What is Brexit?: From a student’s perspective

Over three years ago, on June 21, 2016, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland held a referendum in which two options were presented. One was to remain in the European Union, and the other was to leave it. After months of campaigning prior by both sides, the British public came together and made their choice: The UK voted 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent in favor of leaving the Union. 

The immediate effects were heard from all corners of the globe. The British pound dropped to a staggering low, and the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, announced his resignation from office following the outcome of the vote. Brexit would also take another victim with Theresa May’s time in Downing Street. Despite supporting the ‘Remain’ effort, she put forth ideas in order to satisfy both the EU and Parliament, but ultimately failed several times to get a deal through the House of Commons, including some of the largest defeats in British political history. May announced her resignation on May 24, leaving office a few months later on July 24, succeeded by the current PM, Boris Johnson.

After assuming office, Johnson promised he would lead the country out of the European Union by the deadline at the time, Oct. 31, whether or not a deal had been agreed upon. 

This upset the opposition, and the tension rose even more when Johnson announced he planned to prorogue for over three weeks, which was seen as a measure to prevent MPs from blocking a no-deal. Johnson claimed that it was all in the ordinary in order to prepare for the Queen’s Speech, which marks the beginning of a new government, however critics noted the unusually long suspension time, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since World War II. Johnson’s government was immediately taken to the courts, in which it rose quickly to the Supreme Court, where they ruled in favor of the opposition. Reluctantly, Johnson accepted the verdict, and thus delayed the suspension and shortened it to only a few days.

Still seeking to leave the EU without a deal, Johnson also called for a snap general election, of which was quickly turned down by opposing MPs, stating that they would not be interested until the prospect of a ‘no deal’ Brexit was out of the question. Johnson quickly went the the EU and came back with a new deal, ready for parliament to vote on. 

On Oct. 19, the first Saturday meeting in 37 years, the expected was an outcome of a vote on Johnson’s deal. This, however, was not the case, as an amendment proposed by Independent MP Sir Oliver Letwin was passed preventing Johnson’s deal from being approved before proper legislation was put into place, with Letwin’s reasoning being so that the UK does not ‘crash out’ without a deal. This also brought the Benn Act, which requires the Prime Minister to seek an extension from the EU. Once again, Johnson reluctantly obliged, sending two letters, one requesting an extension, the other arguing that it would be a mistake, only the latter of which was signed. Despite this, the EU agreed to a Jan. 31 extension on Oct. 28. Johnson accepted the offer shortly after, proclaiming that Labour have ‘run out of excuses’ to oppose an early election.

Johnson’s wish would come true the following day, finally winning the vote for a general election on Dec. 12, following Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s endorsement of the election, along with putting forth an amendment for it to take place a few days earlier, on Dec. 9, which was decided against.

All eyes are focused on the outcome of the election, and whether or not Johnson will gain or lose ground in Parliament following the vote. The results will dictate which path the country will take next year, whether they agree on Johnson’s current proposal, decide upon a new one or leave without one. Other possibilities exist such as holding another referendum or even canceling Brexit entirely. It’s no secret that Britons are getting frustrated, but it looks like they are going to have to wait a little longer.