The transaction has been completed. The lines are drawn. In the United Kingdom (UK), the European Union (EU) no longer has authority. In the UK, the government is set to rule itself with no outside influence. This is Brexit, or the “British Exit,” in which Great Britain leaves the economic partnership known as the EU. But what does this move really mean? How does it affect British and European citizens? And why is there still so much debate around it?
On June 23, 2016, a vote known as a referendum was held in the UK. In this poll, the general public voted on Brexit itself. Voters ultimately decided for the UK to leave the EU, with 52 to 48%, or 17.4 million to 16.1 million votes. Originally, the planned departure date was set for March of 2019. However, negotiations with the EU took longer than expected, and Brexit did not go through until the end of last year. The reasons for such delays fall to the “withdrawal agreement,” or the terms on how the UK was to leave. In short, the withdrawal agreement faced several drafts after Parliament members could not form a unified withdrawal. Eventually, the agreement was finished and mainly consisted of the amount the UK was required to pay, which was 47 billion. Questions were left regarding what happens to UK residents living elsewhere in the EU and EU residents living in the UK, and whether the United Kingdom would abide by rules similar to the EU’s (it was decided the UK would eventually not). The withdrawal agreement itself led to several Brexit delays, which pushed the “leave day” from March of 2019 to December of 2020.
Ultimately, the effects of Brexit mostly boil down to economics, politics, and travel. Previously, EU and UK citizens alike could travel freely between borders. Now, citizens of either are legally required to apply and receive a travel/work visa in order to cross boundaries. For other citizens, Brexit will introduce strict checks and document requirements on economic imports and exports, which may result in long backup times and greater budget strains for those carrying commodities. Furthermore, the UK’s European exit allows for the country to freely make its own economic decisions and policies, a job previously left up only to the EU. This new freedom can, and most likely will, impact the rest of the world, and can open up new trade opportunities with other global superpowers.
These new changes also come with the potential for major future disputes. Currently, the UK and EU have agreed to follow certain identical rules, but the former is allowed to create and adhere to their own policies in the future. Such openings may lead to public disagreements, which may even result in new tariffs or taxes, all placing strain on an already fragile relationship between the EU and UK.
The future is yet to be known, but the British exit of the European stage has created ripples to be felt for decades to come. Turmoil has engulfed the United Kingdom and European Union alike, and the pair are unsure of their future relationship – or lack thereof.