Outsiders Up Close: Brexit


Photo by: Pixabay

Athena Pajer

The United Kingdom voted on leaving the European Union on June 23, 2016. 72% of voters showed, and “leave” beat “remain” 52%-48%. The country has been debating the infamous “EU Referendum,” or “Brexit,” ever since. 

Fast-forward to Oct. 31, 2019. Brexit decision day. Halloween. 

22 MU students and a professor living in London gathered in the classroom behind the students’ flat. The students arrived in the U.K. on Sept. 1 knowing the Brexit deal day was two months away. They passed the next two months hearing the news, the word on the street, and picking up the emotions running high around the city. 

It seemed to be the leading topic on the news for nine days out of ten for two months. So, they awaited Oct. 31 to hear the terms of the exit.

Oct. 31 rolled around, and the MU students instead breathed a sigh of relief and clinked imaginary champagne glasses when the news came: the E.U. pushed the deadline from that morning to Jan. 31, 2020.

Most of the students, like many in London, do not want Brexit.

It would fundamentally change London—a global city if there ever was one. It is the most popular tourist destination in the world. You can also find people of all nationalities living there. If the U.K. leaves the E.U., being global would be hard. For many Brexit supporters, this is the point.

Many have argued that the referendum was a decision about an economic issue. It became clear once pro-Brexit propaganda emerged that it was also a nationalist movement. Its goal? If you simplify it: lower immigration and trade competition with other countries. 

It also wanted to leave the E.U. because the U.K. doesn’t think the E.U. plays a helpful role in its economy. This is an interesting point, and people all over Europe are still debating if it’s true.

The U.K. would have more time to figure out a deal. This is the second extension. The U.K. didn’t have a solid deal last March when the first deadline came and went. The U.K. is biding its time to form a plan. It is in everyone’s best interest.

The last thing anyone wants is to “crash out” of the E. U. with no deal. That could possibly lead to closed borders.

The deadline change, however, drags an ugly truth to light: something the U.K. and the U.S. have in common.

Both countries’ governments get caught up in party politics. 

Brexit is a partisan issue between Tories and the Labour party. These are rough equivalents to the U.S. Republican and Democratic party, respectively. Tories likely want to leave, and Labour members want to stay.

While discussions on Brexit are taking place, the U.K. is entering elections. People are discussing which seat will be held by Tories, Labour, or other emerging parties like Liberal Democrats or the Green Party. Candidates are using Brexit as leverage in elections and politicians are warring against each other over it.

This election is making it seem like remainers are winning one week and Brexit supporters the next. A reasonable deal is falling to the wayside.

How much time does the U.K. need? Will they ever reach a decision? If they’re going to do Brexit, why don’t they settle on a solution and get on with it? 

Does this sound familiar?

MU London students know Brexit is a serious issue, but it likely won’t affect them this year. Brexit is a slow-moving giant. It’s a debate how dangerous it is.

No one knows the full consequences if Britain leaves the E.U. Some argue Brexit would cause minor inconveniences in U.K. trade networks. Some argue it will actually be good for the U.K. if they form a good deal.

I agree. Forming a good deal that gives the U.K. freedom from E.U. regulations that do not benefit the U.K. while promoting economic growth and immigration will be the most ideal option. Forming this deal takes a level of cooperation, though. It looks like the U.K., like the U.S., is too steeped in partisan politics to reach a deal like that.

Brexit would more than likely trigger a serious recession. The latter is what we should be worrying about, right? 

Any step away from being global is one towards not just economic downfall, but oppression and racism, too. 

The fact that London is so global makes it strong. U.S. cities can learn a lot from the U.K., just like MU students in London are learning about its culture.

Here’s something nearly every student has learned:  

London’s strong globalism makes it difficult for the majority to alienate the minority. People of color in London, though facing struggles, live in a more diverse and less segregated city than those in the U.S. It is easier for people of color to find constructive communities and powerful jobs. 

The U.K. can learn from the U.S., too.

Trying to separate yourself from an organization for the wrong reasons (xenophobia, nationalism, etc.) is dangerous

U.S. students have already witnessed what happens when nations block trade and immigration. They’ve seen travel bans, trade wars, unfair border laws, and citizenship processes like 400 meters of 10-foot hurdles. Brexit is an idea with good intentions, but there are too many forces at play that cause it to harm a lot of people.