By: Stella Pagkas, Social Medoa Manager
Since 2016 you’ve likely heard a lot about the Brexit, Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, which is supposed to go into effect in March of this year. Many liberals are outraged by it, controversy surrounds the British Prime Minister Theresa May, and no one quite understands how things are going to proceed. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know.
Voting in 2016
June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom, which consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, voted in a public referendum, which only contained one question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” 72.2% of registered voters participated, and 51.9% voted to leave the EU, making the Brexit official.
Britons voted to leave the EU for a variety of reasons, one of them being the economic state of the Eurozone. Many nations in the European Union struggled to recover from the 2008 global recession, especially after the European Central Bank increased interest rates. The eurozone system nearly collapsed, and certain European nations like Greece are still struggling financially. Many British people also felt that EU regulations were too overbearing, and wanted more autonomy.
Negotiations Over the Withdrawal Agreement
Since the 2016 vote, the UK has been negotiating with the EU over the specific proceedings of the Brexit, including the amount the UK will pay the EU, the status of UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK, and the potential border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU. A withdrawal deal was drafted, but January 15th the British Parliament voted strongly against it, as many feel that it fails to address important issues and does not give the UK complete autonomy.
The No Confidence Vote
Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the British Labour Party, then proposed a no confidence vote, meaning the British Parliament would vote on whether or not they felt that Prime Minister Theresa May was fit to hold her position. This vote could have led to a general election, but January 16th the no confidence vote lost by just nineteen members of Parliament, and May was able to hold onto her position.
Following the no confidence vote, Prime Minister Theresa May met with party leaders to devise a new Brexit deal, stating, “We must find solutions that are negotiable and command sufficient support in this House,” On January 21st, May revealed her “Plan B,” which Parliament voted on on January 29th. However, “Plan B” very closely resembles May’s original withdrawal agreement, with what many are calling “cosmetic” changes. Additionally, in order to gain support from many Parliament members, May would have needed to promise that a no-deal Brexit, in which the UK leaves the EU without any formal negotiation, is completely off the table, which she didn’t promise.
If “Plan B” was favored by Parliament, the Brexit would likely have proceeded as expected under these new terms on March 29th of this year. However, Parliament voted to rewrite the backstop with Northern Ireland, which ensures that there will be no hard border between the UK and Northern Ireland. Now, Prime Minister Theresa May is supposed to go to the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium to renegotiate the Brexit agreement.
However, the EU has already outright refused to renegotiate the Irish border after it was painstakingly negotiated for eighteen months and signed last November. Furthermore, Parliament voted against a no-deal Brexit, which does have any legal implications, but puts further pressure on Theresa May to negotiate an agreement. Now, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn has agreed to discuss the next steps for the Brexit with May.
If no Brexit withdrawal agreement can be negotiated and approved by Parliament, the UK may have to settle for a no-deal Brexit. This would mean that the relationship between the EU and the UK would be based solely on international public laws, rather than specific regulations. In effect, this could be harmful to the British economy, as well as creating problems for UK citizens in Europe and EU citizens in the UK, and reimposing border checks at the UK border.It is also possible that there could be another referendum in which UK citizens could vote again on whether or not the UK should leave the EU at all. While it is official UK law that the UK will exit the EU at 11 pm UK time on the 29th, the law can be changed. Additionally, the European Court of Justice has ruled that the UK can cancel the Brexit without the agreement of the 27 other EU members, and the terms of the UK’s current EU membership can continue without change.