THE United Kingdom has decided. The people in the UK as a whole voted to begin the process of dissolving their political involvement in the European Union. The country has voted to reverse its 1975 decision to join the common market, and leave a unified Europe after 43 years as a member. A vote that some call a vote for independence. But it could spell a whole lot more trouble. By a somewhat narrow margin, the LEAVE campaign won the referendum by a margin of 4 points – 52% to 48%. The decision opens up a lot of room for massive political, economic, and other changes within the UK and Europe as a whole. Some of those ramifications are already being seen.
The British Pound has fallen to levels not seen since the mid-1980s, since Margaret Thatcher was the resident of Number 10 Downing Street. The Euro has fallen more than 3.3% – its biggest one-day drop. Aside from the short term economic impact, the question now turns to negotiations on trade, on tariffs, and other economic details that the country hasn’t had to navigate as a member of the common market.
The next question is: What does this mean for the United Kingdom itself? Fresh off a recent referendum on Scottish independence, which saw the Scots vote to stay – we now see the divisions clearly. Scotland voted by significant margin to stay in the European Union – 62% to 38% to REMAIN. Scottish leaders say that they see their future in the EU. Will this now be the reason to renew calls for Scottish independence? The counting districts across the whole of Scotland voted to REMAIN. England and Wales, voted to go.
We will see this same question in Northern Ireland as well. For the first time in a long time, there will be a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Border security becomes a real concern now for the UK government. Does this BREXIT vote stoke renewed calls for unification of the Irish island?
Britain would be the first country to leave the EU since its formation – but a leave vote will not immediately mean Britain ceases to be a member of the 28-nation bloc.
That process could take a minimum of two years, with Leave campaigners suggesting during the referendum campaign that it should not be completed until 2020 – the date of the next scheduled general election.
Once the UK invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, it will have up to two years to negotiate its exit. Once that exit is completed, the United Kingdom would not be able to rejoin without the consent of all of the remaining member states. Regardless of the when or how, the task remains the same. How does the government begin to unstitch the nation from 40+ years of European law. What do they keep? What do they let go? What do they need to redo? Will there be more referendums? More elections? New general elections? What does this mean for UK relations with the rest of the world? The United States? Europe? Will this mean that other countries will call for referendums of their own?
If you are a political junkie and nerd like me, this means that you get to see history be made. Regardless, it will certainly be interesting to watch.