What is going on with Brexit?
Does Brexit mean Brexit?
On the 23rd of June, The United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU); 51.9% of those who took part in the referendum decided that “Brexit” (British Exit) was the future. The implications of this decision are massive, even today we are still unclear as to what the precise details of these implications are. Yes, structured predictions have been made by many economic and political theorists, but the current issue at hand is not yet the implications, but the question of what Brexit will look like when it is done.
For those who are unaware the European Union is a political and economic union of 28 (soon to be 27) member states of Europe. It evolved from post-World War Two treaties and various Economic organisations comprised over half a century. With its own internal single market and standardised system of laws for its member states, it’s influence and reach in world affairs is massive. It even has its own president and elected council. Essentially being a part of the EU, is in layman’s terms a huge deal. Thus, when the UK made the decision to leave the EU it was a ‘huge deal’. But just what does this huge deal look like?
When Theresa May became Prime Minister in July 2016, she went to work framing and delivering this “deal”. She based the foundations of her office on Brexit. A Department for “Exiting the European Union” was established and is currently led by David Davis. Whilst May assured parliament that Article 50- a part of European Law that sets out the process by which member states may leave the EU- would be finalised by 2019, the journey towards Brexit has so-far been fraught with obstacles.
On October 2016, The High Court heard a case presented by Gina Miller whose name would become synonymous with the “Remain” campaign, which challenged the legality of the UK Government’s proposed use of prerogative (privilege) powers to give notice of intention to leave the EU under Article 50. They ruled in favour of the claimants meaning the government would have to pass an act of parliament before it could trigger Article 50.
For a while it seemed like Theresa May and her government’s plans had been stalled. Despite an appeal from the government the court remained firm in their decision and on the 7th of December MPs voted by a large majority to respect the outcome of the referendum. Over the next three months the “European Union Bill” was passed through Parliament and on March 2017, Article 50 was officially triggered. After battling a tenuous snap general election with Thersa May scraping a win by the skin of her teeth, the United Kingdom is officially in the process of leaving the European Union.
Since the trigger, talks have been taking place- three rounds of talks concerning EU exit negotiations took place in Summer of 2017 and have continued this fall. Despite a progression, albeit to some slow, you may have been noticed over the last month or so reports of a ‘Deadlock’ in Brexit negotiations and talks. It stemmed from the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michael Barnier’s statement that Brexit talks had reached a deadlock over concerns over the U.K’s financial obligations, which resulted in a halt to the second phase of Brexit talks in October.
Things soon spun out of control as several news headlines around the world read “Brexit deadlock”. Many, like myself were left scratching our heads wondering (admittedly with glee) was Brexit over? Was this the end for Brexit?. These reports soon quietened down and a few days later the dust settled. Donald Tusk, the European council president, claimed that talks of a deadlock by many news media outlets had been “exaggerated”. Jean-Claude Junker echoed this view disputing claims that May had come to him ‘“begging” when supposed ’leaks’ of their dinner had emerged, he instead stated that there was a constructive and friendly atmosphere.
It is clear that European leaders are keen present the image that they are eager to work with May by proposing a ‘fair deal for both parties’, it is also clear that the posturing of May and Davis and their ‘no-deal’ Brexit stance in case of failed negotiations will not be taken lying down. French president Macron- denounced the no-deal scenario a “bluff’, the proposed “divorce settlement” of 20 billion euros raised by the UK is “not even half of what is owed”.
Still, German leader Angela Merkel praised May’s efforts in negotiations and said a deal was in sight. May held steadfast to her statements made last year that whilst “The UK is leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe – and we are not turning our backs on our friends and allies.” May echoed this last month during her speech in Florence, when she said she hopes to see “a new era of cooperation and partnership, a sovereign United Kingdom and a confident European Union, both free to chart their own course.”
Side-note: I know you’re wondering what a no deal Brexit would be, I myself often get confused by terms that have been espoused over the past year, such as “hard Brexit”, “soft Brexit” and “no-deal Brexit”.
No-deal Brexit would imply that if negotiations continue without progress new deals to replace things such as the treaties and arrangements built when Britain was part of the European Union would cease to exist and would not be replaced (in practice). Essentially no-deal Brexit is exactly what it says on the tin. There would be no deal, no negotiations, no agreements. “Hard-Brexit” would mean the UK would relinquish access to the single market, the Customs Union and the European Union. Britain would have full control of its borders, with new trade deals (more likely with the World Trade Organisation -WTO), and full control of laws in its own territory. On the other hand, “Soft-Brexit” would mean that whilst the UK would no longer be a member of the Union and would have no seat on the European Council, it’s relationship would be more or less be the same. With access to the single market and the Customs Union and trade on a tariff-free basis.
So what can you do to find out more about what Brexit could look like? On January of this year the Brexit White Paper was published which detailed 12 key points the Conservative government was going to focus on and put at the forefront of negotiations.
These included as detailed in a speech by David Davis, stances on: Immigration ; “we will remain an open, tolerant nation…. but we will manage our immigration system properly, which means that free movement to the UK from the European Union cannot continue as before”. Law; “Continue to engage with the devolved Administrations…. intend to take control of our own laws and end the authority of the European Court of Justice in the UK. Laws will be made in this Parliament, and in the devolved Assemblies”. The Economy; “trade continues in as barrier-free a way as possible.” (No full membership of the Customs Union) “A customs agreement with the EU….. cross-border trade remains as barrier-free as possible.”
Brexit, regardless of the problems along the way and the many more that are bound to unfold is happening. Even though confused and disjointed media accounts and “scandals” such as a disunited Conservative camp following Boris Johnson’s comments last month- continue to plague everyday headlines, it is essential that we keep ourselves updated. Brexit has huge implications on every single one of our futures and keeping on track in regards to summits, meetings, statements both in Europe and at home is incredibly important. Take a look at this Brexit timeline to stay on the ball!
Written by Jasmine