You've been hearing the term "Brexit" tossed around a lot in the news lately- but what exactly is the "Brexit?" No, it's not another weird British name for food. If you want the short story, it's a term to describe the United Kingdom's controversial vote to leave a pretty powerful group called the European Union. If you want to dig a little deeper so you can impress your friends with your knowledge of foreign affairs, look no further. Here's your breakdown of the Brexit.
What is the E.U.?
The European Union is kind of like a big club made up of 28 European countries. Founded after World War 2, the E.U. was meant to create economic and political unity by creating a large, shared market. The laws in the E.U., which could deal with anything from healthcare to security, are all created from treaties agreed upon by representatives from each country. The E.U. has done a lot to make Europe a more cohesive nation. For example, the E.U. abolished border laws and established the euro as a single form of European currency. This made it much easier for Europeans to travel between countries for work and strengthened the trade market.
This is the Brexit you've been hearing so much about. People in the United Kingdom have been talking about leaving the E.U. for a while, and on June 23, it was put to a vote. The final vote came out to be 52% to 48% in favor of leaving. England and Wales voted to leave, but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the E.U. Ireland and Scotland may decide to leave the U.K. in order to remain under the protection of the E.U. However, even though the U.K. voted to leave the E.U., the official process of withdrawing has not yet begun. The current British Prime Minister, David Cameron, wanted to remain in the E.U. He will be stepping down in October, so it is likely that the formal process of withdrawal will not begin until his successor enters office. The U.K. is allowed 2 years to fully negotiate the withdrawal.
Why did Britain want to leave?
This big E.U. family weathers the good times and the bad times together. However, Britain doesn't think that the E.U. has been handling the bad times very well. The British weren't happy about having to bail out some of the unhealthier countries, like Greece, after the 2008 financial crisis, and were worried about having to bail out other nations in the future. It was the popular opinion that the E.U.'s handling of the financial crisis led to higher unemployment rates and increased debt that could have been avoided. England's stable economy has caused a huge increase in immigration from other poorer countries, driving up crime rates and job competition. Essentially, the British feel like they're being taken advantage of for being wealthy, and a lot of people are tired of it.
The U.K. has not officially left the E.U. yet, but the decision has already caused repercussions. In Europe, the value of the pound has dropped 10% (which means that the British can't buy as much with their money), the lowest that it has been in over 30 years. The euro is also likely to drop in value. By voting to remove itself from the E.U., Britain is also closing itself off to many trade opportunities. The isolation could close a lot of doors to work opportunities in other countries as well. U.K. citizens wishing to work in other countries could find themselves facing a lot of paperwork and the possibility of deportation. Many top economists say that this decision will hurt the British economy and the global economy in the long run.
How does this affect the U.S.?
On a global scale, the U.K. is our BFF. Unfortunately, the U.K. severing ties with the E.U. means that we lose the immediate access to the U.K.'s other cool European friends. This makes it harder for America to make trade deals or political agreements with other European countries. The Brexit has also negatively affected the stock market, which could continue to fluctuate as negotiations continue over the next 2 years.
However, not all of the changes are bad for Americans. The decline in the value of the pound means that the U.S. dollar is stronger- basically, it's really cheap right now to travel to England. The Brexit's impact on the global economy has also pushed mortgage rates down in America, making it cheaper to buy a house in the U.S.