Brexit. For Americans, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but to their tea-sipping friends across the pond, it is perhaps the largest political maneuver the United Kingdom has seen in the last few decades.
On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum to leave the European Union with a vote of 52% in favor and 48% against. The European Union (EU) is an international economic and political agreement between 28 countries in Europe. The agreement was created in the fallout of World War II on the idea that peace would be maintained between trading countries—and it has, by and large, worked. The EU allows for the free movement of goods and people, and it also acts as a multinational governing body that has the ability to make laws. The EU’s role as a diplomatic body helps to ensure a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Europe.
The European Union and the United States have maintained a strong relationship for over 60 years, and are the two most powerful political and economic entities in the world. “[Brexit] potentially changes that relationship permanently. What are we getting from Britain that we can’t get from Germany?” said Sean Doss, a student teacher for Portia Hall’s government and economics classes at Franklin. “Going forward, I think that within the next ten or twenty years, you’ll see a total shift in relationships between the US and Europe.”
The day following the Brexit vote, the British pound fell by 10-15% to the Euro and 10% to the US dollar. The DOW also fell by 610.32 points, which complicates the stock market because a stronger dollar makes US stocks more expensive for foreign investors. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. That unknown component is where you have instability even if [Brexit] goes poorly,” said Doss.
The Brexit referendum was initiated by the Former British Prime Minister David Cameron in an attempt to silence members within his political party, but it backfired with anti-EU and anti-immigration movements winning out. Most of the people in the UK who voted for Brexit were older working class citizens who believed that the EU was threatening their national identity and that regulations were holding their country back.
“Something with such large possible ramifications like that shouldn’t have been a simple yes or no. A yes or no part is one thing, but make it pass by more than 50 percent plus one,” Doss said. “You don’t just go forward when something is that divided and that important.”
Conversely, some European leaders feel that if the UK leaves the EU, they will have more freedom to establish themselves on the world stage without being under the UK’s arm. Across Europe, in countries like France and Germany, anti-immigration parties are gaining popularity and Brexit may influence more countries to also leave the EU.
On March 14, a day after British Members of Parliament (MP’s) passed a vote to not go forward with a no-deal Brexit, the MP’s failed to pass a vote that would have allowed for Prime Minister Theresa May to request an extension on the March 29 Brexit deadline.
This leaves two options on the table where the UK could either leave without a deal or continue to vote on the Mays decision, both of which aren’t popular paths. A yes vote would have resulted in May seeking a deadline extension from the EU.
The British Parliament is in a state of disarray. The March 13 vote eliminated the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, which passed in a 312-308 vote and it effectively replaced May’s original motion. However, shortly after that vote, May whipped her own party to vote against ruling out a no-deal and she lost by 43 votes. The devastating loss shows how weak May is within Parliament and her own party and with another major upset on the books, there’s an increased possibility of another general election.
If nothing can be agreed upon by March 29, the UK has the option to call off Brexit but with such a chaotic parliament anything can happen. “I don’t mean just their population, I don’t even think their government knows what they’re doing,” said Doss. “Their leadership doesn’t really seem to have a good vision of what [Brexit] means going forward and this is worrying.”