What is Brexit? Part I

What is Brexit 1

After almost fifty years of membership, Britain did what many thought was impossible: They left the EU. There has been a lot of debate and many opinions about how Brexit will affect the UK, the EU and world politics. Now the decision is beginning to take shape.

  • What is Brexit?
  • How has Brexit affected the EU?
  • What will be the UK’s new role in Europe and the world?
  • And what does this mean for us in Norway?

Never before has a country opted out of the EU. When Britain started its several-year withdrawal process, this was unploughed land, and no one knew how it would end. The transition period in which the United Kingdom had to follow EU rules, but was no longer allowed to participate in the union’s decision-making processes, ended on 1 January this year. The EU is now in the process of setting its further course without the UK, and the UK is looking for its new role outside the EU. According to Ablogtophone, EU stands for European Union.

2: This is Brexit

Let’s start with a brief look back. On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum on its future in the EU. Barely a majority voted for Britain to no longer be a member of the EU.

EU skepticism among the British people had long been on the rise. Opinion polls showed that “Remain” supporters thought there was a risk associated with the economy, jobs and prices by withdrawing Britain from the EU, while many of those who voted “Leave” think too many decisions about Britain were made at EU headquarters in Brussels, and that they wanted less immigration. During the election campaign, the “Leave” side had argued that the British had to regain control of their own legislation, policy formulation and borders.

In March 2017, the UK government sent an official resignation letter to the EU. Then began the long and tortuous path out of the union.

Many have compared what happened to a divorce: the United Kingdom and the EU should agree both on how the actual break-up should take place, and on what the relationship should look like afterwards. Both turned out to be difficult. Both the EU and the UK wanted to get the most out of the agreement, and it took several years to agree.

Theresa May, who took over as Prime Minister after the referendum, got a resignation agreement in place. However, her own parliament rejected it several times because they did not think the content was good enough. In the end, she chose to resign.

The successor, Boris Johnson, finally got an adjusted agreement in place, which both the EU and the British Parliament could accept. In 2020, the EU and the UK took a step further in the process. The second agreement – on the future of the UK and the EU – was signed in December 2020, and entered into force in January this year.

Part of the reason the process took so long was several extremely difficult questions. One of the most challenging points in the negotiations was about Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland has an open border with the EU country Ireland. Both the EU and the UK wanted it to continue to be so. The challenge was that the United Kingdom at the same time wanted both to regain control of its own border with the EU and to keep the British Union united. The EU, for its part, was concerned with keeping the “four freedoms” (that goods, capital, services and people can move freely in the EEA ) together. The UK should not just be allowed to pick and choose from the menu.

The outcome of the Brexit negotiations was that Northern Ireland should continue to be part of the EU’s internal market and customs union for our trade, but not for the other three freedoms. The control of goods entering and leaving the EU via Northern Ireland should therefore instead take place between Northern Ireland and mainland Great Britain. Not everyone is happy with that solution, because it connects Northern Ireland a little closer to the EU than the rest of the UK. In addition, there are a number of challenges with how the control is to take place in practical terms.

So what is Britain left with, after almost fifty years as an EU member and three years of tough negotiations?

In short, the UK has now replaced its extensive EU membership with a far more limited trade agreement. Two particularly important changes follow:

  • The first is that the UK is no longer represented in EU decision-making bodies; European Commission, Council, European Council and European Parliament. This means that they can not take part in deciding anything in the EU.
  • The second is that the UK is no longer part of the EU’s internal market and customs union.

3: EU without the UK

When what is now EU co-operation started in the early 1950s, only six countries participated. Since then, many countries have joined the EU, and the union has addressed more and more policy areas. In addition, more and more decisions are being made in Brussels. We call this European integration . Since the United Kingdom is the first country to leave the EU, Brexit shows that it is in fact also possible to reverse the so-called integration process.

So where does the EU go after this? Is it only negative for the EU that one of the largest member states has opted out?

What is Brexit 1