And after Brexit, what?

Despite leaving the European Union, the United Kingdom wants to have special treatment in order to continue doing business in the European single market. (Krisztian Bocsi / Bloomberg)

Leaving the European Union implies changes at political, economic and social levels for the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom became part of the European Union (EU) in 1973. At that time, the EU was called the European Community and was mainly an alliance of countries that joined together to trade and do business.

Over time, member states began to collaborate in other areas, like research, the environment and education. They even created a common currency: the euro.

However, the United Kingdom had certain special conditions: it got back part of the contribution it made to the European Union (the so-called “British Check“), kept the pound as its currency, and did not form part of the Schengen Treaty (which allows free circulation for EU citizens).

Now, Euroscepticism in the United Kingdom has grown enough to cause Brexit: what will the consequences of the exit be?

The first and most obvious is that, by ceasing to be a member state, the United Kingdom will no longer be part of the European institutions and will not be able to participate in making the decisions that affect millions of Europeans.

British citizens will have to apply for a special permit to travel, work or study in European Union countries (a much easier procedure when done between member states). 


A question of money

Leaving the European Union will allow the United Kingdom to get back the budget allocated to community policies. That has been one of the main arguments of Brexit supporters.

The British will stop contributing to the European budget, but they will also lose the trade privileges of the European market: from now on, the United Kingdom will be considered a foreign country and its companies will have to pay higher taxes and tariffs to do business in the single market.

Both the European Union and the British government have used these privileges as currency in negotiations: in exchange for access to the European market with the same conditions, European citizens that live and work in the United Kingdom will keep their residence conditions (at least during the transition period).

Over the next two years, they will finish negotiating the details of the agreement. But uncertainty regarding economic conditions may have negative effects on the United Kingdom’s economy, making prices more expensive and devaluing its currency.


Tension between supporters and opponents 

After months of negotiations, European leaders and the government of Theresa May finally reached an agreement on the United Kingdom’s exit.

However, it seems that this agreement has achieved the impossible: joining the supporters of Brexit and its detractors, the UK citizens who want to remain within the European Union.

On one hand, politicians in favour of leaving demanded a “hard Brexit“, without negotiations. Prime Minister Theresa May has been widely criticised by the British Conservative Party (her own party), which accuses her of delaying the exit from the European Union.

The current agreement gives a period of two years to finish discussing the details of the separation. But hard Brexit supporters prefer to end relations with Europe immediately, taking on the possible consequences (that trade agreements are broken or transfers cannot be made, for example).

On the other hand, those in favour of staying in Europe are not giving up and continue demanding a new referendum.

The result of the 2016 referendum was so close, that they are sure that the ‘No’ to Brexit is now the majority: many young people who were not of legal age to vote then could now do so, and that would change the result.

Theresa May needs to gain support in order to continue with Brexit. Two more years of intense negotiations are expected.

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