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Brexit: An Overview

The news of Brexit shook the world, instantly becoming a contentious debate globally, with several thriving economies questioning the legitimacy of the deal and whether it would contribute to the ‘rise’ or the ‘fall’ of what is considered the once mighty British Empire. Essentially being viewed as a vote against globalization, the decision to leave the European Union and function as a separate economy, essentially a sovereign state capable of absolute self governance, was not well received by everyone, with a few British citizens questioning the ruling party at the time, leading to the Conservative Party eventually being forced to continue as a minority government.

Theresa May, Former Prime Minister of the UK

To begin with, the UK Government voted to leave the EU in 2016, and officially left the trading bloc on 31st January, 2020. However, both sides agreed to keep numerous aspects – inter-country travel, certain precarious trade deals – the same until 31st December, 2020 in order to allow enough time for forming new trade deals. The negotiation process was bitter and complex due to constant disagreements, finally concluding on the 24th of December. Prior to the finalisation of this controversial deal, the British government had formally incited Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, setting in motion a two year process which enabled the UK to leave the EU on March 29, 2019. Covering the general features of Brexit, freedom to live and work between the UK and the EU draws to an eventual end and UK nationals require a visa to reside in the EU for more than 90 days in a 180 day time period, effective immediately in 2021. Now that the state is no longer in the EU, the UK is free to set its own trade policy and can negotiate deals with other countries. Currently, discussions are being held with Australia, New Zealand, and the US, countries which do not have free trade agreements with the EU, though, notably, Northern Ireland will remain almost wholly unaffected, due to the risk of potential disruptions with the Republic of Ireland.

Reflecting upon the negative impact of Brexit, Theresa May and her Conservative Party faced massive backlash, losing its majority and being forced to continue in a weakened state as a minority government. Though former Home Secretary turned Prime Minister May is often spotlighted for the events that took place during her reign, Brexit was originally introduced by Prime Minister David Cameron during the 2013 elections, proving Brexit’s extremely rocky state and allowing the global community to doubt the process. Moreover, May soon became the sole backer of every agreement occurring between the UK and the EU, resorting to constantly urging the British Parliament to back the deals. On December 12th, 2018, conservative lawmakers who back a clean break from the EU trigger a vote of no-confidence over May’s handling of Brexit, but she successfully wins it 200 to 117, making her viable to handle such a challenge for another year. The House of Commons rejected May’s agreement three times, with an overwhelming vote of 432 to 202. The EU agreed to extend the Brexit deadline, just over a week before Britain's scheduled departure on March 29, but on April 11th, Britain and the EU agreed for a second time to extend the withdrawal deadline to keep Brexit from happening without a deal in place. The new deadline set was October 31st, 2019. The British government saw a significant change as May stepped down on the 7th of June with Boris Johnson assuming Prime Ministership and immediately insisting the UK leave the EU on 31st October, 2019, despite the non-existence of a deal.

To narrow down upon the internal and International implications of Brexit, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement has three main pillars: trade, cooperation, and governance that took effect on Jan. 1, 2021. Notably, the agreement does not cover foreign policy and defence. The UK suffered a strong blow as a consequence of Brexit: the economy has slowed, and many businesses, notably smaller ones but significant to the UK, have moved their headquarters to the EU in order to better sustain their companies. Furthermore, the Brexit agreement explicitly states that the U.K. must negotiate new trade agreements with countries outside of the EU, which had more than 40 trade agreements with 70 countries already in place. Globally, the value of the euro fell by 2% while the value of the Great British pound fell by a whopping 8%, marking London’s loss as New York’s gain, as Brexit threw into uncertainty the status of London as a global financial centre. Additionally, the existence of anti-immigration and severely right-wing oriented parties in other European countries, such as France and Germany, further threatens the survival of the EU, due to the immense contribution of the thriving economies of the aforementioned countries.

Brexit is a vote against globalization. As a result, it has weakened forces in the EU that favour integration. Anti-EU sentiments are majorly portrayed by members of right-wing, anti-immigration parties in France and Germany, and if enough ground is gained, they could force an anti-EU vote. If either of those countries left, the EU would lose its most robust economies and would dissolve.

Written by Srijaa Chatterjee

Edited by Thenthamizh SS and Adi Roy



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