UPDATE : 23 JUNE 2016 : BRITAIN HAS VOTED TO EXIT THE EUROPEAN UNION : FOR MORE INFORMATION, CLICK HERE - ARTICLE WILL BE UPDATED FREQUENTLY TO KEEP UP TO DATE
Thursday, 23 June is one that might be remembered forever.
Because on Thursday, citizens throughout the United Kingdom will be voting whether to remain in the European Union, an organization that they have been a part for 43 years (they first joined in 1973), or whether to take their final bow and exit. The possibility of the UK exiting the EU has become known by most news and media outlets as “Brexit.” The vote is what's known as a referendum, or basically, a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part – people cast one of two votes: yes or no. In referendums, the first answer to have 50%+1 of the vote is considered to "win." So of course, this referendum has become a real nail-biter.
But, to understand what Brexit is, there needs to first be an understanding of what the European Union is and why it has a continuous impact on European and global economies. In short, the European Union is an economic and trade coalition that governs countries which choose to and are eligible to gain membership. The EU has a governing body that meets in Belgium, and so some laws that are made by the EU apply in every single EU country. Also, you’re probably familiar with the Euro – the currency used by * most * EU nations – the exception being Britain.
The Brits have many motives for wanting to [Br]exit. Most of them are fueled by economics; here's a rundown of the top reasons cited as fueling the desire to leave.
1. The Euro
Currently, One Euro equals about 3/4 of one British Pound Sterling. Many "Brexiters" (aka supporters of the Brexit) feel that the EU stifles economic growth; they often cite the weaker currency as hard proof that the UK economy is stronger and would do even better without being tied to the European Union. In addition, the EU is attempting to require all countries to switch to the Euro by the year 2020, which many Brits think would further stifle the UK economy.
An integral part of the European Union that many often overlook is the ability for migrants to find work and housing without the same restrictions as non-EU citizens. David Cameron, current prime minister of Britain, however, is currently attempting to INCREASE restrictions on migrants and their ability to live and work within the UK. The ability to live and work also applies to the ability to study. With little to no Visa restrictions, there is often much movement of people within the EU, and often times, these people also qualify for UK social benefits, such as free education, which many Brexiters do not appreciate.
To be a member of the EU, each country gives up a little bit of her sovereignty, because the country must now abide by EU trade agreements, laws, and governing authority. The EU is also fairly undemocratic, so many Brexiters see themselves giving up sovereignty to a body over which they have no control. Labour MP Kate Hoey says the EU is "an attempt to replace the democratic power of the people with a permanent administration in the interests of big business." Parties to the right of the Labour party, although they disagree on many things, even agree with MP Hoey: that the EU has lessened the power of Parliament.
4. The Membership Fee
No longer being in the European Union means no longer having to pay EU membership fees, which cost Britain £13bn last year. Yes, Britain received about £4.5bn back in EU investment, but their net spending was £8.5bn. To put that into perspective, their net cost to the EU was about 12,433,375,000 USD.
However, as big as these problems may seem, there are some serious consequences that could come from a Brexit. Below are a few worthy of noting.
1. The Problem of Expats & Students
Because of UK membership in the EU, UK citizens are free to live and work wherever they choose within the EU. UK leaving the EU would create a somewhat sticky situation for those living outside of the EU, because their "stay as long as you like" card would no longer exist.
Also, students who moved to another country to seek an education, or students who are studying abroad – what happens to them? Are there more stringent requirements for them to be in the UK? Are UK students allowed to study in, say, Finland? These are some serious questions that people don't quite know the answer to, yet.
International analysts predict that if the UK drops out of the EU, it will join countries like Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein in a private trading / economic network. Trade for the UK would likely remain the same or comparable to what it is now, without the same restrictions placed on it as are now under the EU. This would also allow the UK to trade more easily with countries outside of the EU, opening up a lot of opportunity for the country. * Britain, however, risks losing some negotiating power by leaving the EU, but it would be free to establish its own trade agreements.
3. Foreign Investment
Despite what an upside exit might seem on trade, it is likely that Britain would lose a significant amount of foreign investment, as many countries see it as an accessible gateway into the rest of the EU.
According to Aljazeera, "More than three million UK jobs, one in every 10, are linked to Britain's trade with the EU, they say. And they predict that being in the EU will create 790,000 more UK jobs by 2030, while leaving will cause up to 950,000 UK jobs to be lost." This means that a withdrawal would seriously harm people's ability to work and live comfortably.
5. In Response to Sovereignty
Many of those who will vote to Remain on Thursday say that being in the EU gives the UK a more powerful seat at the International Table and an upper hand in discussion with other countries.
6. Global Issues
This argument is extremely popular in the younger generation, but being in the EU allows for virtually an entire continent to work together on issues such as the environment and crime. Issues that require global cooperation more easily reach a solution when there is a governing body that is over 20+ countries.
Ok, so you're probably asking yourself why this affects you; well, below are some serious issues that the United States economy will face if there is a Brexit.
According to the Washington Post: “Britain's departure from the European Union could send shock waves across the global economy and threaten more than a trillion dollars in investment and trade with the United States.” A decision to leave the EU would carry a lot of cons for American business, which employs more than one million British citizens. Also, the United States is the largest single investor in the UK, and many businesses, as stated before, treat the UK as an entry point to the rest of the EU - a Brexit would cause the US to seriously rethink how it relates to the markets of the 28 nations that make up the EU. Several of the largest corporations in the US and on Wall Street have come together in an attempt to keep the Brexit from occurring.
Globally, The International Monetary Fund has predicted a UK withdrawal from the EU would be what they called, "negative and substantial." The IMF predictedd that the UK stepping back form the EU could seriously hinder the global economy, and stunt growth by up to 6% (of course this was worst-case-scenario). This outlook and prediction is driven by the fact that if the UK withdrawals from the EU, they will be forced to renegotiate trade deals with some of the EU countries, which leaves a lot up in the air.
So, What Happens?
Well, on Thursday, there will be a vote to see which side wins – the side to leave or the side to stay. Currently, the two sides are neck-and-neck. It's interesting to note, however, that the issue is split down the generational line for the most part, with young people overwhelmingly supporting the side to stay in the EU. Many young people say they appreciate the ease of cooperation on global issues that can be found in the EU – these issues range from immigration to global warming. The Economist has some pretty sweet polling graphs that can show polling data by demographic and party affiliation. Below is the overall polling data along with the general divide mentioned.
During research for this piece, we talked to an international student named Sofie, who studies at The University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Not being a UK national, the Brexit would seriously harm her ability to study in Scotland. Not only would she be affected, but the majority of students would be, seeing as how, Sofie states, about half of students at The University of Aberdeen are non-UK Nationals.
The EU feels kinda like a big nation where we're all so different in terms of languages, cultures and customs, but being able to go wherever we want to study, live and travel brings us together and it'd be such a shame if we had to give it up.
Many people have taken to the Internet either in show of support or opposition of the Brexit. There was even a hashtag on Twitter where cats became involved in the mix.
All - In - All, this debate over Brexit has been an exciting one, and it will all culminate on Thursday with the holding of the referendum.
If you've made it this far, you now know more than Donald Trump does about Brexit, who, in an interview with Michael Wolff for The Hollywood Reporter said this in response to a question about Brexit:
“And Brexit? Your position?” Mr Woolf asked.
* The New York tycoon was then told what the abbreviation meant. *
He replied: “Oh yeah, I think they should leave.”
Lead Image Credit: Justus Blumer via Flickr Creative Commons