On 23rd June 2016 there was a referendum in the United Kingdom on whether the country should stay in the European Union or not. The result was, in many ways, unexpected, since until the night after the referendum most commentators had thought that most people would vote to stay within the Union, with all its good and bad points. However, the following morning it became clear that the British electorate (everyone over 18 years of age) had voted by a margin of 52% to 48% to leave the Union. A majority of 4% is not a big one and it reflects the big divisions over the issue in the United Kingdom. What makes the result even more complex is that Scotland, Northern Ireland and London voted quite decisively to stay in Europe. At a certain point there was even an attempt to launch a petition for London’s independence within the European Union.
As can easily be imagined, the referendum result has led to intense and emotional debates in the newspapers and on television. The big question mark is: what does Brexit mean? The new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said that ‘Brexit means Brexit’. But what exactly is Brexit? Before the referendum there were warnings that the Stock Market would collapse. That has not happened; in fact, it has risen in value. At the same time the pound has fallen, which means that it is easier to export goods – to say nothing of the benefit for incoming tourists, who now get more pounds for their euros, yen or dollars. However, on the negative side, it seems that there has been a rise in the so-called ‘hate crimes’ against foreigners, particularly people from Eastern and Central Europe. Many successful British companies are worried that, as time passes, Brexit will turn out to be a big mistake and the British economy will go into recession. UK ministers have not appeared as yet to have any clear policies about how to proceed with the ‘divorce’ from Europe. It will take a long time, perhaps many years, before the separation becomes effective and the terms of a new relationship with the European Union are clarified and established.
So, to go back to the question: Brexit – what does it mean? The response on every side is simply, ‘We still don’t know!’
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