The vote of the British people to leave the European Union, commonly referred to as Brexit, has caused resentment, anger, and regret in many quarters. Its implementation will be very complicated.
The two sides, European Union countries and the United Kingdom, have entered complex negotiations to accomplish the break-up. The Union’s chief negotiator is Michel Barnier of France; the British Secretary for leaving Europe is David Davis. Departments involving hundreds of men and women have been set up. It has been estimated that Brexit will take two or more years to finalize. We will all be sick of it by then. Many are already.
Britain leaving the European Union is serious stuff. All countries involved could be hurt to one degree or another. Ireland and Northern Ireland may suffer the most. New rules must be put in place for their common border, the only land border between the UK and the Common market countries. Normally this would require a system of customs and passport facilities for the collection of duties and to prevent free unrecorded movement of travelers. Hard and fast border controls will be detrimental to the North and South; on the other hand, they could be the biggest winners if Brexit turns out to be a small step toward a much desired United Ireland.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Department are trying their best to prevent damage to Ireland’s economy and changes to border programs that were set by the Good Friday agreement 20 years ago. Television and newspapers headlines proclaim new solutions nearly every day but most of the chatter is posturing by one side or the other and speculation by the media. Very little has been decided. The sides are simply setting their own priorities.
There is evidence that most of the British people did not fully appreciate what they were voting for. The results were not the same throughout the UK. Northern Ireland, Scotland, the city of London, and young people voted to remain. It was the older, more conservative voters who wanted to leave.
The Conservative British Government refuses to consider a second vote in spite of the difficulty now apparent in a divorce from Europe. The British people voted 51.9 percent to leave Europe and 48.1 percent to remain; at this point there is no way to tell how they might vote a second time.
According to its website, the European Union was formed “to end the frequent and bloody wars between neighbors which culminated in the Second World War. As of 1950 the European Coal and Steel Community began to unite European countries economically and politically in order to secure a lasting peace.”
The six founding countries were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Over the next 20 years, with the help of the United States, the European economy grew substantially. So much so that the United Kingdom made application twice to join the Common Market. Charles de Gaulle, then president of France, vetoed the application twice. He did not trust them.
However, in 1973, after de Gaulle left office, Ireland, Denmark, and the UK joined the Union. Today there are 28 Union members with a huge infrastructure and its own Parliament. It is the infrastructure that British nationalists have difficulty with. “Give us our country back,” exclaim those in favor of leaving.
The EU structure that exists today permits free movement of its people across state borders, no customs duties on goods traded, a sharing of economic data, and a spirit of trust and togetherness against common enemies. That will all change once a major partner likes the United Kingdom leaves. Prices will go up to pay for the extra customs duties, long lines at airports and border crossings will become normal, and former friends will be distrustful once again. The German, French, and United Kingdom rivalry will become much more present.
There will be other organizations like NATO that will help protect both sides militarily but overall Brexit will be another step alienating Europe from the United Kingdom. People will start to remember what it was like in 1945.
What was once considered a very good thing may be destroyed?