It’s hard enough to keep up with our own political news in the U.S. This makes it seem impossible to pay attention to news happening abroad. For many of you, this whole Brexit ordeal keeps cropping up in your newsfeed, but you may not have any idea what’s actually going on. Brexit is one of the largest transitions in British history and will impact the European continent for decades to come.
But first, what’s Brexit? An overly simplified recap of the last three years:
- 2016: Under Prime Minister Cameron, UK citizens vote to leave the European Union, a political and economic union that the UK has been a part of for almost 50 years. Cameron, being a Remainer (someone who wants to stay in the EU), steps down as prime minister. Theresa May takes his place and begins preliminary transition arrangements.
- 2017: May begins negotiations with EU officials. May and Parliament invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, meaning there is exactly two years until the UK must officially leave the EU.
- 2018: May continues negotiation. Remainers think she is pulling away too much (‘hard Brexit’), while Brexiters think she is too soft (‘soft Brexit,’ meaning maintaining close ties between the UK and EU).
- 2019: In January, Parliament votes on May’s deal, which is rejected by a margin of over 200 votes (432-202). Her failed legislation is dubbed “the biggest parliamentary defeat of modern times.” This leaves the UK without a plan. In the last few months, there have been numerous proposals: delaying Brexit, having a second referendum, even stopping Brexit altogether. Parliament decides to delay Brexit, and the EU has now allowed the UK until May 22 to decide on Brexit legislation and leave the EU for good.
Why does this all matter? After studying abroad in London and learning about Brexit, I found it matters because politics affects people. Many don’t know what their lives will look like without the EU because being in the union has always defined their economic and political being.
There are a few lessons to take away from Brexit: first, voting matters, and second, compromise is paramount to solving problems. With the Brexit vote, the British people made an irreversible change to their country. However, the government doesn’t know how to institute that change. Every deal that has entered Parliament has been eaten alive. No one is willing to compromise.
The British government does not have time to dilly-dally. The worst part of this crisis is uncertainty. The inability of the UK government to nail down a plan to leave has left its citizens in a state of disarray.
To save the United Kingdom from more damage, the Remainers and Leavers will have to bend, even if it’s not their cup of tea.
Grace Douglas is a freshman government and philosophy major from Aberdeen, S.D.