BREXIT AND THE FUTURE OF THE UNITED KINGDOM
On the 23rd June 2016 Britain voted to leave the European Union by a 51.9% majority after over forty years of membership. With the appointment of the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, who asserted that “Brexit means Brexit”, steps have been taken towards the development of an exit strategy. May appointed former Europe Minister, David Davis, as the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and recently set March 2017 as the final date for invoking Article 50. However, the certainty of a UK exit from the EU is currently being questioned following a High Court ruling that the Prime Minister must receive parliamentary approval before invoking Article 50.
The uncertainly over the timing of provoking article 50, the length of the negotiation and the outcome of the negotiation will have impact on both British economy and that of EU. Several scenarios are there over the future relations of the EU with UK. Immigration is considered as the main reason for people voting for Brexit and any arrangement with the EU will have that in mind. Another important factor for the UK is membership to the single market or the custom union. A principal pillar of the single market is freedom of movement of people which will be practically difficult for the UK to accept in any future arrangement. A hard Brexit negotiation and the election of Trump would bring the question of European security to the table. If backed by the US, the UK could use this card which would mix up the negotiation and expose the Eastern European countries who already feel vulnerable to Russia upon the new American administration.
For the UK, the main question of unity involves Scotland. Some argue that as Scotland is a pro-EU country it would eventually leave the UK through a referendum. It is important to note that the main driver for seeking the independence vote was that laws are made in Westminster instead of Holyrood. Furthermore, there is a possibility that Brexit can put the Northern Ireland political progress at risk with their deputy Prime Minister stating that his party will call for unification with the Republic of Ireland in the event of Brexit. The above two scenarios bring with them a high risk that would ultimately affect the International influence the UK has.