Six months ago, on the 23rd June 2016, voters in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland headed to the polls to have their say on whether the UK should leave the European Union. The result shocked the country: 52% of a 71.8% turnout voted to leave, versus the 48% who voted to remain. Since the result, the debating hasn’t really stopped. There are tonnes of reasons why, but fundamentally it’s because a referendum is just a vote carried out by the electorate in order to gain the public’s view on something – it never meant the law had to change.
What is the EU?
After World War II, France and Germany began laying the foundations of what would become the European Union. It was founded on the premise that creating a union, with special trade agreements, would make the member states less likely to go to war with each other. Today it has 28 members. The UK was the EU’s 7th member, joining in 1973.
Why do people dislike the EU?
Basically, it limits its members’ individual legal and governmental powers. As a country, we’ve had a dodgy couple of years since 2008: there was the financial crisis, recession, and then some good old austerity to top it all off.* Tensions have only been increasing in recent years due to the increase of migrants and refugees entering the UK. Many have felt that immigration and EU trade regulations are to blame for increased unemployment and rising costs. (Even though the UK elected a government that campaigned on the promise of austerity measures, which would inevitably cause citizens to be financially worse off, but there ya go.)
*Austerity is all the ugly stuff a.k.a spending cuts & tax increases.
Angry English people furiously sipping tea in the face of the EU
Why did the EU referendum happen in the first place?
Being a part of the EU means we’re involved in the EU free movement policy, which allows citizens of EU member states to move freely between each other – the UK included (obviously) – did I write EU enough times? This policy has had a huge impact; Euro-sceptics grew in numbers and political strength. It was such a hot topic that during the run up to the 2015 general election, David Cameron promised to hold an EU referendum if the Conservatives won (spoiler: they did). Cameron promising a referendum is essentially seen as a reaction to the growing popularity of UKIP (the anti-EU crew): a technical move to ensure votes.
Why haven’t we left the EU yet?
In order to leave the EU, the mysterious ‘Article 50’ must be triggered. So what is it and why does everyone keep going on about it?! Simply put, it’s a law which sets out a basic plan for if a country wants to leave the EU. Once it’s decided we’re definitely withdrawing from the union, the UK will only have two years to negotiate the terms of departure. Two years sounds like a long time, but when 28 countries have to agree on what happens, you can see why Theresa May (Cameron resigned after he campaigned to Remain but the country voted Leave) is trying to negotiate with other member states before she officially triggers Article 50.
Who isn’t happy about Brexit?
A lot of people. There have been official challenges to the referendum result. Think back to that petition (backed by gazillionaire Richard Branson), which gained over 4 million signatures, calling for a second referendum after it emerged that the Leave campaign was essentially based on lies. This meant that the possibility of a second vote had to be debated in Parliament, but it wasn’t successful.
However, British business owners Gina Miller and Deir dos Santos successfully filed a legal challenge against the government. They claimed that the government (the PM & her cabinet ministers) was wrong to declare it had the automatic right to trigger Article 50, claiming instead that only Parliament (the House of Commons (all the other MPs) & the House of Lords) can be in charge of the decision. The challenge didn’t call for an end to Brexit, just a change to who gets to decide how it happens. The Supreme Court ruled in Miller’s and Santos’ favour, but the government appealed this decision. A final verdict is expected in January 2017.
Why do I keep seeing a picture of Trump and Farage smiling in a gold lift together?
Nigel Farage and Donald Trump have bonded over the success of their anti-establishment based political campaigns. Basically, they both riled up a bunch of dissatisfied people by saying ‘down with the elitist, corrupt, phony government!’ and they’re dead excited about it.
Right now, everyone seems a bit fed up with being told what to do by people who don’t seem to represent their views, lifestyle or experiences. On top of that, both the USA’s and the UK’s economies have been struggling and both have been battling terrorism; so people are extra, extra fed up. Trump and Farage have capitalised on this by saying kinda dumb, non-expert things whilst drinking beer and having ‘banter’ in an attempt to convince ordinary folks that they’re not like other politicians. The pair openly supported each other in their respective campaigns and are now revelling in their glory by showing just how much they’re representative ‘men of the people’… by posing together in a gold plated lift… in really expensive suits… soooo, yeah.
But has anything terrible actually happened since the decision was made to leave the EU?
There have been a few immediate changes in the UK, the most reported being the fall of the pound’s worth to a 3-year low. This basically means that if you went on holiday to France before Brexit and you exchanged £100 into euros, you’d have got way more euros pre-Brexit. So going on holiday is generally a lot more expensive for Brits now, which sucks because I could do with a holiday after thinking about Brexit so much.
On top of that, the government’s March budget (when they announce their financial plans for the next year) is basically total BS now, because government finances (the stuff that funds our schools, hospitals, helps disabled people who can’t work etc) are going to consist of £122 billion less than the budget suggested. Yeah. This is mostly due to the slowing economic growth (although it’s not as bad as predicted) and the huge expenses incurred by Brexit negotiations – so far an entirely new governmental department has been set up to deal with it. Expensive stuff.
However, slightly less terribly, the housing market isn’t really a thing right now – no one wants to sell or take out a loan when the economy appears so unstable, but this does mean that house price inflation is slowing down for once. And, the UK can expect its tourism industry to grow, as holidays here have become cheaper for the rest of the world. Apparently bookings have increased, so I guess people elsewhere actually kinda like our country still (as long as they can leave after a week) so that’s quite nice I suppose.