EU and U.K. continue to negotiate as global consequences intensify
Mariah Partin, Staff Writer
On June 23, 2016, Britain voted to leave the European Union via referendum. Brexit is the portmanteau commonly used to describe Britain’s exit from the European Union. Following the referendum, Article 50, the so-called “divorce clause” of the Lisbon Treaty was triggered on Mar. 29, 2017, beginning a two-year negotiating process that will see Britain formally leaving the bloc in 2019.
While predictions were made that the U.K.’s economy would be negatively affected, the economy has steadily grown at almost the same 1.8 percent rate as it did in 2016. However, the pound did drop 10 percent lower against the dollar, meaning that right now is an excellent time for Americans to visit the U.K. Since June 2017, the EU and U.K. negotiating teams have been meeting face-to-face for one week each month. Their first tasks are to tackle the rights of U.K. and EU citizens after Brexit, as well as the so-called “divorce bill,” the amount of money the U.K. will need to pay for leaving the bloc.
Article 50 was created as a formal mechanism for a country to depart the EU, and is part of the Lisbon Treaty. The agreement states that a country may depart, but must notify the European Council, negotiate its withdrawal with the EU and provide two years to reach an agreement. British Prime Minister Theresa May started this process on Mar. 29 of this year, making the expected departure date Mar. 29, 2019. Within these two years, a number of steps will be taken, involving much negotiating, including whether the U.K. will stay a part of the single market.
The EU single market was created in 1992 to allow the free movement of goods, services, money and people within the EU as if it were a single country. This makes travel easier, but according to BBC, critics say it has led to an increase in immigration and has taken away Britain’s control of domestic affairs, for example it is estimated that 75 percent of Britain’s laws are made by the largely unelected European Union instead of the elected British Parliament. What May has taken from the majority vote in the referendum is that U.K. citizens want to slow down the immigration influx. May said that a focus of negotiations will be to get net migration (migrants entering and leaving the country), to a “sustainable” level, estimated at under 100,000 per year. The rate of migration increase has slowed since the Brexit vote, largely because of the emigration from the U.K. of other Eastern European and Central European citizens.
The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is another pressing issue at the center of negotiations. The U.K. has indicated their preference for a “soft border,” meaning no physical infrastructure, such as customs posts. There are many questions about how Brexit is impacting Scotland and Northern Ireland. Scotland and Northern Ireland, as regions, both voted to remain in the EU, which initially led some to speculate that they may try to leave the UK, by becoming independent in Scotland’s case or by rejoining with the Republic of Ireland in Northern Ireland’s case. This seems unlikely as of now given that Scotland recently voted to stay in the U.K. in 2014, and because Northern Ireland’s status is heavily dependent on the relations between Protestants and Catholics. In Northern Ireland, Protestants are the majority and are heavily opposed to unification with the Republic of Ireland, a Catholic country.
The Guardian reports that Wall Street is concerned about consequences of Brexit and the lack of progress the U.K. has made with the EU as far as trade deals. Top bank executives have expressed their concerns for the economic stability of the U.K. and are beginning to speculate that jobs may be moved back to the U.S. and other parts of Europe. With talk of economic problems and increasing pressure to make deals by the EU, May’s opinion poll numbers have started to dip.