Brexit: UK one step closer to leaving the European Union
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Brexit. For years it was a catch-phrase. A pipe dream of British campaigners who thought theyâd be better off not being tied to Europe.
Now itâs becoming very, very real.
Kilometres of newsprint, countless data, and what feels like rolling daily TV news coverage in Britain is counting down to the Big Day next March when Britain is set to leave the European Union.
So much is still uncertain. Will there be a Deal?
Will Brexit result in economic Armageddon both for Britain and also, though to less of an extent, Europe - as it is losing one of its most advanced economies?
And will the British PM, Theresa May, even be around to see the Deal or No Deal scenario though?
Many commentators are talking about this being the worldâs biggest divorce.
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Theyâre not wrong.
This separation has acrimony, angst, and fears for the future - all without the final backstop of a Judge to blame for the outcome.
WHAT IS BREXIT?
Brexit is the phrase given to the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland withdrawing from the European Union. Oh, and Gibraltar as well.
Then-Prime Minister David Cameron sought to end years of separation talk by callin g a referendum.
The vote was on the 23rd of June 2016.
Thirty-three-and-a-half-million people voted - 51.89 percent of them saying Yes to leaving the EU.
Mr Cameron resigned as PM after the shock result, and the UK was put on a course for divorce.
The official EU withdrawal process was instigated on March 29, 2017, putting Britain on course to leave exactly two years later.
The EU works by having four key principles.
The âfour freedomsâ: free movement of go ods, services, capital and people.
It means anyone from an EU member nation can live and work in any other EU member nation, without the need for visas or naturalisation.
Goods and services arenât taxed when they move between countries, and money can be transferred and spent easily.
Depending on your view - Brexiteer or Remainer - this has either helped or hindered the UK.
Brexiteers say it's led to too much unskilled migration to Britain, particularly from Eastern Europe, undercutting wages and employment.
Brexiteers also hate that Britain is subject to the European Court of Justice, and pays billions of po unds to be part of the EU - the European bureaucracy is vast.
Remainers, though, say free movement has opened up opportunities. In addition to migration to Britain, huge numbers of British people now live in Europe.
Many have retired there, taking advantage of the cheaper housing and cost of living, while also accessing free healthcare under the EU agreement.
Goods come to Britain without going through customs and duty, due to the Customs Union. This has led to cheaper imported food, particularly fruits and vegetables, that either canât be grown in Britainâs climate or can be produced elsewhere in Europe for less.
Britain, and particularly the City of London, has benefited from the free movement of capital. Itâs now a worldwide financial hub, where billions and billions of dollars go through financial âclearing housesâ, that can cover Europe as well.
DEAL OR NO DEAL?
Since the Brexit vote, and particularly since the trigger of the formal exit process, bureaucrats from Britain and the European Union have been trying to thrash out a deal.
Basically, Britain pays a multi-billion dollar lump sum to leave the EU, and things like trade and immigration are subject to new treaties and agreements.
The UK Prime Minister Theresa May has come up with her so-called âChequers Planâ and to take back control of the borders, and leave the Customs Union and jurisdiction of the European Court.
However, there would still be a free trade area, with a âcommon rule bookâ for goods and agriculture.
Most of these points seem to have been acce pted by her European counterparts.
However, the big sticking point is the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Neither side wants a so-called âhard borderâ implemented, for fears it would once again stir sectarian violence and send the island back to the dark days of âThe Troublesâ.
So far though, thereâs no agreement on how a âsoft borderâ can be implemented alongside a Britain that wants to take back control of immigration.
The best idea so far seems to be to have an even longer âimplementation periodâ before a hard border is introduced, and just hope for the best.
Also, dozens of MPs in Mrs Mayâs own Conservative Party are opposed to her plan.
Boris Johnson has already resigned as Foreign Secretary, and is leading a âchuck chequersâ campaign, contending that the plan would limit the UKâs ability to deal with other nations, and leave it as a de facto EU member.
There are now serious questions whether Mrs May will remain Prime Minister, or be rolled by her own party.
Last week, the European Council President said it felt like a deal was closer than it was before.
If one isnât agreed though, Britain will crash out of the EU, with no immigration, customs or legal agreements with its closest neighbours.
Itâs an Armageddon scenario of food shortages, rationing, rapid inflation and an economy in ruins.
Already, leaked briefing documents are calling for food and medicine stockpiles to negate any initial shock.
There are predictions from emergency planners of lines of trucks tens of kilometres long, simply waiting for new customs checks before they can head across the English Channel to the Continent.
The nightmare scenarios have galvanised âRemainersâ to once again protest against Brexit.
More than half a million people marched through London last week calling for another vote.
That now seems unlikely though. The only vote that will definitely happen is whatâs been dubbed a âmeaningful voteâ in the Parliament about any deal, though it isnât legally binding.
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
Basically, who knows?
The scenarios are still too widely divergent for anyone who doesnât have a crystal ball to predict whatâs going to happen.
If a deal is done in Brussels, then more educated assumptions can be reached about what the consequences are.
Of course, Theresa May could then be rolled as Prime Minister, and any deal scrapped before March next year, meaning even greater uncertainty!
Itâs hard to see how a deal canât be done, given the gravity of the situation.
But most people didnât predict the Brexit vote either.
The only thing certain here is that Brexit is Britainâs biggest upheaval for decades, and itâs also set to have wide-ranging consequences for the Union that had held post-War, and post-Cold War, Europe together.
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