“To be or not to be. That is the question.”
Shakespeare’s famous line is becoming increasingly descriptive of Britain’s current situation. Brexit has been an ongoing issue in the UK ever since the initial referendum in 2016. The heat on the issue has been increasing, largely due to the fact that Article 50 is fast approaching, and Britain’s due-date to leave the EU is less than two months away.
What Is Article 50?
Article 50 is a section of the Treaty of Lisbon. It is so short you could easily hold it on a fortune cookie paper. This 250-word long chunk of text may be what is going to decide Britain’s future as a global superpower.
This section of the treaty outlines the fact that every nation may choose to leave the EU under their own constitution. In 2016, Britain famously “elected” to opt out of the EU with a 51.8% majority. In addition, article 50 briefly outlines the process through which a member-state can do this.
Due to the 2016 referendum, the UK has pulled the trigger on the “Brexit process” — a process for the UK to leave the European Union. Since this debate has been sparked both in and out of the country, mostly due to article 50 never being evoked before.
When Will It Happen?
The tricky thing with Brexit as of late is that neither the EU nor the UK seem all too eager to pull the trigger. Britain is asking for more and more privileges in its leave, however, the EU is against concessions, particularly as a deterrent for future countries aspiring to leave the EU.
Currently, Brexit is projected to happen on March 29th of 2019. This date is awfully close, and the UK and EU aren’t even near a potential conclusion to their debate. Even within the UK, there has been discord, with Scotland and Ireland trying to stay in the EU. The EU has embraced efforts such as these.
The EU has offered an extension of article 50 as a potential solution, extending the Brexit communication until July at the earliest. Theresa May has responded to these offers with a resounding and confident “No”.
“We’re leaving on 29 March, I’ve been clear I don’t believe we should be extending article 50 and I don’t believe we should be having a second referendum.” — British Prime Minister, Theresa May.
This statement by May has left many in the country perplexed, as negotiations on both sides have been tense to say the least.
Ireland, Scotland And…London?
Ireland and Scotland have voted to stay during the referendum, as has the capital, London. A solution proposed by the citizens of these areas is for the parts that have voted for Brexit to leave the EU, while the rest of the UK stays.
This has lead to increased tension within the nation, as Scots and Brits didn’t get along, to begin with. Let alone now that England and Wales might take the other two members of the UK out of the EU. Because of this, Scotland has begun to seriously consider yet another independence vote. The EU has confirmed that if either of the parts of the EU chooses to leave, the EU will welcome them with open arms.
Brexit may have even harsher implications for Ireland, as a border between Northern and Southern Ireland would impact the quality of life in both.
This puts Britain in a fragile state from the inside, with political discord slowly reaching a peak as the due-date for Brexit approaches.
Can It Be Stopped?
The EU has been open about its position that the UK may halt the process at any time. It would no doubt be much easier for the EU if one of their most central states didn’t leave. It also worries European politicians that if such a big player, the UK, ends up leaving, smaller states may end up acting by their example.
In turn, the EU has been adamant in their difficult policies and negotiations with the UK. Attempting to dissuade the UK from leaving, as well as giving Scotland and Ireland ample time to try to attain independence.
In addition, there has been an outcry across the UK ever since the referendum finished. This was mostly due to there being a large amount of misinformation spread through the country at the time. Additionally, it was such a small majority that tipped the vote, the 30% of the country that didn’t vote may have taken their chosen result for granted.
As all similar votes, it goes in favor of “change” rather than the status quo, as people for the status quo may simply take their victory for granted. These factors combined have led to a lot of people in the UK calling for a second referendum, and the annulment of the last one, as it was not legally binding.
Resolute, the UK prime minister has stayed with her position on Brexit, going as far as to implement the departure of the union into UK law. According to May, a second referendum, or no Brexit would make the integrity of the democratic process suffer.
Lately, Theresa May’s decision for a hard Brexit (one where the UK isn’t part of the EU single market and Customs Union) has lead to more hurried and increasing developments. The latest meeting of May and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker on February 7th, 2019 has been a positive experience. Both parties seemed content and ruled the meeting successful and productive.
The political situation in the UK has been growing tense, with the Labor party laying out their demands in order to stand behind May’s Brexit deal. They have proposed 5 binding deals, including joining a UK wide customs union.
The UK must hurry to find an agreement in the EU, because a no-deal Brexit, where they don’t come to an agreement could have disastrous consequences. In fact, some of the UK’s biggest exporters may find themselves unable to dock in far away foreign harbors.
In the end, nobody can know what will happen with Brexit, some like the European Council President, Donald Tusk, hope the UK stays. Others like May hope to find an agreeable solution for the UK to leave, however, one thing is certain. No matter whether the UK leaves or stays, Brexit will have a substantial and lasting impact on the global economy and EU politics.