September 17, 2019

On 25  March 1957  Belgium, France and Italy entered the Treaty of Roman to create the European Economic Community (EEC); subsequently, in Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany joined on 1 January 1958.   UK’s application in 1963 was objected by Charles de Gaulle, the President of France, on the basis that the “British economy was incompatible with Europe on working practices to agriculture, and Britain harboured a deep-seated hostility to any European Project”.A constitutional referendum held in France on 27 April 1969 in order to make changes to the Senate and reform the Government was rejected by 52.4% of voters, which caused  President Charles de Gaulle to resign. Subsequently, the ‘ Treaty of Accession’ in 1972 enacted in October, and Parliament’s European Communities  Act 1972 enacted on 17 October made UK a member of the EC on 1 January 1973.

European Union currently incorporates 28 European Countries, and its main aim is  to strategically and intelligently suppress the fast-economic progress of the East, so as to  impede the  growth of the developing countries such as China, India, Malaysia etc. EU member countries permit free movement of goods and people to help each member country  develop their own economy. The basic strategy  behind  the EU principle is believed to be to tax richer countries heavily, and with such contributions to help poor member countries, especially  in the Eastern bloc. It is a strategic move by the West to suppress the East n gradually overtaking them, which has become a reality currently.

Beginning of Problems

There have been always confusion and debates on the subject of UK joining the European Community. In  October 1974 Harold Wilson, the leader of the Labour Party at the time,  held  a national referendum to test the waters whether the UK should remain with the European Communities on new terms, but everyone including the major political parties supported to continue with the  membership of the EC. 

In early 1975, at a Labour Party Conference, (two against one) Labour members voted against the decision, including seven out of 23 Cabinet ministers. That made Harold Wilson suspend the Constitution  Convention of Cabinet’s collective responsibility  and allow those opposed ministers to campaign publicly against the government.

On 5 June 1975, voters had to decide again whether the UK should or should not stay in the European Community. It brought out a hugely positive response, barring the Shetland Island and the Outer Hebrides in Scotland.  65%  out of 67.2% voter base consented in favour of staying in the EC.Since 1977, both pro and anti-European views had support as well as dramatic swings  have arisen between the two camps.

In 1984, Margaret Thatcher negotiated a rebate on British membership payments, and those who were in favour of the EC maintained a lead in the opinion polls.  Tony Blair, in 2000,  targeted for a closer EU integration including adoption of the Euro (€) currency. In 2011 immigration issue became increasingly noticeable in the United Kingdom.

In 1990 Margaret Thatcher came under heavy pressure from her senior ministers to join the European Union Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) enabling the pound sterling to fix to the German currency, the Deutsche mark. That move made her resign as Prime Minister when a division within her own conservative part arose against her. 1992 the pound sterling came under heavy pressure resulting in a cost to UK taxpayer in excess of £3 billion. The incident was known as the ‘ Black Wednesday,’ which made the UK forcibly to withdraw from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). On 1 November 1993, the Maastricht Treaty made the European Communities come under a new name as the European Union, which transformed from the economic union into a political union. 

A survey by ‘ComRes’  in the UK  in December 2015, indicated a clear majority in favour of remaining in the EU with a warning that voter intentions would considerably be influenced by the outcome of Prime Minister David Cameron‘s ongoing EU reform negotiations at the time, especially with regards to the two issues – viz (a) “Safeguards for non-Eurozone member states” and (b) “immigration”.

In 2016, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University outlined  what was named the Euroscepticismina statistical analysis with the desire to increase the powers of the EU. However, the  British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey, during July-November 2015, backed up the option to continue as an EU  member with a majority of 60% against 30%”. 


Negotiating for a Brexit commenced in 2017 between UK and the EU with a concern towards the withdrawal agreement plus a trade covenant. As far as the EU was concerned UK’s withdrawal was regarded as a “ settlement of accounts,” which is impertinent to the post-exit trade agreement, but the UK considered it as a “ goodwill payment” that enabled them to exit as a ‘post-exit trade agreement’. In the event of a ‘ no-deal’ scenario each party was bound to have different views as to the validity of any payment.

