We are excited to bring you a three-part series examining where the United Kingdom and European Union stand 60 days after the historic Brexit vote.
On June 24, 2016 the world awoke to shockwaves rippling through its political and financial institutions. Newspapers and social media decried the world had changed due to something called “Brexit” in the United Kingdom. The UK was no longer going to be part of the European Union?! Even in Britain, the top Google online search request for days after the vote was - “What does it mean to leave the EU?” Indeed, it’s not an easy question - even now, sixty days post-Brexit.
So what has changed in these last two months? The short answer is both very little and very much. The United Kingdom is still united, as much as it can be in the wake of a controversial referendum such as Brexit. The UK remains a member of the European Union, but the process of its exit has begun. The UK leadership has changed, but the business of governing goes on. The economy has seen some fluctuations, but more are coming.
Immigration is a process largely driven by economics and governed by politics. This is perhaps no more true than in the case of Brexit. The Brexit phenomena was born of economic concerns on the part of the British people over immigration and jobs, and nurtured by a political climate of perceived declining nationalist control in the face of globalization. Brexit, in turn, has now birthed its own new set of economic and political challenges. While the focus of this series is Brexit’s impact on immigration, it’s impossible to address the immigration issues without first looking at the economics and politics.
A United Kingdom?
Voter turn-out for the Brexit referendum was a near-record 72 percent of the electorate. At over 30 million voters, this was the highest voter turn-out in the UK in nearly 25 years. Political analysts are still deciphering and debating the numbers for voter mindset and trends. But one thing is clear, for good or for bad, the United Kingdom decided - 52 percent to 48 percent - to leave the European Union. However, that is perhaps the only thing that is clear at this point. Maybe the kingdom is actually not so united when it comes to Brexit.
England and Wales voted to leave the EU by similar margins (55 percent to 45 percent in England and 53 to 47 in Wales), but London’s metropolitan voters overwhelmingly supported staying in the EU (60/40). This prompted a grassroots online petition calling for the creation of an independent London city-state which could then pursue its own membership in the EU. While, the aim of this petition will clearly never materialize, it does give some indication of the deep division within England over this issue.
On the other hand, Scotland decisively voted to remain in the EU by a 62/38 margin. Now with the British leadership indicating they will honor the Brexit vote, the question is whether Scotland’s desire to remain in the EU is enough for voters to demand independence from the UK? The day after Brexit, the Scottish government quickly announced that a second referendum on Scottish independence was now “highly likely”, and polls indicate that Scots now favor independence by nearly a seven-point margin.
Likewise, Northern Ireland supported the Remain camp with a 56/44 vote to remain in the EU, where an exit from the EU brings a unique challenge for The Emerald Isle. Currently the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has relatively free movement with no passport requirements and minimal identity checks. A non-EU Northern Ireland would transform the border from a basically-open demarcation to an international border between an EU member state and a non-EU nation, presumably requiring more stringent security, passport, and visa formalities of similar international borders.
What does this all mean for politics throughout the EU and the UK immigration? Find out more in the next two weeks as we continue examining the upcoming economic, political, and immigration effects of Brexit.
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