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BREXIT

B

ritain’s decision to leave the

European Union, dubbed

Brexit — a portmanteau of

Britain and exit — is one of the

biggest news topics of the year.

David Cameron, Britain’s prime

minister at the time, announced in

early 2016 that a referendum (a vote

including nearly everyone of voting

age) would take place to decide

if the union of England, Scotland,

Wales and Northern Ireland would

continue its 43-year EUmembership.

This decision would have major

implications for Britain, Europe and

the rest of the world.

The political-economic alliance

of the EU allows free movement

of goods, services and people

and sets legislation across 28

member countries. On June 23, a

slim majority — 52 percent of 30

million voters — opted to leave

the EU. Britain has been discussing

withdrawing from the EU since

the 1970s, but in December 2015,

former mayor Boris Johnson

called on David Cameron to allow

a public vote on EU membership

following months of skepticism

from Britain’s Conservative party.

Cameron aimed to convince the

public to stay, but a number of

issues pushed the vote to the

leave side.

The biggest factor was immigration,

with the majority of the debate

focusing on the pressure it puts on

the job market and public services.

Although pro-leave campaigners

originally argued that Brexit would

most directly benefit the economy, it

became clear that immigration was

the strongest issue. Former prime

ministers warned that leaving would

be catastrophic, but pro-Brexit

politicians asserted that it would

allow Britain to reclaim power, limit

immigration and lead to better job

options, economic viability and

public services.

Following the vote, Cameron

stepped down as prime minister and

was replaced by Theresa May, who

pledged to trigger Article 50 of the

Treaty on European Union by March

2017, officially marking two years of

negotiations before Britain leaves the

EU. The value of the pound sterling,

the British currency, dropped sharply

following the vote and has failed

to fully recover due to the lack of

trading deals between Britain and

the rest of the world. The position

of British people living abroad in

Europe and Europeans living in

Britain is also on shaky ground as the

EU’s free movement legislation will

no longer cover Britain. It remains to

be seen whether Brexit will lead to

economic gains as Britain has yet to

establish trade deals with the rest of

Europe and beyond.

Aside from its immediate impact

in Britain, Brexit will have knock-

on effects for Europe and the rest

of the world as well. Europeans

currently living in Britain should

be relatively unaffected, but those

planning on moving to Britain in

coming years may have to navigate

a sea of paperwork to travel and

live there. European funding for

business, science and arts projects

will likely be withdrawn from British

corporations and universities. Some

fear this may lead European citizens

aiming to work in an English-

speaking country to flock to the U.S.,

Canada and Australia, causing a so-

called “brain drain” of Britain and

Europe’s great minds.

Increased trade with countries

outside of Europe is also likely given

that Britain is no longer guaranteed

access to the EU’s single market,

which allows the free movement

of goods, services, money and

people within Europe. In reality, it

remains unclear exactly how Brexit

will affect Britain, the EU and other

nations globally, but the near future

seems to promise benefits for

non-EU countries while negatively

affecting Britain.

The EU Referendum:

What Does Brexit Mean for Britain?

37