England is Brexiting. They’re out. Mic dropping. Staggering alone into the night like a poor pissed bloke when the pub shuts down his tab.
Except the pub is the European Union, the collective of 28 27 countries politically and economically linked ostensibly for the betterment of all. It’s like living in a co-op building in New York City, or joining a commune—you’re in charge of you and your shit, but also there are other people keeping an eye on you and your shit who may help you/your shit be better, thereby making everyone involved’s shit better via the power of averaging. You get what I mean.
So, England really up and left that coven cooperation behind?
Actually, the United Kingdom left it behind. You see, England is a country but they’re also sort of in charge of some other countries like Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland, and they all hang out together all the time under the guise of being a kingdom, with princes and princesses and the whole deal. Basically, England is the tough guy those other weaker countries follow around agreeing with because they don’t want to get beat up or possibly because they’re under a spell cast by Queen Elizabeth, an immortal sorceress with incalculable powers. So these four countries, situated on a couple of islands off the European mainland, are eternally posse’d up as the United Kingdom. They share a representative central government and vote on stuff together and basically have always been the group within the group.
It’s worth noting that also living on one of those islands is Ireland, located just south of the UK’s Northern Ireland. Ireland is not part of the UK but is part of the EU, and now that Brexit is breaking experts predict that’s going to cause some hassles, t’ be sure. As if to punctuate this prediction, members of the Irish Republican Army, who have fought for decades to unify North and South Ireland into a single, UK-free nation, tried to blow up a ferry on Brexit day, which may not sound so gnarly but remember they’re on islands so boats are pretty important. Got it? Good.
Now, why would these four island nations who are in a gang decide to leave the larger group behind, when clearly they recognise there’s a benefit to being in a group? Any guesses? First of all, it has nothing to do with an American actress stealing the heart of a good English prince and breaking the evil queen’s spell. That’s a whole other story, and we’ll worry about it another time. Let’s stay the course for now. Here’s what went down.
Ever since joining the EU in 1972, people have grumbled they were better off going it alone. In fact, just three years after joining, in 1975, the UK voted on whether or not to get the heck out, and 67% of voters wanted to remain. So, remain they did, though of course, this didn’t end the complaining about staying. Far from it. Fast forward to 2013, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, sick of all the in-or-out quibbling, launched a referendum (a referendum, by the way, is a ‘general vote by the electorate on a single political question that has been referred to them for a direct decision’) to have the citizens decide whether or not their UK would remain a card-carrying EU member.
Now, breaking away from such an entwined collective of nation-states (they even have their own currency!) is an extremely complicated and nuanced proposition involving trade and immigration and security and all sorts of other things. Cameron, however, fearing he’d confuse his legendarily drunk constituents, wanted to keep things simple, and so they had just two options on their ballot: Remain or Leave.
Cameron, along with much of the world’s media and many other allegedly informed sources, assumed this would result, once again, in a clear directive to Remain in the family. Well, you know that old saying about what happens when you assume, right? Right. Asses all around. Just as the good people of the United Kingdom were gearing up to have their say, a refugee crisis of economic migrants and asylum seekers crashing like a wave from the Middle East and Africa onto the EU’s increasingly intolerant borders frothed up a rage of nationalism. This undercurrent of intolerance was spurred on by a calculated disinformation campaign from the conservative ‘Leave’ proponents. The ‘Leave’ propaganda campaign would later be revealed to be made up of so many lies it violated election laws, but by that time it was too late—52% of UK citizens had been fear-mongered into ‘Leaving.’ It’s worth noting that, much like when Donald Trump surprised the United States establishment with his presidential victory in 2016, a strong majority of the exit votes came from rural and impoverished regions of England and Wales.
Jumping to today, after three years of political wrangling and deadlock the conservative party has all but seized control of the UK government and beaten back the final attempts to repair what had been wrought, legally done or no. On February 1, 2020, Brexit Brexited and the United Kingdom became a wee foursome once again. What does that mean? Why should anyone care?
Well, first and foremost it could spell financial chaos for the good folks of the UK, whose primary export market is their old ex-pal the EU, with whom they now have no existing trade deals. Imagine getting drunk and screaming a bunch of racist and nonsensical bullshit at your significant other, dumping them, and then asking them to lend you some money or treat you fairly. Yeah, right. In fact, experts predict the UK economy will shrink 4 – 9% in coming years. Additionally, if the UK, whose deadline for full withdrawal is 12/31/2020, hasn’t crafted any trade or immigration deals by then, they could find themselves facing tariffs and closed borders. To top it off, the UK also loses the collective bargaining power of being part of a mass of nations when it comes to buying things like oil, as well as the security of knowing 27 other nations got their back in times of trouble.
Luckily, most UK citizens have plenty of distractions in the form of the aforementioned royal family’s tabloid antics and the rapid rise of far-right extremist groups out amongst those darker rural regions. In many ways, this contraction back into itself could be the very death throes of a once mighty and world-dominating English empire.