BREXIT: UK’s LONG STORY

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Brexit is a short word for “British exit” and simply refers to United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. The United Kingdom joined the European Union (as it then was EEC-European Economic Community) in 1973 after having many doubts during the membership process. Actually, the United Kingdom was never truly a part of the European Union.

As a result of Schuman Declaration, European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was created by the six founding members: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands in order to facilitate a single common market for coal and steel, following with the Treaty of Paris in 1951. During the 1950s, the impacts of Cold War, protests, and divisions between Eastern and Western Europe showed the need for further European unification. In order to maintain this unification, the founding members of ECSC broadened their cooperation by signing the Treaties of Rome in March 1957, establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). The aim of the EEC was to create a common market based on the freedom of movement of people, good and services and capital.

Some of the nations in Europe such as Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom tried to join EEC and EURATOM during the 1960s. However, some of them couldn’t succeeded to join in due to the fact of rejections. The United Kingdom’s applications to join the Community were vetoed by the President of France, Charles de Gaulle for twice in 1963 and 1967. According to Gaulle, the reason was that British membership could be a way for the US to exercise more influence in Europe. It was only in 1969 that the green light was given to the negotiations for United Kingdom’s membership when the President Charles de Gaulle’s resigned following with the 1969 French Constitutional Referendum. Then, the United Kingdom made a third and successful application to join European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 and this time, the United Kingdom finally succeeded to be a member of European Union (as it was called EEC-European Economic Community)

Since mid 1970s, both pro- and anti- European views have arise with the huge supports of majority in the United Kingdom at different times. For example, on 5 June 1975, a referendum was held on whether the United Kingdom should leave or stay in European Economic Community (EEC), following with a negotiation led by Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The British people voted to stay in EEC by 67% to 33% at that time. 

In 2015, the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to hold a new referendum about Brexit during his campaign in 2015 United Kingdom General Elections. Then, Brexit referendum was held on, whether United Kingdom should remain in European Union or leave it, on 23 June 2016. In contrast to 1975 referendum, this time the result was 51.9% of votes being in favour of leaving the European Union, and 48.1% of votes being againist of leaving the Union. As a result of this referendum, the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who was the agree with the idea of staying in the European Union, resigned.

The idea of the single market was to increase trade between countries, creating jobs and lowering prices in European Union. However, the European Parliament decides on many rules and standards that EU countries have to follow. On the other hand, many people in Europe are moving from poorer countries to richer countries. This has made some people in the United Kingdom to worry about the free movement rule, which allows people in the European Union to move to any other European country without needing special permission such as visa. This was the key issue of many people in United Kingdom who voted in favour of leaving the European Union during the Brexit Referendum. 

Bearing mind that according to Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, any member state may decide withdraw from the Union. Thus, the government of the United Kingdom triggered Article 50 to begin the leaving from the European Union following with the Brexit Referendum. After months of negotiation, the United Kingdom and European Union agreed a Brexit deal which called as Withdrawal Agreement, but this Agreement couldn’t be approved by the British Parliament. It is still unclear that whether the United Kingdom’s Withdrawal Agreement with European Union will into force. The former Prime Minister Theresa May emphasized that she wants the UK to leave the EU as soon as possible.

The Withdrawal Agreement also includes a transitional period which lasts from March 30, 2019 to 31 December 2020 in order to give time for a new deal on the future relationship between the EU and UK to be worked out after the UK leaves. We will see what is going to happen about the future of United Kingdom and European Union in the next months.

Burak Tunahan Gökalp
Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of International Relations.
Posts created 6

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