There is a lot of satirical content about Brexit doing the rounds on social media right now:
Satire aside, you may be wondering why the term is Brexit even though we frequently refer to the nation as "The UK". Quick geography lesson. If you look at a map, you’ll see a larger island and smaller one. The larger island, sometimes called the British Isles, is home to England, Scotland, and Wales. Residents are often jointly tagged as British. The smaller island hosts Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and they prefer to go by Irish.
So, the UK (full name being the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is a political amalgam of Wales, Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland. Residents of all four nations are UK citizens ruled by the Queen, but they individually refer to themselves as Scottish, Irish, English, and Welsh. They have separate World Cup teams, but their political leadership and representation on the global stage are unified.
In June 2016, a national referendum was held to decide whether they should leave or stay in the European Union, with immigration and trade being hot buttons. 71.8% of eligible voters participated (30 million voters), and ‘Leave’ won by 51.9%. Among the individual nations, England and Wales voted to leave while Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted to stay, though margins were narrow. The EU holds an interest to anyone investing in overseas shares because the 28 member countries function as a single economic block. They have good trading terms and can cross each other’s borders without a visa.
Interestingly, the UK is among nine EU members that retained its currency (Sterling Pound) when the rest switched to the Euro. The EU has a joint parliament and communal legislation in areas like environmental conservation, transport, technology, and consumer rights. After the vote, the UK had two years to leave, meaning their deadline is 29th March 2019. According to EU rules, the two years (dictated by Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty) are for EU and UK to agree on terms, i.e. make a deal. But the UK can still leave without a contract (#NoDealBrexit).
The UK can stop the clock at any time and choose to stay. Or if all 28 states vote for it, their deadline can be extended. However, this is unlikely, because British Premier Theresa May has signed the exit date into law, so one way or another the Brits are out. She was initially against Brexit but now supports it as ‘the people’s will’. The Labour Party (UK’s main opposition party) is trying to force a general election or at least a second referendum. They’re not against Brexit; they just want a change of terms.
This would push the exit date a few months, though the transition period runs until 31st December 2020 … but only if they agree on a deal. During the transition, UK citizens can continue to travel freely within the EU. Without a deal, things will get messy because Brexit will be instant. UK citizens would have no guarantee they could physically remain on EU soil, and the UK would be ruled by WTO (World Trade Organisation) in their dealings with the EU.
Theresa May took her version of the deal to parliament on 15th January 2019 and again on 29th January, but it got voted down. Contentious issues include the backstop which would govern the UK – EU border zone. It would separate Northern Ireland (UK) from the Republic of Ireland (EU). The day after the vote, MPs attempted to vote her out of office but fell 19 votes short. The issue continues to unfold, but at this point, it’s clear Brexit is a go. The only argument is how, and what happens once it’s done.
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