U.K. officially begins process of leaving the EU

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


In June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a referendum vote. 52 percent of voters voted to leave while 48 percent voted to stay. Last week, London officially invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, triggering the process to leave the EU.

Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter to President of the European Council Donald Tusk to commence the Article. In the letter, May wrote “We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.” She also clarified that by enacting Article 50, the UK plans also to leave the European Atomic Energy Community, Euratom.

Exiting Euratom will require Britain to make new negotiations with involved states, which could delay construction of the newly forming Hinkley Point and Horizon nuclear power plants, as reported by the Telegraph. Potential effects include a suspension of nuclear fuel imports that would affect the functionality of present nuclear reactors, from which two thirds of British energy is sourced.

After notifying the EU headquarters in Brussels, the U.K. will need to negotiate with the other 28 member states and 38 different legislatures, including national, regional and linguistic parliaments, to earn their approval to leave the union, according to the New York Times. The deal must be complete within 2 years or by March 29, 2019. The EU is allowed to grant an extension to this deadline assuming all member states agree.

Membership in the EU has proven essential to the British economy, as reported by the New York Times. The supranational organization creates a community of customs-free exchanges and in leaving, Britain will face new tariffs on imports and exports.

Since the referendum vote, the pound has become inflated. According to the BBC, its value is estimated to remain at least 10 percent below its recorded June 2016 value for the foreseeable future. Despite this projection, the future status of the British economy is unclear. BBC correspondent Norman Smith said, “We don’t know what is going to happen to the economy, whether it is going to prosper or whether it is going to flounder.”

Immigration is another concern that Brexit will address. Prime Minister May wants the net migration, or the difference between people leaving and entering the U.K., to be below 100,000 per year. In 2015 and 2016 the net level was 273,000 people, according to the BBC.

Despite Scotland’s vote against independence in the 2014 referendum, pro-independence sentiment has intensified since the Brexit vote and even more so since the invocation of Article 50. On March 31, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon sought approval from the national government to hold another referendum on independence, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Prior to this request, a future referendum in 2018 or 2019 was approved by the Scottish Parliament on March 28.

Sturgeon wrote in the proposal, “In these very changed circumstances, the people of Scotland must have the right to choose our own future — in short, to exercise our right for self-determination,” alluding to May’s call to self-determination in her letter to President Tusk.

Newsweek reported that May fears a referendum on Scottish independence would only further disrupt British negotiations. Holding a referendum without federal approval could lead to questions concerning the constitutional validity of the results, hindering a successful Scottish bid to join the EU.

Julia Leland ’20, a student from London, expressed frustration with the estimated 2 million people who did not fully understand the role of the EU in the UK and explained that customs and trade regulations will need to be restructured individually with member states. Withdrawal from the EU “goes beyond economic trade, it gives validation to people to be xenophobic,” she said.

She also predicted that Scotland will likely succeed in their independence referendum. However, she recognized the new questions which will arise from that process regarding Scotland’s relationship with the UK, such as: “How do you cross borders properly? How do you develop new immigration laws and manage travel?”

Leland said that as the process moves forward “Theresa May needs to speak to her constituents because now at this point they’re all in it together and the public is not happy.”