Brexit: What Happens Now That the U.K. Has Voted to Leave the EU
What does it mean for Brits working elsewhere? When does it go into effect? And why is Donald Trump so happy? If you woke up to the shocking news from the U.K., here’s what’s going on.
Did Britain Really Just Vote to Leave Europe? Yes. There was a referendum in the U.K. on Thursday, and the question was pretty simple. Voters were asked, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” Early Friday, it emerged that 51.9 percent voted to leave, while only 48.1 percent voted to Remain.
Why Did the U.K. Want to Leave Europe? Immigration and sovereignty concerns are the prime reasons that many people voted to leave. Europe is in the grip of a migration crisis, with millions of refugees arriving from desperate regions such as Libya, Syria, and sub-Saharan Africa. The Leave campaign went big on “securing borders.” Sound familiar?
So, Is Donald Trump Happy? He’s delighted. In Scotland on Friday for the reopening of a golf course, he saluted British moxie, saying, “They took back their country, it’s a great thing... people are angry all over the world.”
Why Was the Result Such a Shock? Pollsters had predicted the result would be close, but the world was apparently in denial. Indeed, even principal figures in the Leave campaign erroneously conceded defeat in the opening minutes of the count. It was widely felt that Remain voters would prevail. It turned out that there were millions of “shy Leave” voters who decided not to tell pollsters of their true voting intentions. Critics say the government focused on selling “project fear” at the expense of extolling the virtues of EU membership.
So Are They Out From Today? No. The process of leaving will take as long as five years, and cannot formally begin until the nation wishing to leave invokes Article 50 of the legislation that set up the EU. Until then, as politicians of all stripes have been keen to point out, nothing will change in terms of travel, trade access, or immigration control.
Will Leaving Hurt the Economy? It won’t help it, most economists agree. Sterling and the London stock market plunged as the result of the vote became clear. The markets have recovered somewhat as brave investors spy buying opportunities. The Leave side argues this is mere volatility, a temporary panic reaction, and that the U.K. will emerge stronger as its businesses won’t be subject to meddlesome EU directives.
Why Are People Saying the U.K. Could Break Up? Great Britain is a mongrel nation made up of four different but united countries. One of these, Scotland, does not want to leave the EU. The Scottish leader says this gives her a mandate to have a referendum on whether the country should again seek independence from the U.K. In Northern Ireland, the republican party Sinn Fein is arguing that Northern Ireland, which also voted overwhelmingly to Remain, is now entitled to a plebiscite on leaving the U.K. and reuniting with the Republic of Ireland on the same grounds.
Will border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland be introduced? Unlikely. Ireland and the U.K. have a no-passport, free-travel zone that is independent of the EU and will likely be preserved after the U.K. cedes from the EU.
Why Did They Have a Referendum Anyway? David Cameron, an avid Remainer, included a pledge to hold a referendum on the issue of EU membership as part of the Conservative manifesto in last year’s general election. It was part of an effort to dilute the appeal of the radical anti-EU party UKIP, or the United Kingdom Independence Party. The strategy worked—and to everyone’s surprise, he won an overall majority, and was therefore obliged to go ahead and call the referendum, which has now ended his career in humiliating style.
Will Other Europeans Need a Visa to Visit the U.K. and vice versa? Leave proponents argued they can set up bilateral deals with most countries, and maybe they can. Nothing will happen immediately.
Will Brits Living and Working Elsewhere in Europe Have to Come Home? Possibly, although once again, Leave leaders argued they could set up bilateral deals that will also allow foreign workers to stay in the U.K.
Will Big Firms Quit London? Remain supporters say that big multinationals and U.S. banks using London as a European HQ will inevitably move offices. Leave backers argued that once free from EU interference on issues such as tax and regulation, they can create more attractive conditions for big business.
Is This Really Happening? Yes.