On June 23, registered voters of the United Kingdom voiced their opinion whether the nation should ‘Remain’ in or ‘Leave’ the European Union.
What’s U.K.’s history with the EU?
European Union was originally formed with six nations in 1957. Today, it is a gigantic transnational entity of 28 countries, including the U.K., which joined only in 1973. Though part of EU, Britain has traditionally had a ‘eurosceptic’ stand. It continues to use the Pound as its currency, while most EU nations have moved to Euro. Neither does it participate in the Schengen border-free zone, which allows passport-free travel in EU.
How long will it take for Britain to leave the EU?
Interestingly, this is the second time U.K. has sought a referendum on this issue. In 1975 Prime Minister Harold Wilson called a referendum after considerable opposition rose from within the country on U.K. staying with the European Economic Community, the precursor of the EU. With 67 per cent of those who voted preferring to ‘Remain’, U.K. stayed on.
Why do some in Britain want to leave the EU?
Many people in Britain believe that EU is making inroads into British sovereignty. Many in the ruling Conservative Party and the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) believe that the EU has changed since the time it was formed and that it was impacting daily life.
Some key issues are:
Any citizen of an EU member state can relocate and work in the UK without needing a work visa. Most economists agree that this is good for the economy, but right-wingers complain that non-UK citizens are coming in and using up already-scarce public resources, like the National Health Service and welfare. Anyone who’s been engaged in America’s immigration debate will find this familiar, especially all the implicit racist overtones. Indeed, the far-right United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader, Nigel Farage, could give Donald Trump a run for his money in the outrageous remarks department.
As EU’s membership expanded, more Europeans, especially from poorer EU nations, started migrating to U.K. using the “freedom of movement” clause. The anti-immigration parties argue this puts a severe strain on national resources and add up to welfare expenditure. The pro-EU members argue that EU migrants contribute more to the national economy than they take out.
The Remain side argues that in the era of international terrorism and criminality, cooperating with the EU will make the U.K. safer, while the other side says that the security risk will in fact increase if the U.K. does not have control over its borders.
The Remain side argues that as three million jobs are tied to the EU there could be a jobs crisis if the U.K. leaves the EU; Brexiteers claim that there will be a jobs boom without the fetters that EU regulations impose.
On trade, the Remain side says that access to the single European market, free of tariffs and border controls, is critical for the U.K. as 45 per cent of its trade is with the EU. The Leave side says that the EU needs British markets and individual trade deals with European countries can be easily negotiated.
The economics issue is that the UK sends money to Brussels (the HQ of the EU), which then gets redistributed to the various other member states. The arguments of those in favor of Brexit — the Leave Campaign — sound similar to Americans who complain about national funding which goes to programs like the National Endowment for the Arts. “Why should we have to pay for that?” The Remain Campaign, on the other hand, argues that leaving the EU (and its common market, in which Britain can sell goods to all EU states under favorable terms) would wreck the British economy, and possibly the world economy.
Remain argues that leaving the EU will put the dominance of London, the Europe’s financial centre, at risk as banks will move out, whereas the Brexiteers argue that London’s status is unassailable as it is already a global power base.
But perhaps most importantly, people in the U.K. don’t generally see themselves as European, and the question of British identity within the EU is a complicated one. As a member state, the U.K. must abide by various EU policies, some of which can seem ridiculous or overly constricting, like rules on bananas and pet horses.
The Leavers argue that Brexiting would allow the UK to take control back over its laws. And while many (including John Oliver) have countered this argument by pointing out questionable claims by the Leavers, the Remainers don’t seem to have a good answer for the more abstract question over what it means to be British. Indeed, “Make Britain Great Again” wouldn’t feel out of sync with the Leave campaign’s rhetoric.
How will this referendum affect the EU?
Much of the EU’s money comes from its member states. And the UK is one of the larger contributors.
The money is spent on administration of the EU in each member country, aid activities outside the EU, grants for asylum, education and culture, on preserving and managing natural resources (this includes, agriculture, fishing, mining and so on), helping poorer countries in Europe and in grants to research in science and technology and in helping small businesses.
A British exit from the European Union would rock the Union — already shaken by differences over migration and the future of the eurozone — by ripping away its second-largest economy, one of its top two military powers and by far its richest financial centre.
This could also give rise to more nations contemplating exit from the Union. Greece, last year held a referendum in which its citizens overwhelmingly rejected EU’s bailout norms.
How long will it take for Britain to leave the EU?
The minimum period after a vote to leave will be two years. During that time Britain will continue to abide by EU treaties and laws, but not take part in any decision-making, as it negotiated a withdrawal agreement and the terms of its relationship with the now 27 nation bloc. In practice it may take longer than two years, depending on how the negotiations go.
Has any member state ever left the EU, or will the UK be the first?
No nation state has ever left the EU. But Greenland, one of Denmark’s overseas territories, held a referendum in 1982, after gaining a greater degree of self government, and voted by 52% to 48% to leave, which it duly did after a period of negotiation.
Source: BBC News/the hindu.com/bustle.com