By: Tim Maninger, News Writer
Last summer the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, held a referendum to decide whether to leave the EU or to remain. Cameron campaigned in favor of remaining a part of the EU, so when the results came in favor of leaving the EU he resigned and was promptly replaced by Theresa May, who pivoted after the referendum to support the movement to leave the EU as the will of the people. Since that point many Brits have come to regret their vote, but PM May is determine to follow through with the Brexit. On March 29 she formally announced to the EU that the United Kingdom planned to leave within two years. At the end of April the EU responded with their terms for the exit.
The general consensus among leaders of the EU is that the British are underestimating the difficulty and amount of negotiation associated with leaving. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed that she thinks there are many Brits who do not understand that there are two stages to the negotiations: the terms of exit, and the terms of the relationship of the EU and Britain following the split. Many facets of this relationship still need to be negotiated, such as whether the UK will stay a part of the EU single market, whether tariffs or customs checks will be implemented, and whether EU workers living in the UK Afwill need visas and vice versa. With all the work it will take to exit the EU those who voted for it must have had some fairly clear reasons to do so.
One thing that Theresa May has said that the referendum made clear is that the people of the UK want to reduce immigration. Her aim is to keep numbers of immigrants below 100,000 per year, what she defines as a sustainable level. Outside of immigration the main reason cited by Brexiteers for their view is British sovereignty. They have become disillusioned with EU laws taking precedence and governing British citizens. They would prefer to have the British government govern the British people. These goals may be understandable, but the process for leaving the EU is still largely unknown even though there is legislation in place.
The UK is the first nation state, and only the second entity to formally ask to leave the EU. The first was Greenland, which is technically a territory of Denmark, in 1982. Since then the Treaty of Lisbon was passed in 2009, article 50 of which is five paragraphs long and describes the process for leaving the EU. It basically states that a member wishing to leave must notify the European Council, and negotiate its exit within two years. The member wishing to leave is not allowed to attend the EU side meetings planning these negotiations.
Britain’s exit of the EU raises concerns that other nations will follow suit. France’s presidential election is next month and both of the major candidates have mentioned a “Frexit”. These events follow the trend of far right nationalist candidates taking a larger share of the vote across the globe in recent years. The next few years will be interesting ones for Europe and the world, to see the results of these trends, and whether they continue.