From: conservativereview.com, by Nate Madden, updated on Jun 21, 2016, see the article HERE.
Editor’s Note: This piece was updated on July 21, 2016 to reflect updated polling data.
A strange, new phrase is making its way across the pond. But, while Americans may just becoming familiar with the word “Brexit,” the political movement for which it stands has been hard at work for years to get the United Kingdom out of the European Union.
What is a “Brexit”?
“Brexit” is a combination of the words “Britain” and “exit,” and is similar to the term “Grexit” as it applies to the potential of a Greek exit from the intergovernmental European body. Basically, the word has become an umbrella term that covers a broad trans-partisan political movement to get the United Kingdom out of the EU.
“Pace [for the movement] gathered after the signing and completion of the Maastrict Treaty (1992), which officially created the European Union (from the European Economic Community which it was beforehand),” explains Rory Broomfield, director of London-based Freedom Association and the Better Off Out campaign in an email to CR. “After that, and the further giving up of competences, power and influence to the EU through the Treaties of Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon, the calls for an EU Referendum intensified.
“It should be noted though that there is a difference between wanting to leave the EU and calling for a referendum. Many politicians, businessmen and people have wanted one or the other, or both, for a long time.”
Why do some in Britain want to leave the EU?
One of the chief arguments against the European Union is that it is the poster child for large, inefficient centralized government. Here’s what membership looks like for the United Kingdom:
According to statistics at Vote Leave, a London-based nonprofit dedicated to reclaiming British sovereignty, the EU costs UK taxpayers a lot to begin with. According to the group’s website:
- Since 1973, the Government has sent over £500 billion to the EU, three times the annual NHS [National Health Service] budget
- The EU now costs the UK over £350 million each week — nearly £20 billion a year
- Our EU contributions are enough to build a new, fully-staffed NHS hospital every week
Furthermore, according to Better Off Out, another nonprofit in the Brexit movement, if the U.K. were to leave, “There would be substantial savings, as the UK would no longer be required to contribute to the EU Budget (Britain currently pays in far more than it takes out). The UK would be free to develop its own trading relationship with the rising economic giants of the world and, most importantly, would regain its lost democratic powers, allowing decision-making to take place closer to voters.”
So what’s going on now?
On June 23, 2016, the citizens of the United Kingdom will vote on whether or not the country will remain a part of the European Union. The referendum vote has been in the works for years, and was a chief campaign promise of Prime Minister David Cameron who promised a “cast iron” vote on the issue when he began campaigning for his current job all the way back in 2007.
British voters haven’t really had much of a say in their involvement with the Continent in this capacity since 1975 and many feel that it’s high time for another deciding vote, as the nature of the European Union has changed considerably over time. It has gone from being a simple trade agreement to the “United States of Europe,” as many have called it.
“From the signing of the Maastrict Treaty until today, the UK has seen its power and influence diminish within the EU, whilst the cost of membership and of regulation has increased,” writes Broomfield. “Separate studies from Professors Patrick Minford CBE of Cardiff Business School and Professor Tim Congdon CBE, now of the University of Buckingham, have both put the cost of EU membership to the UK economy at 11% of GDP per year. Further, the direct costs of membership have and are rising so, for instance, when the UK made austerity savings through the last parliament (2010-15) of £36bn, EU membership fees for the same period were £85bn gross or £42 bn net. The cost of membership is also set to increase over the next few years as the Eurozone looks to integrate with new projects that will cost the UK more money and put in jeopardy the global industries that we possess.”
Who wants to stay in?
In addition to PM David Cameron, groups such as the Labour Party, the Socttish Nationalist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, U.S. President Barack Obama, and other European Union members want Britain to stay, according to the BBC, which also reports that the public at-large “seems pretty evenly split on the issue.”
Proponents of staying in the European Union say that Britain benefits more economically and diplomatically as a result of its membership. In fact, on a recent trip to England, President Obama said that the U.K. would be sent “to the back of the queue,” in upcoming trade negotiations. However, it should also be noted that trade deals with large blocs aren’t necessarily more efficient. The United States has very different trading interests with countries as different as Greece and Germany or Bulgaria and Britain.
Perhaps the most glaring issue with the U.K.’s involvement in the EU is the fact that its laws are completely subordinate to laws passed by the European Parliament, meaning that the average British voter cannot vote to replace the people who make their laws. Furthermore, these laws are subject to the review of the European Court of Justice, meaning that Britons also have very little say in what their laws mean and how they are implemented. One case in particular was over a ban on prisoner voting that came up a couple of years ago in European courts. While the measure was eventually upheld, the people of the United Kingdom had their laws put under review by a foreign body that was not subject to them, sparking a massive public outcry.
This also means that the European Parliament has the power to dictate Britain’s immigration policies, which could prove as disastrous for the island nation as it has for continental states such as Germany and Sweden. However, the European Parliament does not function as a traditional legislature, as it cannot initiate legislation, but must approve measures proposed by the Euopean Commission, an unelected body.
Furthermore, Britons are feeling the squeeze of these immigration policies on their paychecks, as one of the biggest results of the EU’s policies on the issue has been wage compression.
“We have seen wages fall behind inflation since 2010 by a massive 8.6%,” explains Broomfield. “From 2010-2014 the rise in UK born unemployment was 3.7% whilst the rise in EU born employment was 12%, According to Professor Tim Congdon, about half of the increase in foreign-born employment was of immigrant workers from Eastern Europe, allowed in because of our EU membership.”
Has this ever happened before?
Not in the way Britain is considering. No nation-state has ever left the European Union. That being said, Greenland, a territory of Denmark, voted to leave in a referendum in 1982.
