- On 31st January, 2020, at the stroke of 11.00 pm, the United Kingdom (UK) ceased to be the member of the European Union (EU), allowing it to become the first country to leave the EU, after 47 years of membership.
- In 1973, the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC), the precursor to the European Union.
- The first public vote on Brexit happened on June 23, 2016, when 52 per cent of voters chose to leave the EU.
- On 29th March, 2017 the UK formally notified the European Council of its intention to leave the EU by triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
- On 17th October, 2019, the European Council endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement as agreed by the negotiators of both sides. It also endorsed the revised political declaration on the framework of the future EU-UK relationship.
- The Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) became law on January 23, 2020 when it was passed all stages in Parliament and was given the Royal Assent. WAB gives the UK government provisions through which it can ratify the Brexit process.
- As of February 1, 2020, a transition period has come into force under the terms of the exit deal.
Reasons for Brexit
Threat to British Sovereignty
- One important reason for Brexit can be attributed to rise of nationalism. There’s a growing distrust of multinational financial, trade, and defense organizations created after World War II.
- Britons believe that these institutions no longer serve a purpose. Not only that these organizations take control away from individual nations. Mistrust and fear of losing control made Brexit a reasonable solution to them.
Changing Role of EU
- Over the past few decades, a series of EU treaties have shifted a growing amount of power from individual member states to the central EU bureaucracy in Brussels. On subjects where the EU has been granted authority — like competition policy, agriculture, and copyright and patent law, etc., goes against the British interests as EU rules override national laws.
- As EU’s membership expanded, more Europeans, especially from poorer EU nations, started migrating to U.K. using the “freedom of movement” clause.
- The eurozone has struggled economically, and workers from eurozone countries such as Ireland, Italy, and Lithuania (as well as EU countries like Poland and Romania that have not yet joined the common currency) have flocked to the UK in search of work.
- Faced with rising immigration locals worried about their jobs and the erosion of the English way of life, Britons wanted their government to clamp down on immigration.
- The EU has failed to address the economic problems that had been developing since 2008 financial crisis and the Eurozone crisis of late 2009, which had fueled British intention of moving away from EU.
- Further, Brexit will allow the UK to negotiate its own trade deals with other countries - something that would not have been possible remaining with EU.
Contribution to EU
- The EU doesn’t have the power to directly collect taxes, but it requires member states to make an annual contribution to the central EU budget. Currently, the UK’s contribution is worth about £13 billion ($19 billion) per year, which is about $300 per person in the UK.
- Although the funds are again used on Britain, the BREXIT supporters say, the money could be used more efficiently, if Britain is out of EU.
What Changes and What Remains the Same After Brexit?
Out of EU Politics
- The UK leaves all of the European Union’s political institutions. British ministers will no longer attend regular EU meetings, and the Prime Minister will no longer be an automatic attendee at EU Council summits, although he can still join if he is given a special invitation.
EU Rules Apply
- During the transition period, the UK will continue to obey EU rules and make payments to the EU. If it is involved in a legal dispute with an EU member country, the European Court of Justice will continue to have the final say.
New Trade Equations
- Out of the EU, Britain will have to build new trade relationships with countries outside the Union. While it was still in EU, Britain was not allowed to hold formal trade negotiations with countries such as the US and Australia. Now that it will have that freedom, Brexit supporters see that as a positive —Britain setting its own trade policy.
- Now, the country will return to the blue passports it used to issue before adopting the EU design.
- Travel: Flights, boats and trains will operate as they did while Britain was in the EU. Driving licences will continue to be accepted, as long as they are valid.
- European Health Insurance Card: European Health Insurance Card will remain valid inside Britain, and in the EU countries, during the transition.
- Freedom of Movement: During the transition, UK nationals will continue to live and work in European Union countries. EU nationals who want to live and work in the UK, too, can do so.
- EU Budget: The UK will for now continue to contribute to the EU Budget. Existing schemes that are funded by EU grants will continue to be funded.