What is Brexit?
Brexit is the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. “Brexit” is a catchy portmanteau of “Britain” and “exit.”
They withdrew from the European Union? How?
There was a vote. And the Leave forces defeated Remain 52 percent to 48 percent.
How did this vote even happen? What was the impetus for this?
There are myriad ways to answer this question. But for a succinct summary, I’ll lean on a piece from Vox’s Timothy B. Lee:
British Prime Minister David Cameron didn’t want to hold a vote on Brexit at all. But in 2014, he faced growing pressure from the populist right over immigration and Britain’s EU membership. To mollify dissenters in his own party and stop the rise of the far-right UK Independence Party, Cameron promised to hold a referendum on leaving the EU if his Conservative Party won the 2015 election.
The Conservatives surprised pollsters by winning an outright majority in Parliament, and Cameron kept his promise. But he wasn’t personally in favor of exiting the EU, and he campaigned vigorously for a “Remain” vote. At the same time, he allowed other members of his government to campaign on the other side. This created the spectacle of senior members of the UK government, from the same party, campaigning on opposite sides of one of the biggest issues in British politics in decades.
I see. So, why is everyone freaking out about this?
The immediate concern is the effect this will have on Britain’s economy. Trade agreements will need to be renegotiated, their currency will lose value, and it’s very likely that this move will not win them many friends in Europe, as the rest of the countries currently in the EU will also take a financial hit. It’s also important to consider Europe’s geographic dynamic. The countries there are generally clustered together the same way our states are. This isn’t like Canada and Mexico getting pissed at America. But New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Ohio all holding a grudge towards Pennsylvania.
So basically, Britain mortgaged their economy and potentially sabotaged relationships with other European countries just to exit the EU? Why would they do this? I thought Brits were smarter than us? Or is it just their accents that make them seem smarter?
Really, that’s it?
It’s a little more complicated and nuanced than just that. But, if you distilled the complications and nuances down, you’d be left with a big ole bucket of bias. The same type of jingoism and nationalism that has propelled Donald Trump to the head of the Republican party is behind the decision to exit. Ultimately, this was done so Britain can create and enforce its own immigration policies. Which would effectively stem the immigration surge they’ve been experiencing, and make it more difficult for undesirable Eastern Europeans and Muslims to move there.
Yes. You know how Trump refers to Mexicans as job-stealing, filth-spreading, cow rapists? Well, it seems as if the Leave faction holds Eastern Europeans — many of whom come from poorer countries — in the same regard.
I see. So, why should this scare the shit out of Americans?
Because if there could be a single figurehead of this entire movement, it would be Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) — a right-wing party that was initially ignored as fringe until emerging as a powerful political force in the past several years. They became more and more popular by obsessing with and exaggerating the danger of immigration and connecting to a fear many Britons had/have about “losing” their country. Which sounds eerily similar to what’s currently happening here with Trump.
And while many of us (myself included) still believe America wouldn’t be myopic, frightened, and just plain stupid enough to elect this motherfucker president, as Britain showed us all, it can happen. And it will happen if we allow apathy or a belief that this would never happen keep us away from the polls.
Anything else to consider?