Published 09/25/2023 19:22 | Edited 09/27/2023 15:47
Last Saturday (23), protesters against the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union (EU) gathered in central London for the National March for Reentry, calling for the annulment of the Brexit measure, which was made official in 2020 after a referendum in 2016 divided between 48% against 52% in favor of leaving. Dressed in blue and carrying EU flags, around 15,000 protesters gathered in Westminster to protest the impacts of Brexit.
The 2016 referendum, called by then-Prime Minister David Cameron, led to the decision to leave the EU, a choice that still generates controversy and division in British society. (Read below the main effects of Brexit for the United Kingdom and Europe). Among the protesters were prominent figures such as anti-Brexit activist Gina Miller and MEP and former Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt.
One of the leaders of the movement for the UK’s reintegration into the EU, Peter Corr, a 42-year-old former truck driver, organized the protest to express the desire of many Britons to return to the European bloc. He was one of the workers who lost his job as soon as the borders with the rest of Europe were closed. Peter Corr, leader and co-founder of the NRM, said he decided to organize the march because “it seemed like everyone had given up” on the cause.
“Brexit was a huge mistake, we are all – especially the working class and poorest people – paying for it and we need to do something about it,” Corr said. The loss of European status has become a nostalgia for many Brits who remember the benefits they had.
The National March for Reentry, which included a demonstration and a large pro-EU and anti-Brexit rally, attracted the attention of several generations, including young people who say they also want to be heard on the issue.
Corr said 60% of the country and 80% of people under 25 were consistently in favor of EU reintegration in polls. “I hate racism and xenophobia and that’s what I really felt in a lot of that ‘leave to vote’ campaign,” he said.
Terry Reintke, member of the European Parliament for Germany and co-chair of the Green Party in the Assembly, highlighted that the United Kingdom has built one of the largest pro-European movements in Europe and that there are still millions of Britons who want to return to the bloc. However, Brexit remains a complex and polarizing issue.
The economic impacts of Brexit are a central concern for protesters. The withdrawal agreement negotiated under Boris Johnson’s government came into force in 2021, with a review scheduled for 2025. Many protesters expressed their belief that Brexit had damaged the British economy, affecting not only the working class but also free movement of people and goods.
The march also saw protesters chanting slogans such as “Tories Out” and booing the possibility of Boris Johnson becoming prime minister again. Many see the return of the ultra-conservative prime minister as a solution to the country’s economic problems.
The economic impacts of Brexit, as well as debates about the United Kingdom’s reintegration into the EU, continue to be a matter of great controversy and division within the country, not least because the possibility of return is difficult and remote. Uncertainty persists over any possible return of the United Kingdom to the EU, making Brexit a lasting chapter in the country’s political and economic history.
“Leaving was a serious mistake. It has already cost the UK a lot. And unless we come back, it will continue to cost us dearly. It was a poorly contested idea. It was driven by ideology and was not designed to help the UK. We are better off within the EU”, said an activist, and added: “In the long term, we will suffer because we will not be able to sell and buy in Europe, which is our biggest market.”
Asked how the UK could rejoin the EU, another protester said: “We should negotiate a deal, get the Customs Union back, the single market back and progress from there.” But what could really start a lengthy process would be to consult the population again, a fight that is just beginning, with little chance of happening.
Brexit has had and continues to have a series of significant effects on the country’s politics, economy and society. It has been difficult for advocates to demonstrate the positive effects of separation on the population.
The main arguments in favor of Brexit have always been nationalist in nature, such as regaining control over Laws and Regulations, without interference from the rest of Europe. It could then make independent decisions on issues such as trade, immigration and regulation. Incidentally, the UK’s immigration policies have become stricter and more controversial, violating the basic human rights of immigrants. The movement of Europeans around the islands is now more bureaucratic and difficult.
With Brexit, the UK gained the ability to negotiate independent trade deals with countries outside the EU. However, as part of the EU, the agreements were more advantageous. The UK stopped contributing to the EU budget, which freed up financial resources for its national priorities.
