European Divorce: Uncertainty in the Wake of “Brexit”



“Brexit,” the recent referendum in which British voters elected to leave the European Union signals a popular departure from ideals of globalization, and has been met with much consternation on the world stage. The next steps of this unique event, during which Britain will actually remove itself from the European Union, are clouded in uncertainty. Linda Kintsler of The Atlantic examined what might come next.

In order to fulfill the effects of this referendum, Sir Tim Barrow, the United Kingdom’s representative to the EU, delivered a letter from British Prime Minister Theresa May to the European Council President Donald Tusk, triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. While this constituted the beginning of Britain’s official exit from the European Union, the separation will not be complete for at least two years. This letter began a potentially years-long process of negotiations between Britain and the European Union.

Often compared to a tense divorce, these post-Brexit negotiations will have to accomplish two things: decide exactly how much money Britain must pay the European Union upon her exit, and negotiate the status and rights of EU citizens who live and work in Britain, and British citizens residing in the EU.  Other long-term ramifications of Brexit are outlined in proposals submitted by the two opposition parties in Britain, the Labor Party and the UK Independence Party. These documents indicate that the British government has a significant task in deciding what laws imposed by the European Union to maintain, adjust, or repeal in the post-Brexit nation. They also suggest that the Brexit vote may result in some control of governance being returned to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Some opponents are optimistic that the Brexit decision may be reversed during these negotiations, though such a reversal on the part of British voters would be detrimental to the Conservative party. However, the true results of Brexit remain to be seen. Should negotiations fail, the future of Brexit will be uncertain. If they proceed according to plan, Brexit will be completed by late 2018.


– Olivia Morales, World Affairs Council Intern

Photo: The Atlantic