Brexit: Unwinding The Complex

Graphic by Surya dev Yadav

On the 23rd of June 2016, the Brexit referendum was held wherein a whopping 51.89 % voted for the United Kingdom to leave the EU. Now, if this is the first time you’ve heard the word Brexit or think it is some sort of a British biscuit, it’s best to take a few steps back and understand everything in order.

What in the world is the EU and how is the UK an umbrella country of countries?

European Union, abbreviated EU, is simply a union or group of countries comprising Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and 28 other European countries (now 27 as the UK has left). Since there are no borders between the countries in the EU, people are free to travel. Moreover, they all use the same currency Euro. 

The question now is why do we need an entirely different body to get 27 countries together, and why can’t they just exist separately? The answer to this obvious question lies in history. The EU in the early years was a symbol to bring and promote peace amongst European countries. As you might know, during the First and Second World Wars, European countries were fighting amongst each other. After World War II, they realized that they had had enough violence and wanted to work together as a unit, hence giving birth to the EU.

The geography of the UK is one to keep an eye out for to facilitate a proper understanding of the subsequent text. The UK, a country of its own, has a sole parliament and consists of four other countries too, namely Scotland, Wales, England, and Northern Ireland. These countries, in fact, have their own flags and cricket teams. 

Why did the ship sink?

If all the countries together were a happy family tagged the EU, what happened that made the UK leave? Well, it was the 2015 Refugee Crisis that pushed matters into criticality. The EU had ordered each European country to take in a fixed number of refugees in proportion to their population. Many people, especially the lower-income houses were not happy with this order as they feared that the immigrants would take up their jobs. The right-wing party, i.e., The Conservative Party in Britain then took advantage of the matter by forming two different groups – The Leave group (people who wanted the UK to leave the European Union) and the Remain group (people who wanted to continue being part of the EU). On the 31st of January 2020, the UK had officially exited from the EU.

Social Media: The secret weapon

This is perhaps not the first time you would be hearing how social media is used to push citizens into making decisions and thereby facing consequences about which they do not have the slightest idea. Brexit is no different too. The infamous Cambridge Analytica was the forefront organization that carefully observed the likes and dislikes of users to figure out the thought process of each user and what mattered the most to them. Using this information, they showed them personalized and fake ads to ignite a spark of hatred and distrust towards the EU. For example, people who felt unsafe of immigrants were shown fake and personalized ads on their social media feeds. These ads stated how the European Union had granted 76 million Turks visa-free travel enabling them to settle in the UK. Apart from this, many more fake adverts relating to health, environment, and streaming services also frequented the feeds of social media users sensitive to such topics. Cambridge Analytica was fairly successful in its motive as in the 2016 referendum, 52% of the citizens of the UK voted to leave the EU, leading to Brexit.

The ball game of Scotland and Northern Ireland

The story of Scotland is an interesting one with many plot twists. The story begins with the 2014 Scotland Referendum wherein citizens were asked whether they wanted to break away from the United Kingdom and exist as a separate country like Ireland or wished to continue being a part of the UK; 55% of citizens voted to continue being a part of the UK. Now, if we go back to the 2016 referendum, most of the people living in Scotland voted against Brexit and wanted to continue being overseen by the EU. But since the Remain group was a minority, Brexit had to happen anyway. With this, the people of Scotland needed another referendum that would enable them to move away from the UK and join the EU again. To add to it, the UK was undeniably not in favor of Scotland breaking away because of the resultant great economic distress in its kingdom.

Let us now next move on to Northern Ireland. Prior to Brexit, North Ireland and Ireland were both parts of the EU. There wasn’t really any problem in trading as both of them followed the same EU trade rules. However, since Northern Ireland is a part of the UK and Ireland comes under the EU, trade today isn’t as simple as before. Rather than checks taking place along the Irish border, it was agreed on undertaking all inspections or document checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) instead. This led to further resentment from the UK over the said trade agreement between them and the EU as they don’t want to treat Northern Ireland any differently from the rest of the UK.

The Present and the Future

People who voted for Brexit back in 2016 don’t feel the same way anymore whereas Brexiteers still stand strong with their decision. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the UK, is one of the most famous pro-Brexiter. He has recently been facing a lot of backlashes for not only violating lockdown protocols but also for not providing advantages as promised to his citizens in view of Brexit. Preventing immigration was one of the major issues surrounding Brexit and the UK government has been successful in decreasing the net immigration rate of the country but at the cost of having empty supermarket shelves, lack of heavy goods vehicle drivers and not having enough workers to process meat. Unfortunately, things seem to look tough for the UK especially on economic grounds. It’s high time the UK Government stops looking at Brexit as a political issue and instead looks at it as a peoples’ issue.

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