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Causes of the UK's Decision to Leave the EU

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 1633 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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 On June 23, 2016 a referendum, which would determine the UK’s status with the EU, was held in Britain. Former Prime Minister of Britain David Cameron has been discussing this referendum since 2013. Regardless, based on the events that followed the referendum it does not seem Brexit was well thought out. 51.9% voted to leave the EU while 48.1% voted to stay. The main reasons the UK wants to leave the EU are sovereignty and immigration (Introduction: Studying Brexit’s causes and consequences, 430). About half of the citizens in the UK believe that decisions about the UK should be made in the UK. They feel like being a part of the EU is stripping their government of necessary power. Second, immigration primarily from other EU countries into the UK has been steadily increasing since the early 2000s. “Inflows of EU nationals migrating to the UK stood at 268,000 in 2014, up from 201,000 in 2013” (The Migration Observatory). Specifically, a rise in local immigration impacted the results of the referendum greatly (Taking back control? Investigating the role of immigration in the 2016 vote for Brexit, 452). Because of the EU’s open borders these immigrants were able to enter the UK with practically no restrictions. When the immigrants crossed over to the UK they also brought their own cultures with them. This meant the UK was no longer a melting pot but more similar to a salad bowl. A salad bowl meaning all of the different pieces are put together but they do not merge. Citizens of the UK are known for their strong nationality so when the majority of immigrants are unwilling to leave behind their homelands’ culture this bothered UK citizens (How Brexit was made in England, 634). Also economics play a small part in the UK’s decision to leave. During the international recession of 2008 countries that used the euro were heavily affected. In some countries unemployment shot up to 20%. Even though it has been 11 years since that recession a few countries in the EU are still struggling. A few economists blame the euro for this catastrophe. Moreover, some UK citizens believe that they do not need the EU in order to trade successfully with other countries. All 3 reasons why the UK wants to leave the EU can be simplified into a single sentence: the UK does not like the way the EU operates and they think they can do better. However, not all citizens of the UK want to leave the EU. In the referendum Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU (Brexit and Scotland: between two unions, 67). These two countries had no interest in leaving the single market of the EU. The idea of not having free trade with members of the EU worried the Scottish government so much that they came up with a plan to become a member of the European Economic Area. The European Economic Area are counties that are allowed to participate in the EU’s single market without having to be part of the EU. This solution would have resolved the Scottish government’s worries if it had not been rejected by the British government. Northern Ireland’s issue is a bit different from Scotland’s. Currently there is a treaty, Good Friday Agreement, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that prevents a hard border separating the two countries (Northern Ireland and Brexit: Three effects on ‘the border in the mind’, 498). This treaty was created to end the violence between the Northern Ireland unionists and the Republic of Ireland nationalists. The issue back then is very similar to the issue now. Back then the Northern Ireland unionists wanted to stay apart of the UK whereas the Republic of Ireland nationalists wanted to be independent from the UK. As of now the only difference is that they are fighting about the EU and not the UK. If the UK does separate from the EU it could put a strain on the Good Friday Agreement and result in a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Neither side wants that to happen again because the last time there was a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland there was a 30 year streak of violence that resulted in 3,500 people dead. The UK and EU both recognized this dilemma and created a backstop. “The backstop is a position of last resort, to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland in the event that the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal” (BBC). Even though this backstop could resolve the problems Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland may face after Brexit there are a few that disagree with the backstop. Those few are primarily Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party. They believe that the backstop will allow the UK to reap the benefits of being a part of the EU even after they have left. The backstop is expected to be a temporary fix but that does not help convince the Conservative party to agree with it. In my opinion Brexit is significantly more complicated than I ever expected it to be. After researching about it in preparation for the trip I have discovered several different ways the UK can go about Brexit. First, forget about Brexit and remain in the EU. This option is mainly supported by Jeremy Corbyn the Leader of the Labor Party and the Leader of the Opposition. Second, remain in the EU but on the UK’s terms. This is a much older option that was original brought in 2013 by former British Prime Minister David Cameron. The UK’s terms are to still be an active member of the EU but to have closed borders. This option is extremely similar to the next option. Third, the UK will leave the EU but not entirely; this is called a soft exit. A soft exit will allow the UK to leave the EU and allow them to still participate in the EU’s single market without opening their borders. This agreement would have been idle for the UK if the EU had not stated that if the UK wants to be a part of the single market then they must abide by all of the EU’s rules, including open borders. Fourth, the hard exit. The hard exit means the UK will leave the EU entirely, therefore they will have the freedom to come up with their own trade rules. The problem with this plan is that creating fair trade rules takes time and until they have new trade rules in place any imported goods will increase drastically in price. This economic shift may be too much for the UK’s citizens to handle. However, if the UK begins to suffer financially right after the hard exit an agreement could be made with the EU to participate in the single market until the new trade rules are written. Fifth, no deal or as I like to call it ‘the last resort’. No deal means the UK will leave the EU by October 31 2019 no matter what. This exit plan could be catastrophic to the UK’s economy and if that is the case the EU will not be there to help them. “The Bank of England warned that a no deal Brexit could shrink the U.K. economy by 8% in a year and lead domestic house prices to fall by a third. British and European stock markets will certainly be punished, as will the U.K. currency” (Investopedia). Neither side, remain nor leave, are willing to compromise therefore I do not think the British government will come to an agreement before the no deal deadline. The real question is, will the UK actually leave the EU or will they keep pushing back the deadline? I do not believe the British government will openly say that they will remain in the EU because more than half of the UK wants to leave. I do think that the no deal deadline will keep getting pushed back until it is completely forgotten about. Even though the idea of Brexit has been around for years it still felt rushed and unplanned for. As a result the British government appears to have done very little in preparation for separating from the EU. I do not think the UK is prepared to leave the EU and if they do leave they will not survive very long on their own.

Works Cited

  • Campbell, John. “Brexit: What Is the Irish Border Backstop?” BBC News, BBC, 5 Apr. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-politics-44615404.
  • Goodwin, Matthew, and Caitlin Milazzo. “Taking Back Control? Investigating the Role of Immigration in the 2016 Vote for Brexit.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 19, no. 3, 2017, pp. 450–464., doi:10.1177/1369148117710799.
  • Gormley-Heenan, Cathy, and Arthur Aughey. “Northern Ireland and Brexit: Three Effects on ‘the Border in the Mind.’” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 19, no. 3, 2017, pp. 497–511., doi:10.1177/1369148117711060.
  • Henderson, Ailsa, et al. “How Brexit Was Made in England.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 19, no. 4, 2017, pp. 631–646., doi:10.1177/1369148117730542.
  • Liberto, Daniel. “Hard, Soft, On Hold or No Deal: Brexit Outcomes Explained.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 23 Jan. 2019, www.investopedia.com/hard-soft-on-hold-or-no-deal-brexit-outcomes-explained-4584439.
  • Mcewen, Nicola. “Brexit and Scotland: between Two Unions.” British Politics, vol. 13, no. 1, 2017, pp. 65–78., doi:10.1057/s41293-017-0066-4.
  • “Migrants in the UK: An Overview.” Migration Observatory, migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/migrants-in-the-uk-an-overview/.
  • Wincott, Daniel, et al. “Introduction: Studying Brexit’s causes and consequences.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Vol. 19, no. 3, 2017, pp. 429–433., doi:10.1177/1369148117713481.


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