Brexit: a saga of uncertainty for Britain and the rest of the world. Ever since Theresa May announced her resignation for 7 June 2019, the United Kingdom (UK) has been in suspense for who will become the next Tory leader. But what is Brexit and what was it that led to May’s fall?
Brexit refers to the UK—England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland—referendum decision to exit from the European Union (EU). The referendum, which took place on 23 June 2016, saw 52% respond in the affirmative to the question “Should the UK leave or remain in the EU?” , initiating Brexit . On 29 March 2017, Article 50 was triggered, meaning that the UK would have two years to leave the EU. As we all know, the deadline was not met due to the inability to create an accepted exit deal. Then-Prime Minister May was able to bargain with EU27 (the EU excluding the UK), to extend the deadline to 31 October 2019 .
There are many reasons the UK wanted to leave the European Union. Being in the EU meant that the UK was also a part of the Single Market, Customs Union, and the Courts of Justice, the first two of which encourage free trade within the union. While this may be beneficial, they also limit the UK’s control over its own trade: any trade deal must be negotiated with all of the European Union. Further, the Courts of Justice, the European equivalent of the Supreme Court, and ensures they are being implemented. This means they currently have some power over British laws, and some citizens aren’t happy about it. The last primary point of contention is the costs associated with staying in the EU, which are proportional to the country’s size—meaning the UK contributed much more than others.
There are four main outcomes that may dictate the conclusion of Brexit: No Deal, Hard Brexit, Soft Brexit, and Chequers Deal. No Deal indicates that the UK was unable to reach an agreement with the EU. This would render all trade agreements between the UK and the EU invalid and force the UK individual deals with the EU and other partner countries. Until all of these deals are re-created, the UK would be suffering greatly financially. Produce and medication would all see increased taxes and prices and lesser availability. Because No Deal would eliminate previous trade deals with the EU, a hard border would be implemented. A hard border would also make it harder for EU residents to travel and immigrate to the UK as they have done before. This may not be great for tourism, but there aren’t many predictions on how things will occur. Unless you are a Brit that wants that hard border to control immigration, this mess of a deal benefits neither the EU nor the UK. Even if you do favour it, a No Deal outcome could cause problems. Due to the UK leaving the Single Market and Customs Union, new measures will have to be taken throughout the border of the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, and Northern Ireland . This situation leaves many in distress, as the hard border that may be implemented reminds them of The Troubles, the violence that lasted for decades because of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland separating. The people of both Irelands worry that a hard border may cause an effect similar to the one nearly sixty years ago.
What about Hard Brexit? It has a very conservative stance, and might best be described as a more controlled No Deal Brexit. Hard Brexit makes sure that the UK leaves the EU’s Single Market, Customs Union, and The Courts of Justice. Without being a part of these groups, the UK would gain more power over its trade deals, laws, and regulations. For competition with foreign and British companies, Hard Brexit would be beneficial for Britain. Due to foreign exporters getting more tariffs on their products and being more expensive, the customers would choose the local, British goods. This may seem like a good deal at first, but without the benefits of trading within the EU, Britain would have to face more tariffs. Even if a British company wasn’t to sell outside of the UK, any components or parts used in the products that come from the EU would be paid for by British companies. Just like how with a No Deal scenario, travel and immigration laws will change, a hard border will be implemented between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Soft Brexit is an option that may cause the EU and UK to reach a compromise, trade would not be as problematic. With this type of Brexit, the UK may still stay in the Single Market or Customs Union, depending on the exact deal they make. This way goods being imported from the EU won’t cause a sudden increase in price, and British companies who use material from the EU for their own products won’t face extra tariffs. However, this deal will get in the way of Brexit eliminating most foreign competitors in the UK market. It will also get in the way of the UK’s independence in trade agreements with countries outside of the EU, like the United States and China. This seems contradictory to some who support Hard Brexit, and may cause frustration over the power the EU has over UK laws. Regarding Northern Ireland, because many of trade and immigration laws would stay the same, a hard border will most likely be avoided.
Since both options seem to be frustrating both sides, Prime Minister Theresa May tried to create a new type of deal, called the Chequers Deal, that could cater to both sides. With this deal, the UK and the EU would agree to the Common Rules. This plan would not change trade with the EU, as many things about borders and tariffs would be the same. However, this time the UK would be able to make deals with other countries, something that is not possible with Soft Brexit. The rights of EU members living in the UK would be protected, and so would the rights of UK citizens living in other EU countries. As a compromise, the UK would still have control over its own border, causing the UK to control immigration as they please. With control over borders, a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland could also be avoided. This lukewarm plan seems like a center between Hard Brexit and Soft Brexit. However the EU refused this deal, and May demanded an explanation as the EU was vague about their reasons. Luckily, another deal similar to the Chequers Deal was accepted by the EU, however the UK Parliament did not accept it. So far, it seems that a majority of the House of Commons does not want a No Deal Brexit, which is a great common area, but they cannot agree on a deal.
The UK is still able to revoke Article 50, however at this point there is a very low chance that they actually will. The referendums show that the general public wants Brexit to take place, and the MPs do not plan to disregard it. It is only a matter of waiting for the UK House of Commons to agree to a deal. However, ever since Theresa May has announced her resignation for 7 June 2019, the new Prime Minister’s stance on Brexit will affect which deal will be chosen. The person previously most likely to replace Theresa May was Boris Johnson, a Brexiteer that has previously supported Brexit by October 2019, “deal or no deal.”  However, after a new case opened about him lying about Brexit, this may not happen after all. The other two candidates for Theresa May’s place in the Conservative Party are Andrea Leadsom and Jeremy Hunt.
As the UK deals with debates over leaving the EU, Scotland considers leaving the UK for good. A referendum back in 2014 showed that a majority of the Scottish people did not want to leave the UK . However, in 2016, another referendum was held regarding Scotland’s opinion on leaving the European Union. This time, the majority wanted to stay in the EU . The UK leaving the EU has created a new topic of conversation in Scotland, and many want another independence referendum. If Scotland does end up leaving the UK and becoming independent, the government may apply to join the EU by themselves. Something that they will have to consider is their likelihood of getting in the EU, and the new bills they will have to pay.
Even after months of debate, what’s going to happen isn’t set in stone. It looks like the UK will most likely leave the EU; it’s just a matter of how and when.