The aftermath of Brexit, the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union, was on display yesterday as Theresa May succeeded David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister. This power shift comes three weeks after the U.K.’s referendum in which leaving the EU won 52% to 48%.
The decision to leave was championed by some and shunned by others. The BBC describes the EU as both an economic and political partnership among 28 European countries. It has its own sets of rules, currency and passport that allow goods and people to move more freely between member countries.
However, the EU is not without its problems. Dr. Malcolm Gold is the chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at Messiah. He was born in England and lived there for 35 years. Although he advocated staying in the EU, he recognizes its limitations.
“I can see that a big problem with the EU is that it limits the democratic process of member states; this is a big issue and one which should concern anyone who feels that a nation’s citizenry should be able to determine their own political policies and outcomes,” Gold said.
Now the U.K. is in unknown territory as the first nation state to leave the EU. Some say trading among European countries will become more difficult and negatively impact the British economy. Others say Brexit will leave no mark on the British economy in the long run as it would hurt Europe to impose trade tariffs on the U.K.
“The U.K. will have to try to negotiate with Europe to get the best terms it can but the outcome of these negotiations is far off and it is far too early to predict,” Gold said.
Another major concern is immigration. Brexit will allow the U.K. more control over its borders in order to reduce the number of people coming to live and work. While this may create more economic opportunities for British citizens, some are worried it will spark racism.
“The rhetoric during the run-up to the referendum became, in my opinion, far too ethnocentric and racist and I wouldn’t want to be associated with or support that kind of attitude nor any future policies that would result because of it,” said Gold.
Messiah College junior Leah Robinson spent the first thirteen years of her life in England. She supported the decision to leave the EU, staying up to watch the BBC’s live overnight coverage. When she woke up the next morning, she had a text from her mom with the simple phrase, “we did it.”
She said the EU put political and economic pressure on the U.K. “We’re a very small island and we have been quite constrained and controlled by the EU, especially on immigration which has put extra pressure on our country economically and with job opportunities declining and things like that.”
Still, Robinson hopes the decision doesn’t cause racism, but helps the U.K. find its identity.
“I think it’s going to be a search of national identity again,” Robinson said of the U.K.’s immediate future. “It sounds silly but I think we have lost a lot of our identity as a country through political correctness. A lot of which has come through the EU. I think it will be really good to see England pull itself together again and really unite with Wales and Northern Ireland and Scotland or maybe have a healthy split.”
No matter where your opinion falls on the U.K.’s decision, both Gold and Robinson say it’s important to be respectful and informed.
“Politicians will say all sorts of things, they will make claims and promises, they will try to instill fear, play on emotions, exaggerate, cajole, and manipulate,” Gold explained. “It’s easy to be influenced by the rhetoric. There was a lot of that going on during the run-up to the Brexit referendum, from those on both sides of the argument. As people who are being asked to cast a vote, it is incumbent upon us to seek the facts and to be informed.”
Robinson herself experienced backlash for her support of Brexit. The U.K.’s younger generation generally voted to stay to take advantage of the EU’s benefits such as easier travel around Europe, making Robinson part of a minority.
“It’s something U.K. citizens are very passionate about,” she said. “We don’t want hate from our own country and other people too.”
As the two sides negotiate, the entire process may take some time. The New York Times says Theresa May will not start the withdrawal process from the EU until later this year.
In the midst of striking a Brexit deal, CNN says May will also have to unite two divided groups, deal with immigration and racism concerns, and build Britain’s economy back up in record time.
Gold sums it up – “It really is an extraordinary period in British history.”
Madeline Crocenzi, Editor-in-Chief
Pug lover, Christ-follower, runner and peanut butter enthusiast.