Brexit update: What happened and what’s next

As the March 29 deadline for the UK to exit the EU approaches, Brexit has been back in American headlines. Mark Turner, an exchange student from a city near Manchester who’s studying computer science at Hope, looks back on his experience in England when the UK first voted to leave and explains what the future might hold for his home country. “Unlike some of my friends, I didn’t stay up late to see the result, and I found out when I turned on the TV in the morning,” said Turner. “What probably sums up the mood for me and most other people was one of utter disbelief.” According to Turner, nobody was expecting for the UK to vote to leave—it was the opposite of what the polls had anticipated. “In a way though, it was kind of exciting,” Turner added, explaining that the UK’s political situation had been fairly uneventful for years. “At least we finally had something to talk about.”

Turner recalled the day after the referendum’s results came out. “When I got into school, it was pretty much all that anyone was talking about,” he said. “Everyone wanted to put in their two-penny’s worth, even those who you wouldn’t expect.” The story unfolded in the background of the school day: “Our teachers aren’t allowed to give political opinions, but there were definite class discussions about it.” As Turner explained, developments came in quick succession throughout the day, and there was always something new to discuss. “Almost immediately the biggest issue became Northern Ireland,” said Turner.

He explained that the conditions of the Good Friday Agreement were at odds with the need for a hard border between the countries that would result from a break with the EU. Another major concern was the anticipated loss of businesses. Citizens of the UK saw the economic impacts of Brexit almost immediately, but they weren’t sure what to expect in the year and a half before the exit deadline. “A lot of people were wondering if it would ever happen,” said Turner. I asked Turner about his perspective on the situation now that Brexit was back in the news. “I presume you’re talking about the US, since Brexit has never once left the news in the UK!” he told me. “The way I see it is that we’ve completely run out of options.”

He agreed with Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to rule out the possibility of a second referendum, but he explained that her unpopular and poorly-designed Brexit deal had been voted down by a historic margin. Parliament had also voted down the possibility of a no-confidence vote in May’s government, which is similar to an impeachment vote in the U.S. Now Turner suspects that if the UK exits on schedule, they won’t succeed in reaching a deal with the EU. Hardly anyone would be satisfied with this outcome, so Turner believes a delay of the March deadline is inevitable. “We are very much at an impasse, and the only thing that can break the deadlock is time,” he said. “Time for the EU to come to terms with the fact that this is very real and actually happening, and if they cut us out by giving us a poor exit deal, they would have completely lost a very valuable member and trading partner.” He also thinks that remaining in the EU is out of the question: “This would be a betrayal of the British people. Whatever their reasons, more of the voting population voted to leave the EU than remain, and the government needs to adhere to this—we like to think of ourselves as a democracy.” According to Turner, pushing back the deadline shouldn’t be a problem given a ruling from the EU High Court, and it’s the option that makes the most sense at this point. As he put it, “More time is required to reach a deal that works for everyone, putting aside self-interest for the long-term gain of all parties.”

Claire Buck ('22) is a Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Hope College Anchor. As an English major and a pre-med student, she gets excited whenever she finds places where science and storytelling intersect. When she's not editing articles or wrestling with WordPress, she enjoys wandering around farmers' markets, writing sonnets, and baking bread for her housemates.

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