the EU and How Does it Work?”). Among the accomplishments of the EU include the establishment of the Euro as a form of currency throughout Europe and the removal of border controls between all nations within the EU, as well as functioning as the world’s largest economic trading bloc (“The EU in Brief”). In 2019, the EU is concerned with decreasing regional inequalities, helping the environment, advancing human rights and developing education and research (“What is the EU and How Does it Work?”). However, despite these achievements, the people of the United Kingdom expressed their desire to leave the EU back in 2016. As it is now 2019, the clock is ticking: will the UK actually be able to leave the EU smoothly? What kind of deal will Prime Minister May strike?

According to Aljazeera World News, former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron was elected in 2015 because of his promise to deliver Brexit. He in fact kept to his election promise; on June 23, 2016, a referendum was held in the UK on Brexit (“Brexit: A Timeline”). For the 51.9%  of voters who wish to leave the EU, the choice was a simple one, rooted in both an economic and cultural divide in the UK. According to Ben Chu, an economics columnist for The Independent, the pro-Brexit argument was not most motivated by increased desire for economic sovereignty, but instead was “a giant protest vote against the political class by people who feel economically “left behind” in modern Britain” (Chu). In addition to the economic divide the Brexit vote reveals, it also sheds light on a cultural one. According to a 2017 poll by the Tory peer Lord Ashcroft, the pro-Brexit camp was also motivated by people who are “inherently uncomfortable with the social changes in Britain in recent decades, particularly with immigration” (Chu). Without Brexit, the UK would see increased border control and more regulated immigration policies that the EU currently denies the nation. This combination of socio-economic and cultural factors proved sufficient enough evidence for just over half of the UK’s voting population to press the “leave” button on their ballots.

Soon after the referendum and Prime Minister Cameron’s resignation from his position as Prime Minister, Theresa May, a member of the Conservative party, was appointed the new Prime Minister (“Brexit: A Timeline”). Now, she is confounded with the task of making a deal with the EU that causes the least possible economic and social turmoil in Britain. In March of 2017, May triggered Article 50, which began the Brexit process of negotiations to form a deal to leave the EU (“Brexit: A Timeline”). According to The Institute for Government, EU-UK negotiations were conducted by a body called the EU council and the British Parliament, where “both the Council of the EU and the European Parliament are entitled to vote on the final deal” (“The EU’s Role in Brexit Negotiations”). These deal negotiations went on through all of 2018, where the EU and British Parliament concocted a preliminary deal in November (“Brexit Timeline: The UK’s departure from the EU”). However, in a vote in the British parliament on January 15, this deal was rejected (“Brexit: A timeline”). According to William Booth at The Washington Post, this rejection is an enormous embarrassment for Theresa May (Booth). Booth says that this is a “pure humiliation for a British leader who has spent the past two years trying to sell her vision of Brexit to a skeptical public” (Booth). Such a reaction has only heightened anti-May sentiment throughout the UK, and especially within her own party. With only 73 days until the scheduled Brexit day on March 29, 2019, Theresa May is stuck in a precarious situation: either leave the EU with no deal, as proponents such as former foreign secretary Boris Johnson advocate, or scramble together a deal in such a short amount of time (Booth). In the case of the former, many fear an unforeseen economic and humanitarian crisis, one that could be just as devastating to the average citizen as to the British parliament and economy.