A referendum  was held on 23 June 2016, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain with the EU. 52% of the people voted  in favour of leaving whereas 48 percent  voted against it.  Brexit was due to take place on 29 March 2019, once the previous UK PM Theresa May activated Article 50 for the formal process to take effect. However, the formal date for the UK to leave the EU has been delayed due to British MPs rejecting it three times, whereas the UK and EU came to an agreement to have a deal in November 2018. So,  according to the new UK premier Boris Johnson, the UK is due to leave the European Union (EU) on 31 October 2019 at midnight.

‘The Deal’

The ‘deal’ means a  withdrawal agreement setting out the terms for the separation process with  a non-binding political declaration on the nature of the future relationship between the UK and EU. It coveres areas such as the rights of EU citizens in the UK, as well as British citizens in the EU. What is widely speculated is that the UK would have to pay £39 bn as the ‘ backstop’ for the Irish border.

‘The backstop’ is what Theresa May negotiated to get around this problem making sure that if the UK didn’t end up with a close relationship with the EU after the detachment, the Northern Ireland  would follow the EU rules to keep the border open. The main sticking point happens to be the 300-mile-long line between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom as an insoluble issue of Brexit, because it is impossible to leave the customs union and the single market, as the UK wants to do, and simultaneously keep a fully opened border between Ireland, in the EU, and Northern Ireland, which would be outside it. The Brits think it is akin to leaving home with the back door wide open.

The new premier Boris Johnson wants to scrap ‘ the backstop’ with an explanation it is restrictive and anti-democratic and the fact that Britain agreed to the backdrop freely, and it was not imposed on Britain by the EU. He wants “alternative arrangements” and technological solutions instead, but the EU has so far refused to change ‘the backstop’. Mr Johnson maintains that the UK must leave on 31 October, even if that is without a deal, which means the UK will have to leave the  customs union and single market overnight. 

Customs union and the single market

Currently, there are no border posts or checks on people or goods crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. ‘The backstop’ is designed to ensure that it continues after the UK leaves the EU. The controversial issue according to critics is that Northern Ireland could threaten the existence of the UK and are fearful of the fact that ‘the backstop’ could become permanent.

The customs union ensures that all EU countries adopt the same taxation policy on goods coming in from outside. The single market enables goods, services, people and money to move between all 28 EU member states, as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, who are members of the European Economic Area.

If no deal can be negotiated, the UK will leave to leave the EU on 31 October 2019. A ‘no-deal’ Brexit could affect individuals in numerous ways as the EU will start carrying out checks on British goods, causing delays at ports as it will lead to traffic bottlenecks, disrupting supply routes and damaging the economy with potential shortages of food and medicines. The British government, however,  says it has done much preparation to avoid such chaos whereas the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson still wants to leave with a deal on that date, but  lots of MPs say they will try to stop the UK leaving with no deal. In an attempt to calm such fears, Boris Johnson has announced an extra £2.1bn of funding to prepare for a possible no-deal outcome on 31 October. Theresa May had promised £4.2bn to prepare for a range of Brexit scenarios.

One way to prevent a no-deal outcome would be to change the government with a vote of no confidence motion  and replace it with an alternative that would seek a postponement of Brexit, in order that until  a general election or another referendum to takes place. The other way is passing a law to force the government to ask the EU to delay the process. Political pundits say neither of these paths seems to give any guarantees to succeed. 

In the event of a no deal situation, it is assumed that EU citizens in the UK can apply for settled status, allowing them to remain in the country. Equally, UK expats in the EU are  advised to register as residents of the country in which they live. UK citizens on the other hand travelling to the EU countries will need to ensure  their passports are valid for at least six months on 31 October and will require an international driving permit, if intending to use a car. European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) will become null and void. Brexit could also be cancelled completely by MPs, although few have suggested that they would support it, without the need for the EU’s agreement.

Deal or no deal, Brexit issue has been able to bring perplexity and confusion even to those Brits who were in favour of leaving the EU initially.

Pic Credit: Evening Standard (UK) & Google Photos

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