Breaking Down Brexit

Carys Law ‘21

Since 2016, the United Kingdom has been a headliner for its push to leave the European Union (EU), an economic and political union among 28 countries that allows free trade and travel across borders.  The process, coined Brexit, was proposed in February of 2016, and by a slim majority vote held in June, the pro-Brexit camp prevailed.  But now it is 2019, and many are left wondering: where does the UK stand, and is it ever going to leave the EU?


Brexit was first proposed when British prime minister (PM) David Cameron held office.  Upon hearing about the idea, he campaigned to remain as a part of the EU, as the UK had been for the past 44 years. Many anti-Brexit voters, like Cameron, thought of the EU as an asset and essential to economic stability, while pro-Brexit voters cited safety concerns and immigration as a factor in their decisions.  A referendum (public vote) was held in June of 2016 to decide the next course of action, and much to Cameron’s surprise, the public voted in favor of Brexit with a majority of 51.9%. Shortly after the results were made known, PM Cameron resigned from his position.


In his place, Theresa May took up the mantle of the prime minister and she promptly invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which gave her a two-year window to make an approved proposal, marking the official start of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.  After nearly a year and a half of intense negotiations, the leaders of the EU nations finally endorsed the May’s departure bill in November of 2018. The tight timeline of the deal caused many to criticize her actions, and May narrowly persisted through a vote of no confidence, in which Members of Parliament vote on whether the current prime minister is fit to lead the country.  On January 15, 2019, Parliament rejected the PM’s agreement in a crushing 432 to 202. Consequently, in her next attempt to rectify the bill, the deadline, which was previously slated for March 29, was pushed to October 31 of that year.


Shortly after failed attempts at passing the negotiation of Parliament, May was replaced by Boris Johnson.  Since having taken power in July of 2019, PM Johnson has taken a great number of strides in passing an amended deal.  As of the present, the new deadline is January 31st of 2020, and we wait with bated breath as the course of the United Kingdom unfolds on the world stage.