How does the referendum process work?
The referendum vote will be open to British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over the age of 18 who reside in the United Kingdom, as well as expatriates abroad who have been eligible to vote in the past fifteen years. However, citizens of EU countries, except those listed above in some form or fashion, will not be voting in the referendum.
How would the United Kingdom leave? How would the country stay?
Should Britons vote to walk away from the EU, nothing legally changes on day one. Following an “out” referendum vote, the U.K. government would sit down with the European Parliament to discuss terms. Under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, they could leave following a maximum two-year negotiation period, but Brexit insiders are also wary of some of that provision’s finer points. However, Article 50 isn’t the only means of departure, as U.K. and E.U. officials could potentially negotiate an agreement outside of its framework.
If Britain votes to stay in, it would do so under a “special status” explained here by the BBC. Some have, however, criticized the “special status” as spin, as it is not legally binding and can be rejected by the European Parliament.
What happens if the United Kingdom leaves?
Again, the short answer is ‘nothing immediately.’ Britain has been a member of the European Union for decades, and the process of undoing the structures left by involvement is going to look a lot like cleaning out an apartment after a bad breakup. There are a lot of laws and regulations that have to be repealed and amended, a lot of private industries that will have to readapt and an economy that will go through the necessary fluctuations of being restructured and deregulated.
Under the current structure, some E.U.-sourced laws would immediately become null and void while others would stay on the books. One way for Britain to deal with the potential confusion would be to pass an act of Parliament that would keep current laws as they are for the time being, while establishing legislative committees to hack through the volumes of old regulations and prioritize them for structure and repeal.
The U.K. would have to negotiate its own trade deals, and could potentially even work out a scenario with the E.U. similar to Iceland’s, in which the country would not be a member of the EU, but would have its economic relationship with the body laid out in other treaties.
How are Britons expected to vote?
While the public at large seemed evenly split for a while, there seems to have been a slight tilt towards the “out” crowd since the campaign season began last month. According to analysis at the Wall Street Journal, 46 percent of Britons want to remain in the EU on April 26, while polling reported by the International Business Times on Tuesday shows a marked shift, with a slight majority of voters wanting to leave. However, numbers released by the Financial Times also on Tuesday show a three-point lead for the the “stay” lobby
UPDATE 21 June 2016, 09:30 am: The polls have shifted since the original publication of this article. Following the murder of pro-remain Member of Parliament Jo Cox last week, two polls found a plurality of respondents wanted to remain in the international body by 45-42 percent and 44-43 percent margins.
Cox, a 41-year-old mother of two and the Member of Parilament for Batley & Spen, was stabbed and shot while meeting with constituents last Thursday. According to reports, Tommy Mair—the man accused of killing Cox—said that his name was “death to traitors, freedom for Britain,” when brought before a Westminster court on Saturday.
In response to the slaying, both campaigns temporarily suspended operations, which resumed Sunday.
How does this affect me as an American?
Put simply, it’s both a trade issue and a teachable moment.
Should the United Kingdom leave the European Union, the United States’ would have to negotiate with a different government over the price of goods such as Land Rovers, imported Gin, and Cadbury Eggs than it does for French Wine and German Hefeweizen. However, the message for Americans goes much deeper.
“There is the idea that the UK has lost control of itself — that it is being governed by people in the EU that we don’t know, we don’t elect, don’t trust and have an agenda contrary to our own,” says Broomfield. “The British people have a deep sense of fairness and fair play. They have always seen the UK as playing a role and having connections with the wider world. What they see in the EU as a system that is unfair which connects the UK to something that is insular which works against the UK’s best interests. The British public know when they are being taken for fools — and that the EU system is doing just that.”
At base, this is a discussion about sovereignty. U.K. citizens are currently living in a government that is, in many ways, no longer of their own choosing, and subordinate to an internationalist legislature headquartered in Brussels. A close parallel to an assault on sovereignty in an American context might be found in Daniel Horowitz’s forthcoming book, “Stolen Sovereignty,” in which the CR Senior Editor outlines how Americans have also been stripped of their ability to make and change laws by unelected federal judges. While one of these bodies poses an internal threat to sovereignty and another poses and external one, the common argument between Horowitz and the Brexit crowd is rather simple: voters should be in charge of making their own laws.
In an an era where Americans are trying to wrestle back their own popular sovereignty from an elitist class of establishment politicians and leftist federal judges, the struggle faced by Britons in their own debate should drive home how dire things can get when essential sovereignty is really on the line.
Editor’s Note: This piece was updated on July 21, 2016 to reflect updated polling data.
While I know generally what the UK’s referendum is about, I’ll admit that I haven’t studied the issue. But I do think that my conservative leanings cause me to sympathize with those espousing leaving the EU. It appears that Great Britain has lost much of its traditional autonomy and the ability to control its own destiny since becoming just another member “state” answering to the bureaucratic leadership of the governing EU.
I can understand the member nations banding together for some purposes, like trade and common defense perhaps, but when the EU bureaucracy can dictate immigration policies to a member state, this Texan knows how the UK feels. I suspect that they were trying for something akin to our United States, but it’s very different when you try to knit together a group of autonomous nations, each with hundreds of years of unique history, laws, language, and aspirations, and what happened here to unite a group of newborn states together in a common cause.
I may be all wet here, but with my limited knowledge of the issue, I would be voting to “leave.” BTW, there is one more point: Barack Obama wants the UK to “stay.” He’s been so wrong on so many other things, that’s reason enough for me to vote “leave.”