The UK and Europe After Brexit
Much has changed five months after the Brexit Referendum. David Cameron resigned, and a new prime minister, Teresa May, has stated that she will start the Brexit process by March 2017. There is friction, however, between Parliament and May’s government regarding the activation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which will begin the process to leave the European Union. May intends to pursue a hard Brexit, meaning Britain will leave the Some members of Parliament (MPs) and Londoners have challenged her right to do so without Parliamentary approval. Tensions over Brexit, however, are not confined to London. The aftermath of the referendum is threatening British unity and causing unrest throughout Europe with more populist movements calling to leave the EU.
The Kingdom’s Quarrels
The legal battle between Prime Minister May and Parliament that ended before Britain’s High Court ultimately backed the claim that activating Article 50 was a decision reserved solely for members of Parliament and was not the executive’s Royal Prerogative. As the sovereign power, Parliament enacted the legislation that allowed the UK to join the EU and comply with its laws, Parliament alone has the right to undo the act. The High Court’s ruling allowing Parliament to vote on Brexit not only thwarts May’s plan for a hard Brexit, but also opens up the possibility for a soft Brexit, or even remaining in the European Union. That is, of course, dependent upon the outcome of an appeal of the case to the Supreme Court.
Court battles aside, a Brexit, hard or soft, is likely to occur. Even if left to Parliament, it is unlikely that a majority of MPs would vote against Brexit. Though the outcome is nearly certain, no one should discount the intense resistance to Brexit within the UK, especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Scots in favor of remaining in the EU. Displeasure over Brexit and the prospect of potentially being invited to rejoin the EU as an independent state could induce Scots to seek another independence referendum before the end of 2017. However, an independent Scotland would initially struggle on its own, making the decision to secede incredibly difficult even though there are numerous benefits to joining EU.
How does the European Union feel about Brexit? Simply put, unhappy.
The EU, led by Germany’s Angela Merkel, is taking a firm stance against Brexit. All twenty-sevene member states are against allowing Britain to remain in the European Single Market. Even if a soft Brexit is voted on in Parliament, the EU won’t allow it. From their perspective, Britain is looking to pick and choose which policies to follow, such as staying in the Single Market while exempting itself from freedom of movement. Individual member states, particularly France, Spain, and Ireland, are already preparing for a hard Brexit. Such an outcome presents many destabilizing internal challenges for these states.
For France, Brexit has ignited the conservative right and propelled Marine Le Pen to the top of the polls with a quarter of the vote. . Le Pen and her anti-immigrant National Front party have used Brexit as a rallying cry for the French to reject Brussels and reclaim their country. Le Pen’s candidacy calls for a French exit from the EU, an idea rejected by all other candidates. A French exit would be the domino that would likely topple the entire EU project. France was one of the original six members of the EU and has championed the expansion of the EU and the benefits of the Single Market. An EU without France would be far less stable, triggering more exits from nations like Greece, Austria, Finland, and Hungary.
Spain is vexed by the Brexit question. There are over
of all Irish exports and 40 percent of exports from Irish-owned firms go to the UK. Additionally, nearly a third of Ireland’s imports come from Britain. A hard Brexit would pull British businesses out of Ireland and leave . Ireland also faces the Northern Ireland question.
If the UK pursues a hard Brexit, it will jeopardize the stability of the Republic of Ireland, along with Northern Ireland, by restricting the free movement of people and goods. The possibility of a reestablishment of border controls has stirred, on both sides of the Irish Sea, memories of The Troubles, a period of guerilla warfare which claimed the lives of over 3,500 people. There is a possibility that an Irish Referendum could occur that would reunite the North with the rest of Ireland, though
There are numerous roadblocks delaying Brexit, and it will be at least 4 years before all the negotiations are complete. Europe has accepted that Brexit is happening and is making the necessary preparations. Disputes and efforts to prevent Brexit are amassing internally from all over: London, Manchester, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Brexit has already taken a toll on Britain, with the British Pound dropping to 31 year lows against the dollar, companies are considering relocating, and projected average real earnings will decrease by £830 in 2020. The impact of Brexit could be more damaging with referenda breaking up the Kingdom. In response to worsening economic conditions, some MPs from the Labour party are breaking rank and questioning if Brexit is worth the economic stress. We will see the route that Britain chooses in the coming months and how Europe will respond.