By Perez Yeptho, Batch of 2019
We all have been seeing the hashtag #Brexit pop up more than once on our social media feeds and it seems like all of a sudden everyone on the internet became a political analyst overnight with their own views and opinions. Sadly (much like the British populace), very few actually understand the importance of the European Union and the massive step that the UK has decided to take. Let us look at the very basics and try to understand what has actually transpired.
What is the European Union?
The European Union in its most basic form is a political, economic and social union not unlike a federal government (as seen in the United States or to a lesser extent in India). However, it is comprised of independent and sovereign nations. Europe had until the middle of the 20th century been almost constantly at war with bloodshed and conflicts of unimaginable scale, like World War II, and needed a solution to end all such hostilities. It was concluded that a Europe in which people, raw materials and thus by extent cultures mixed with each other would be an interdependent and hence united Europe.
The EU allows such movement of goods and people between countries and effectively removed the concept of borders and tariffs, hence becoming a single market. This would mean that, say, a company producing toys in Portugal could sell their products in Estonia (on the other side of Europe) without ever having to pay taxes to the government of Estonia. In such a situation, European countries would become economically interconnected by reducing the consumer prices of commodities and opening the market for manufacturers all over Europe. Similarly, people could stay and work anywhere they wanted within the European Union as long as they were citizens of an EU member, which meant that it became very common for, say Polish immigrants, to start working as clerks, shopkeepers and even successful bankers in countries like the United Kingdom.
However, with a common market and a border less Europe, the need for common policies, laws and safety standards was also realized and hence the European Parliament set the frameworks and guidelines for all the member nations to create their own laws.
So why did the United Kingdom Choose to Leave?
Precisely, for the reasons the EU was created- the common policies on trade and the free movement of people. The people of England felt increasingly less independent in formulating their own policies which they felt were being imposed upon them by the so-called bureaucrats in the European Parliament and felt that their potential as a nation was not being realized. The second half of the equation involves the migration of people from mainland Europe into Britain as the citizens of UK felt that their jobs were being taken away and their national identity was being threatened.
What happens now?
Well, technically, nothing has happened so far. In fact, referendums (as the one which was conducted) aren’t even legally binding. But if the UK wishes to leave the EU they will have to not only pay their outstanding dues and bills to the EU but also renegotiate the terms of trade they currently have with members of the EU. The UK will have to reach trade agreements with nations outside the EU as well from scratch, which until now would have followed the EU standards. There are millions of EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa and their future as of now hangs in the balance. There are talks of Scotland breaking off from the UK as they wish to remain in the EU.
All in all, UK’s surprising decision to leave the EU has created a great deal of uncertainty for everyone and the world sits anxiously as the British parliament and the EU figure out an amicable divorce from each other.