On June 24, 2016, Britain reached a final decision on the biggest question faced by the current generation when a measly majority of 51.9 percent voted to leave the EU. Despite the growing dissatisfaction regarding issues of sovereignty and immigration in recent years, this development shocked the political scene in the UK and around the world. In early October of 2016, Theresa May declared plans to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets the guidelines for a country voluntarily withdrawing from the EU, reminding us all that Brexit will undoubtedly face large, unfavorable consequences. According to The Independent, recent polls show that up to 7 percent of those who voted in favor of Brexit are now having regrets. It seems quite likely that the majority of Britain’s leave voters have yet to realize the quandary that their nation is in. Not only will Brexit fail to resolve the main issues prioritized by the ‘Leave’ campaign, sovereignty and immigration, but it will estrange Britain from its neighbors.
Sovereignty was a prominent issue for the leave campaign because they were unsettled with the fact that many British laws were created by elites in Brussels not elected by the British people. It is true that Britain will no longer be subject to the regulations and restrictions imposed upon the rest of the EU. However, to believe that a withdrawal from the union would allow the British to take the reigns of their country back into their own hands would be a quixotic oversimplification. Britain’s economy is inextricably linked with those of the other member countries in the EU, and thus those other nations will inevitably maintain a significant influence over Britain’s laws and policies. Take the present situation, for instance: Britain’s fate currently lies in the hands of the other EU member countries with which Britain must negotiate, and it is highly unlikely that Britain will be able to walk away with the deal it wants.
In addition, Britain’s decision to leave has put it in a rather insecure spot. The other countries in the EU have no intention of letting Britain escape any negative consequences, for to do so would put the solidarity of the union at risk. Those in favor of Brexit were depending upon Germany, which exports many cars to Britain, to favor the continuation of free-flowing trade. As Germany is the largest economy in the union, it will definitely have a sizable influence in Brexit negotiations. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel is now warning that Germany cannot save Britain from a hard Brexit; she is prioritizing the free movement of people and internal cohesion, two key aspects of the union, over German exports to the UK. Other members of the EU are also leaning toward demanding a hard Brexit, which will force Britain to make concessions on either its status in the single market or immigration.
Ideally, Britain would remain in the single market while still being able to make its own laws regarding the influx of foreign migrants, the other major matter in question. Yet it is clear that Britain will have to prioritize one over the other, an issue that is once again polarizing the nation. In essence, this means that the British will not ever be able to truly take back control of Britain. The British government has been garnering negative attention for intending to use the status of EU migrants currently living in Britain as ‘bargaining chips’ in EU negotiations. If Britain choose to take a hard stance on immigration, Britain will most likely grow increasingly unpopular with the other nations advocate the free movement of people, jeopardizing Britain’s foreign relations with its neighbors.
Anti-immigration sentiments have been sparked by the large numbers of Eastern European immigrants who have been accused of taking jobs from natives, bringing down wages, and straining schools and hospitals. However, one must recognize that immigrants have actually fueled economic growth through their contribution to human capital and economic spending. A study published by the Royal Economic Society in The Economic Journal showed that UK immigrants to Britain actually pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits, contrary to popular belief. Furthermore, the vital skills brought by the immigrants has saved Britain the massive costs in education. The same study showed that immigrants have brought with them 6.8 billion pounds worth in education. To deport the millions of EU migrants currently in Britain would require industries like nursing to drastically increase spending on recruitment and education.
This referendum was undoubtedly one fueled by pent-up frustration and anger, with many voters influenced by the often incomplete and skewed information presented in the media. Although the initial lack of financial devastation following the vote gave British leaders a false sense of hope, consequences will most likely be magnified as Britain begins the formal Brexit negotiation process. Britain has little actual control over its future trajectory, and it seems Britain will be subject to the EU’s leanings towards a hard Brexit. As the value of the pound continues to drop and the future of Britain’s economy and role in the global scene becomes increasingly uncertain, it is likely that more Brexit voters will begin to regret their decision.