From the referendum vote in 2016 to the agreement finalized in 2020, many of these impacts have become clearer:
- Economic Impact: One of the most debated aspects of Brexit has been its economic impact. Leaving the EU led to changes in trade, customs and regulatory relations between the UK and its former European partners. This has caused significant disruption to supply chains, increased costs for companies and led to a drop in exports. Furthermore, the UK is now outside the European single market, limiting access to one of the world’s largest markets.
- Pound devaluation: Shortly after the referendum, the British pound depreciated significantly against the euro and the US dollar. This affected the purchasing power of Britons abroad and increased import prices, which contributed to inflation.
- Financial sector: The financial sector, which is one of the pillars of the British economy, was also impacted. Many financial companies have moved part of their operations to other EU countries to maintain access to the single market. London is no longer automatically the main European financial center.
- Jobs and Migration: Many European workers living and working in the UK have had to deal with uncertainty relating to residency and employment status following Brexit. This also affected sectors such as healthcare and education, which relied heavily on European professionals.
- Agribusiness and Fisheries: The agricultural and fishing sector has been impacted by Brexit. Fisheries policy was particularly controversial, with changes to fishing quotas and access to British waters, which affected UK fishermen and their European counterparts.
- Border in Northern Ireland: The issue of the border between Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Ireland (member of the EU) has been one of the main challenges of Brexit. The Withdrawal Agreement included the Northern Ireland Protocol, which aims to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland but has caused political and economic tensions.
- Political Divisions: The Brexit process has exacerbated political divisions in the United Kingdom. The country faced changes in leadership, with the resignation of Theresa May and the rise of Boris Johnson as prime minister. Furthermore, the issue of Brexit has been central to the general elections and internal political dynamics.
- Geopolitical Repercussions: Brexit also had geopolitical implications. The UK is looking to establish new trade deals with countries outside the EU, such as the United States, China and Australia, in a bid to expand its global presence.
- Kingdom Unity: Brexit has also raised questions about the unity of the United Kingdom. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly against leaving the EU and support for Scottish independence has grown since then. Northern Ireland, meanwhile, has seen an increase in discussions about reunification with the Republic of Ireland.
Brexit also had a series of effects for the European Union (EU). While the direct impact on the UK has been widely discussed, the EU has not emerged completely unscathed from this transition. Below are some of the main effects of Brexit for the European Union:
- Loss of a Great Member: The United Kingdom was one of the largest net contributors to the EU budget and one of the main markets within the Union. Its departure resulted in the loss of a significant member in terms of financial contribution and political influence.
- Economic Impact: The UK’s departure affected trade relations between the EU and one of its biggest trading partners. Although a trade agreement has been reached between the UK and the EU, there are still trade barriers and additional costs associated with exports and imports, which have affected European companies doing business with the UK.
- Relocation of European Agencies: The European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority, which were previously based in London, have been relocated to other EU countries after Brexit. This had logistical and administrative implications for the EU.
- Defense and Security: The United Kingdom was one of the main defense and security actors in the EU, and its departure had implications for the Union’s defense capability. This led to discussions about the need for greater cooperation between EU member countries in the area of security and defense.
- EU Budget Negotiations: The UK’s exit created a budgetary vacuum in the EU. Debates over the EU’s next multiannual financial framework, which covers the period 2021 to 2027, have been affected by the loss of the British contribution, leading to tensions over how to bridge the gap.
- Seasonal and Regional Effect: Some EU regions were more affected by Brexit than others. For example, coastal regions that had close trade ties with the United Kingdom faced particular economic challenges due to changes in trade.
- Greater Unity on Fundamental Issues: The Brexit process has also had the side effect of unifying many EU members on key issues. Difficult negotiations with the United Kingdom have solidified EU countries’ commitment to the European project and the integrity of the single market.
- Role in the Global Scenario: The European Union has also come to play a more prominent role on the global stage as a result of Brexit. With the UK leaving, the EU became a bloc of 27 countries with a greater focus on its own foreign policy and international negotiating capacity.