Being an American, much of the news from across the globe is filtered out by mainstream news sites and channels unless it is something that has a direct correlation to American culture, politics, safety, etc. Because of that, I do my best to diversify the sources from which I get my news - using BBC World News, CNN, NBC, my local stations, and a few other category specific news outlets in order to get a grasp on the news from as many sources as possible and from as many diverse opinions as I can. Though this doesn’t prevent me from seeing some incredibly biased news broadcasting, it helps me filter out facts that are repeated from fallacies or inferences made by the individual outlets. So naturally, when news broke about the United Kingdom leaving the EU, I immediately ran to my various apps and news outlets to understand what this meant. As the EU does not in any way govern the United States, it wasn’t surprising to see little to no information about what a “Brexit” is other than the announcement.
Now my interest in this event may seem confusing based on my generation and where I live, but actually I am incredibly interested due to the fact that I still have a large majority of family who live in Ireland. Though I have never lived in Ireland, because my family is from there and I know people who still live there, my interest was personal to discover what this shift meant for my family and friends living on either side of the UK divide. Despite this, however, regardless of my personal connection, the EU is one of the largest international governing bodies next to the UN, making it incredibly important on the international political and financial field. So though it may not seem as if the United States is directly related, these changes and shifts in the EU membership and trade agreements could affect prices and available products to the United States and many other countries.
So, first of all… what is a “Brexit”? To put it very simply, Brexit is the “british exit” from the European Union. This means breaking with the economic and political partnership they have been a part of for over 40 years. However - unlike the name - Brexit is not as simple as a child who wants to stop playing a game of tag. There is much negotiation, compromise, and other decisions needing to be made about ust how separate the UK is going to become and what that means for the EU itself.
Why is this so important? Despite the fact the the UK is an island, it has an incredibly important component - particularly financially - to the EU. As of 2014, the UK was the fourth largest contributor to the EU budget, following Germany, France and Italy; contributing 11.34 billion euros to the 116.53 billion euro budget - about 10% of the EU’s total budget. Then in 2015, that number went up to 18.20 billion euros out of a 118.60 billion euros - an increase to almost 15.5% of the Eu’s total budget. Full graphics and breakdown of statistics from Bloomberg article "Quicktake Brexit" by Robert Hutton, published December 2017.
Why did the UK decide to leave the EU? The EU was formed to be an alliance between countries to promote trade, protect the environment, defend human rights, and work against threats to the greater good of the world; among a vast amount of other things. However, in June of 2016, the people of the UK voted to leave due to general perception being that the EU was too expensive, out of touch with what was important, and one of the sources of uncontrolled immigration throughout Europe.
Ireland’s take on Brexit… This is where everything for Brexit on the UK side of the discussion gets so much more complicated. As many may know, Ireland is divided into two parts, Ireland and Northern Ireland. This distinction is the separation of what is a part of the UK - aka British controlled - and what is its own independent country. With this change of the UK’s status in the EU, the Irish border has become a point of contention on what will happen in Ireland itself in regards of traveling between the two areas and whether passports are going to have to change or whether they are going to have to put of a border wall of their own as one currently does not exist. This is due to the fact that between many EU countries there are minimal to no checkpoints.
However, much in keeping with other British Controlled Areas - Scotland and Wales - Northern Ireland voted to remain. However, despite the desires of the people in those three zones, the amount of people who live in England outnumber them ten to one. Making it almost impossible for those three zones to overrule decisions made by England itself. This was already a tough call as 51.9% voted to stay overall while 48.1% voted to stay - having a 72.2% turnout to the vote (the highest turnout in 2 decades. Another interesting fact about this vote was that the old wanted to leave the EU and the young wanted to stay. This was mostly blamed on the fact that the older members of society were angry at years of mistreatment - or perceived mistreatment - by the EU, while the young believed it better to renegotiate terms with the EU and the UK’s overall involvement rather than simply cutting all ties unilaterally. All statistics from Bloomberg article referenced above.
Final Thoughts Brexit is a political nightmare for politicians, and the current international climate is making it incredibly difficult for anyone to want to divert any time or resources to fasttrack the UK’s exit as many would prefer it.
In regards to the Irish, Scottish, and Welsh border discussions, they are getting to be as heated if not more heated then what we are currently dealing with here in the US. A large proponent of why the UK voted to leave is because they felt the EU wasn’t doing enough to restrict immigration and the influx of refugees into EU nations - many of the older generations linking this directly to acts of terror or other violent acts being committed across Europe.
As an outsider watching these debates, it is not difficult to see the parallels in the immigration discussion in the US. In both cases it is difficult to figure out whether or not unilaterally cutting off immigration entirely will do any good or actually stop any of the events or will remove the group being scapegoated for being responsible for all the bad things happening in either country. Though this could have some validity, the fact that in both countries leadership are choosing to deal with problems in such broad strokes is proving not only to be ineffective but are inspiring protests in both countries against the government’s lack of flexibility and lack of either morality or ethics.
As there seems to be no right decisions or no clear solutions to either border discussion or to the UK’s battle trying to separate themselves from the EU, this has all become one giant mess of political unrest. Though these countries are separated by an ocean, it is clear to see that no one is safe from the immigration debate and it is clear that the situation is only going to get worse until hopefully it will eventually promote a system that is beneficial for everyone - not just the legislatures.