To Brexit or not to Brexit

“Brexit has divided the country. It has divided political parties. And it has divided families too.”

Jo Johnson

An event that would send ripples all over the continent happened on 23 June 2016. The UK held a referendum on its membership in the EU. 

The question facing voters was: ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ 52% voted to leave. It has sparked the process called Brexit. 

The implementation period lasted until 31 December 2020. The UK followed all EU laws and rules during this time, while negotiations were held on the new relationship between the UK and the EU.

Today, almost a year later, the UK and the EU are still fine-tuning specific agreements, and the debate on the pros and cons of Brexit is still ongoing. 

The pros and cons of Brexit 

There are many arguments favour and against Brexit regarding politics, economics and national identity. 

Sovereignty

People in favour of Brexit argue that the UK does not have to share power with the EU institutions anymore. Instead, it can re-establish itself as a truly independent nation with connections to the rest of the world.

On the other hand, Remainers believe that the UK is giving up its influence in Europe and retreating from the global power networks of the 21st century. 

Immigration

Brexiteers emphasise that Britain could not prevent a citizen of another member state from coming to live in the UK under EU law. The result was a massive increase in immigration into Britain, particularly from eastern and southern Europe.

Remainers focus on an equivalent right for Britons to live and work anywhere in the EU. They also claim that the overall effect of immigration was overwhelmingly positive. 

Security

For Leavers, staying in the EU means leaving the “door open” to terrorist attacks. The open border does not allow the UK to check and control people.

By contrast, Remainers insist that the UK and the EU exchange criminal records and passenger records and work together on counter-terrorism. 

Trade

Staying in the EU means being a part of a single market where imports and exports between member states are exempt from tariffs and other barriers. Services, including financial services, are also offered without restriction across the continent.

On the other hand, Brexiteers argue that the UK could compensate for those advantages by making its own trade agreements – free of the regulatory burden of EU membership.

Investment

According to Remainers, the UK will lose its status as one of the world’s biggest financial centres because London will no longer be seen as a gateway to the EU for US banks. Also, if companies move their headquarters back into the EU, tax revenues will drop. 

Leavers, however, maintain that a deal to allow continued tariff-free trading would be secured even if the UK left the single market. Another argument favouring leaving the EU is that Britain’s economy will be free from the EU rules and regulations.

Jobs

One of the advantages of reduced immigration would be less competition for jobs and, potentially, higher wages. 

Yet, fewer people coming to the country can also cause skills shortages in the UK workforce and decreased demand for goods and services. One of the recent examples is a lack of lorry drivers

Takeaway

The concept of British exceptionalism has endured since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The notion of not being “just” another European nation might be the root cause of the Brexit process. Britain was never entirely comfortable within the Union, which ultimately led to the referendum of 2016.

It remains to be seen what the long-term consequences of Brexit will be. The wagers range from the typically British attitude “They need us more than we need them” to the words of Sir John Major “We are no longer a great power. We will never be so again”. 

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Sources: 

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887

https://www.theweek.co.uk/brexit-0

https://www.business-standard.com/about/what-is-brexit

https://www.e-ir.info/2020/12/22/in-search-of-british-exceptionalism-post-brexit/

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