Britain and The European Union: A Rocky Relationship
April 25, 2017
In the midst of eating watermelon and basking in the golden sunlight of late June, my friend, clad with sunglasses and a halter top exclaimed, “BRITAIN IS LEAVING THE EUROPEAN UNION!”. To my surprise, I paused Spotify and asked her what it meant. She shrugged and responded with “not sure, probably won’t effect us anyway.” I asked myself if that was true. It raised the question: does the European Union and how they take position on world issues effect the world at large?
The idea of an EU began as early as the 1950s, but it wasn’t assembled until nearly 50 years later. Meanwhile, in America, the Peanuts comic strip was released for the first time. Considered a confederation, in which it is a union of sovereign states with equal power of those who inhabit it, the European Union is a group of 28 European countries (including Great Britain) that have allied and eliminated borders. This means that there is a free flow of goods and people, with random checkpoints for crime and drugs. Countries share technology, medical, and political development and discovery, as well as products and manufacturing. Practicers of services like law, banking, medicine, and insurance, can work freely in all EU countries. Because of this, travel and international communication of allied countries is cheap and encourages healthy relationships between nations.
Sounds good right? It generally is. That is, until a nation or group of nations decides to leave the EU. The British Exit, or Brexit refers to the United Kingdom’s retreat from the European Union. In our American summer, the referendum occurred just as school ended. On June 23rd, 2016 with a voting turnout of 71.8%, and Brexit being favored by 52% of those who voted. London, which is heavily populated by younger generations, and a multitude of left-leaning voters, voted against Brexit. The rest of England, and Wales, both voted in favor of leaving of the EU. Scotland and Northern Ireland both supported staying in the UK (and since the referendum, both have publicly stated they would not leave the EU with the rest of the UK). The reasoning for the outcome, and why citizens voted for it, is multifold.
A main unifying force of the EU is the use of the euro as currency for all members. This equalizes trade, imports, exports, and foreign economic affairs. Although most members signed to establish the euro, Britains chose to maintain its currency of the British pound. Following the 2008 financial crisis, Britain’s “euroskepticisim” rose, as some countries who used the euro nearly fell to brinks of bankruptcy (such as Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania). Another reason for voting to “Leave” is the promise of extended funds benefiting the National Health Service, a climbing issue for the U.K. The “Leave” vote tended to grow in areas in which wage growth has been the weakest. But it is also thought by others to be more of a cultural issue than an economic. Those uncomfortable with new, and progressive social changes and movements in Britain, were thought to vote “Leave”, according to exit polls. A poll taken by Lord Ashcroft seems to support the idea that “Leave” voters were less sympathetic to liberalism, feminism, and environmentalism. A similarity to the voting demographics of the 2016 American presidential election.
However, this sentiment doesn’t stop at the Atlantic Ocean. Like the U.K., the U.S. is experiencing a new wave of anti-liberalism. Though the United States is not a series of countries like the EU, it is (and named aptly) a plethora of separate states under federal rule (and some differing state laws). With such a diverse population as the U.S., it is no doubt that division occurs on nearly every issue. In Great Britain, in the United States and around the world, the tension between young and older generations has caused skewed voter turnout, protests, and some awkward Thanksgiving dinners. So how do we, as young people, acknowledge our grandparent’s opinions and have constructive discourse without our immaturity or their stubbornness? A question for another time. Officials have yet to state what Brexit actually means, but the referendum has shed light on a division of opinion in the United Kingdom, as well as brought global attention to the economic instability of Eastern European countries.
Brexit is far from over; British government still has yet to clarify what leaving the EU means. They also have yet to distinguish who will be affected by it (and what that means for Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales). Citizens of the U.K. are left in a state of limbo and strife. What comes next? is on everyone’s mind. Either there is little implementation of any new government rule, and there is leeway for EU and U.K. citizens, or there is strict rule and changes relations with each country involved with the EU. Until this happens, I know I will be enjoying the British snacks sold here in America, and hopefully acquiring a EU passport to see Big Ben in the flesh before anything happens to him.
***UPDATE 3/21: British parliament announces a EU meeting on April 29th, 2017 to discuss ways ahead in Britain leaving the EU
Special thank you to Mr. Vannelli for helping on the background of this subject!