Brexit; Why the Exit?
The European Union (EU) is one of the world’s biggest markets, exporters and foreign investors and is home to many of the largest and most successful companies (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014, p. 464). These statistics portray the sort of organization that most would want to be a part of. So why is the United Kingdom leaving the EU? Like most partnerships, things are going well when all are sharing in the prosperity; but when things take a turn for the worst, like the 2008 financial crisis, all share in the struggle. The potential expectation of the United Kingdom and other wealthy countries in the EU to support smaller economies in the Union during difficult times, and the influx of immigrants to the UK specifically, led to the 2016 Referendum to leave the EU, known as Brexit.
Late in the twentieth century, the multinational entities of Europe sought ways to unify their economic efforts through the formation of a European Common Market; in 1992 member countries signed Maastricht Treaty forming what is now the European Union. (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014, p. 462). The United Kingdom was the ninth country to join the EU in 1973 (European Union, 2019). The central EU themes are: 1) attain a single market economy of consumers that offers peaceful stability and wealth, as well as political and economic clout, 2) establish European-wide institutions and policies and 3) respect, and not fight about the differences within this voluntary union (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014, p. 462).
These themes seem ideal, but there is tension between among other nations in the EU over similar issues that created the Brexit referendum. According to Sked (2012), a 2010 Eurobarometer poll found that only 49% of EU citizens think their country’s EU membership is a “good thing”, while only 42% trust EU institutions (FP, para 8).
Being a part of the union meant the freedom of travel to other countries and it also meant that immigration was easier between countries within the Union. According to Chang (2016), “the British labor market was relatively easy to break into, and lots of people across Europe speak English, so it was a natural target for these Southern Europeans” (Vox). For many the reason to vote to leave the EU came down to immigration and wanted to put an end to their open borders with other EU countries. According to Younge (2018), “ [Britain’s] colonial past, and the inability to come to terms with its demise, gave many the impression that we are far bigger, stronger and more influential than we really are; they convinced themselves that the reason we are at the center of most world maps is because the Earth revolves around us, not because it was us who drew the maps” (para 5).
The motivating factors that influenced the referendum and UK vote to leave the EU were based on many issues, but the platform that created the most visceral reaction parallels the current sentiment of conservative US politics. Are these circumstances based on the strain of immigration or are history’s privileged majority feeling absorbed by their colonial and imperialist past?
Chang, A. (2016, June). Brexit: Why Britain left the EU, explained with a simple cartoon. Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2016/6/24/12025514/brexit-cartoonCountries. (2019).
European Union. Retrieved from https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/countries_en#tab-0-1
Moran, R.T., Abramson, N. R., & Moran, S. V. (2014). Managing cultural differences. New York, NY: Routledge.
Sked, A. (2012, March). Why would anyone want to join the EU? Foreign Policy. Retrieved from https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/03/14/why-would-anyone-want-to-join-the-eu/
Younge, G. (2018, February). Britain’s imperial fantasies have given us Brexit. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/03/imperial-fantasies-brexit-theresa-may