The word itself, “Brexit” is a mix of the words “Britain” and ‘exit.” It signifies Britain leaving the European Union. You have heard about it the news, and the word floats around in social circles. However, how much do you know about Brexit besides England trying to break off with the European Union? If one is not living in England, it can be difficult to keep up with all the news about this momentous occurrence. In addition, what are the causes of Brexit? The main causes of Brexit is the weakening of the EU, the sense of national identity in Britain, and the EU’s relationship with China.
The EU is not as strong as it used to be economically and also in terms of morale. In addition, with the inclusion of 28 members, decision-making is extremely complex. According to the Barcelona Centre of International Affairs, “The EU of 2016 by contrast has been hit by a series of extremely damaging blows: the economic crisis of 2008; the self-inflicted damage from failure to deal with the flaws of the euro following the crisis; Russian success in upsetting the post-cold war balance of power in Europe; terrorist attacks from ISIS and immense migration flows into the Union” (“Brexit: Causes and Consequences”). The UK joined the EU in 1973 to be a part of a dynamic entity that would aid nations in trade and social regulation. But now the EU is burdened with issues that are deemed to weigh down the UK.
Furthemore, Britain often considers itself as an unconquered nation and is noted as a longstanding parliamentary democracy. British people have largely been more identified with being British than European. As stated by the Barcelona Centre of International Affairs, “It joined in 1973, rather because there did not seem to be any other option than joining the then more prosperous Western European democracies. It is also true that for decades, the British political class and media played an anti-EU game, where made up stories on the horrors of the EU were plastered across the front pages of tabloid newspapers. The drip drip effect of forty years of negative media coverage was difficult to reverse in a four month referendum campaign” (“Brexit: Causes and Consequences”). This sense of identity also is being challenged by the EU’s policy on immigration. Common people in Britain in the majority do not feel inclined to open immigration. According to Ian Jack of The Guardian, “…in 2004, Tony Blair’s government decided to open the UK labour market to the eight eastern and central European countries that had joined the EU. Between 5,000 and 13,000 migrants were expected; within the first year, 129,000 turned up. Blair and other senior Labour figures later conceded they had made a mistake” (“Who Do I Blame? Eight Reasons We Ended up in This Brexit Mess”). This political decision made waves across the populace about the sentiment towards immigrant workers. Now, like in many European countries, Britain’s nationalism is on the rise because of the so-called unwarranted amount of immigrants.
Lastly, a main cause of Brexit is the UK’s dislike of how the EU has treated China and how globalization has affected UK markets. Though China has joined the World Trade Organization, it has not complied with its rules. According to the Barcelona Centre of International Affairs, “The failure of the EU to recognise and deal with Chinese unwillingness to comply with WTO standards and apply robust trade defence measures in response has had a damaging effect on industrial employment across Europe” (“Brexit: Causes and Consequences”). Furthermore, many argue that immigration is not the primary cause of Brexit, but policies on economic globalization are. Increasingly, the British production of goods have been shifted overseas—especially to China. The Washington Post states that, “…governments’ inability to compensate globalization’s losers seems to have pushed voters toward political entrepreneurs who cast themselves as isolationist and nationalist, and who blame immigrants for woes that probably have little, if anything, to do with immigration” (Colantone, Italo, and Piero Stanig). The issue is complicated, but it boils down to British businesses having a difficult time keeping up with the effects of globalization within their industries.
When the vote was finalized for Brexit, it was a shock to the world. But to the people who were affected by the EU’s policies for decades, it was not so much of a surprise. The main causes of Brexit is the EU’s diminished economy, the strength of the national identity in Britain, and the effects of globalization on markets in the UK.
“Brexit: Causes and Consequences.” CIDOB, www.cidob.org/publicaciones/serie_de_publicacion/notes_internacionals/n1_159/brexit_causes_and_consequences.
Jack, Ian. “Who Do I Blame? Eight Reasons We Ended up in This Brexit Mess | Ian Jack.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 3 Mar. 2018, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/03/brexit-immigration-jobs-eton-europe.
Colantone, Italo, and Piero Stanig. “The Real Reason the U.K. Voted for Brexit? Jobs Lost to Chinese Competition.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 July 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/07/07/the-real-reason-the-u-k-voted-for-brexit-economics-not-identity/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e077d41192b8.
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