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On the 23rd June all of us woke up to realise that the unthinkable had actually happened… Britain had voted to exit the European Union. However, the voting margin was so close that many questioned and still question whether such a huge decision could go ahead without a second vote. Despite over 4 million people petitioning to have a second EU referendum, British parliament has stuck to their guns by saying there was no threshold on votes and that Brexit would go ahead. Not only did we wake up to the reality that Britain had drawn a line on its membership with the European Union but we also saw the country become drastically divided with the 52% of Brexit campaigners and eurosceptics thrilled to bits that Britain was a step closer to ‘independence’ and the other 48% ashamed and in utter disbelief this was actually happening.
It didn’t take long to see the after effects of Brexit… we also awakened to see that the pound was at an all time low, in fact the lowest it had ever been in 30 years and the stock markets were crashing because of it. Then, of course, there was the utter outrage that we saw from those strongly in favour of remaining, which went viral pretty darn quickly. Yes… I’m talking about the cyclist who approached a group of Eurosceptics to tell them off and ask them to reflect about what they had done to the country but my all-time favourite has to be Boris Johnson getting jeered at by a crowd of pro-EU campaigners outside his home on the 24th June. And to add to the ridiculousness of the situation, we witnessed Nigel Farage’s emotive speech at the European Parliament. Not only did he rub Brexit in EU officials’ faces but he also made some pretty outrageous comments, such as ‘none of them had actually had a real job in their lives and claimed that EU countries would lose out more if they did not trade with the UK (Oh the irony of it all). This statement might have made Farage feel smug but all he got from the EU officials were snickers and disapproval. On the other hand, the Scottish MEP, Alyn Smith’s speech was received with great acclaim whilst at one point it seemed to have momentarily wiped the smug look off Farage’s face.
For Bremainers, this was mildly satisfying to watch but it was sad and scary to see that this decision was potentially causing the United Kingdom to fall apart. With Scotland SNP first minister, Nicola Sturgeon saying that Scotland would most likely hold a second independence referendum so that they could remain part of the European Union should Brexit go ahead and talks of Northern Ireland and the Republic Ireland forming an Irish Union just so Northern Ireland could stay in the European Union. Is this really what Brexiters intended? It doesn’t seem like it because soon after the vote, many Britons were googling what the E.U. actually was (Yes you better believe it! Some people didn’t even know what they were voting for)! Many but not all, do regret voting to leave but what is done is done.
As if the above wasn’t bad enough, on the 24th June the country also went into political turmoil when David Cameron resigned as PM after losing the campaign to stay in Europe and announcing the country needed a new leadership to go ahead with what would be a lengthy divorce process from Europe. The best of all was that 4 days later on the 28th, the pioneer of the Brexit campaign, Nigel Farage, also stood down as UKIP leader, stating that he ‘wanted his life back.’ What a reason! Everyone behind Brexit was standing down just like rats abandoning a sinking ship! So obviously the pound took another pounding during the time it was leaderless (around two weeks). But when Theresa May was appointed as the second lady Prime Minister, people were filled with hope and the pound stabilised slightly. The hope instilled in many of the pro-European campaigners was short lived after Theresa May’s ‘Brexit means Brexit and we’ll make a success out of it’ speech. So her and her new government (including Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary) had the hefty task of steering Britain away from Europe and in a new direction from Wednesday 13th July 2016.
So what’s actually been happening since Theresa May came into power? Well, not much apart from lots of talks but other than this not much has advanced. We’re still in Europe (woohoo!) and they’re not even sure when to trigger Article 50 (the two-year process that will eventually divorce the UK from Europe). Scottish Independence Talks have also died down – probably because the current government is still none the wiser how to go about this whole Brexit situation. The thing is, Theresa May has suggested that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty could be triggered as early as the beginning of next year but this is still very unclear and uncertain, given the fact that there will be a series of elections occurring in Europe in 2017 (mainly French and German elections) and whether the UK goes forward with Brexit also depends on this. What Theresa May would probably be wanting to avoid next year is initiating Article 50 and then having other countries in the Eurozone not heed any attention to the negotiations that Brexit would ensue. So delaying Article 50 until later in 2017 may be a preferable option for May and her cabinet. However, many believe that Brexit will happen before 2020, seeing this is when the EU sets its new budget so it would be convenient for them to have the UK out of the Union by then not to mention the fact there will be general elections in the UK in 2020 and no one wants to have that on their backs when campaigning. So we know that the UK will most probably be out of the EU by 2020 but when exactly Article 50 will be triggered is still up in the air. Downing Street has been pretty invasive as to when it will be triggered that’s for sure and contrary to what Boris Johnson recently said, the article will not be evoked this year as May and her government are working on their negotiations.
And so they should be because can the UK really profit from the Single Market without being a member of the EU? Boris Johnson is adamant that the UK will strike a deal with the EU regarding staying in the single market. However, according to the EU Parliament, Britain will not be able to access the single market without free movement. In other words, they cannot close out EU nationals and then profit from the movement of goods that the EU has. Furthermore, it is unlikely the EU Parliament will lax on this, given the fact that they do want to give other EU state members any funny ideas but then could there be a middle ground where the UK is allowed to restrict migration but still remain in the EU and will this therefore, content the Britons enough for them to revoke Brexit? Who knows? Things are still just as uncertain as they were on the 24th June, the only difference is that we’re over the shock and the only thing we can do from now on is see how things pan out. The cards have been laid down and no one is sure what the next move will be, we just have to wait but whatever it be, it best be a well-thought move.