Brexit (2016- ) is the name for Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU). Long talked about, it became more than talk on June 23rd 2016 when 52% of Britain voted in favour of leaving the EU.
Britain will likely sink into recession, which could spread to Europe, if not China and the US, throwing people out of work. Stock markets are already down across the world.
Scotland, where most people wanted to remain in the EU, could break away and become an independent nation, as it almost did in 2014.
David Cameron, the British prime minister since 2010, has already said he will step down. Even though most of his fellow Tories were for Brexit, he was against it, making him not the man to carry it out. Britain will likely have a new prime minister by August.
The exit could well take two to seven years to complete: Britain will have to hammer out new agreements with the EU, particularly on trade. It could get ugly: France and Germany will want to make an example of it so that other countries think twice before leaving. Only one country had left so far: Greenland in 1982. Greece, though, has come close – called the Grexit.
The EU: Britain joined the EU in 1973, then known as the European Economic Community (EEC). The EU is made up of nearly all the countries of Western Europe and many in Eastern Europe. Most share a common currency, the euro. They share a common market where trade, money and people can flow more freely between countries. It has not so far been able to create a common military, though it seems to have something of a foreign policy.
Britain does not use the euro – it still has the pound – but it is part of the common market.
The main arguments for and against Brexit turned on the effects of the common market:
- Trade: If Britain leaves the EU, free trade with Europe will end. Not only will trade drop and prices and unemployment go up, but countries like Japan and the US will have less reason to put their money into Britain as a way to enter the European market.
- Immigration: If Britain leaves the EU, it will be able to control its borders and stop hundreds of thousands of people from pouring into the country every year.
Brexit was heavily favoured by the English working class, to whom the disadvantages of immigration would be more apparent than the advantages of free trade.
It was immigration that gave rise to the nativist UK Independence Party (UKIP), led by Nigel Farage, a Brexit champion. He is a nativist and a liar like Donald Trump, but less extreme.
The Tories promised to get immigration under 100,000 a year. Cameron failed to achieve that through EU reforms. Leaving the EU was the only way to do it. By 2015 there were enough Tories in parliament to push through a nationwide vote on Brexit, which at long last took place on the 23rd.
– Abagond, 2016.