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Brexit: One Year On
Exactly one year ago this morning, the nation and the world awoke to tidings, signifying an inimitable turning of a tide, politically, economically and historically. After a 44-year membership, the populace of the United Kingdom decided to sever its trade detente with the European Union, one year after David Cameron announced it in his election manifesto. Although the referendum was a close run thing, with all crosses on the ballot papers counted, the decision to leave the EU prevailed over remain, by 52% to 48%. The move, unprecedented and seemingly entirely unexpected among political elite and pundits alike, the move expressed the will of Britons for their government to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty. Despite being pencilled into the treaty, writers of it were candid in their admittance that Article 50 never meant to be used, which in a sense, highlights the necessity of its very existence.
Outwardly, Brussels' Triumvirate of power: Donald Tusk, Angela Merkel, and Jean-Claude Juncker, appear eager to affect the air of contentment and peace within the remaining 27 nation bloc. However, the evidence is mounting to the contrary. Unrest abounds throughout the so-called "PIGS" nations (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) beset with record levels of youth unemployment, not to mention Hungary and Poland's wrangling with Merkel over attempts to force those nations to accept refugees. On top of such disputes is the rise of populist politicians throughout the continent, instances like Geert Wilders gaining more seats in The Netherlands and Marine Le Pen contesting the French Presidential Election grow more frequent. All is not well for the bureaucratic monster that originally started life as a Coal and Steel Union in 1952, especially as the UK economy is faring better than expected, people power becomes too uncomfortable for the governing elite.
The tsunami of populism grew to engulf the US as the end of 2016 and saw Donald Trump elected to the highest office on Earth and slathering of liberals notwithstanding (including many baseless Russia collusion allegations) doesn't render his Presidency any less real. Trump's tenure will last until at least 2021, and the January inauguration, should the President lose, will take place two years after the UK's exit from the European Union. Following the triggering of Article 50 in March this year, a two-year countdown began, which means Britain will leave the bloc in March 2019, deal or no deal. On the first anniversary of the referendum result, the first major roadblock of talks reached a solution, namely that the EU citizens that have resided in the UK for five years are permitted to remain, with the same courtesy extended to Britons in the EU. Certain other conditions need thrashing out, like whether the UK stays in the Customs Union, or accepts free movement, but the agreement of granting existing citizens the right of Leave to Remain attached to a Tier II Level Visa does seem rather final.
Brexit and the exhaustive talks it will invoke has paled when compared to the political fallout the referendum itself caused. 366 days ago, David Cameron was Prime Minister with enough of a majority to govern and lead his party with surety, until the public returned the EU question with an answer he did not expect. Assuming his Premiership as untenable, Cameron announced his resignation, effective immediately as of June 23rd, 2016, prompting a leadership contest in the Conservative Party, which Theresa May won. With her avowals that "Brexit means Brexit" she appeared focused on a goal to remove us from the EU that she had campaigned to remain part of, swearing that this commanded her attention and not a General Election, something she then scheduled for June 8th, 2017. If ever there was a masterclass on how to trash political certainty and trade it for chaos, Theresa May is a paragon of such lessons, by refusing to debate and seeming aloof, she alienated a populace already disillusioned by years of Tory austerity. Such intransigence does not go down well with an electorate already not too enamoured of politicians seen as out of touch and who have never recovered from the 2009 Expenses Scandal, so Theresa May's majority clashed with an invigorated campaign from Jeremy Corbyn, her five-seat eliminated, losing 15 seats. A year after this momentous and world changing decision, strong and stable (Theresa May's mantra) seems a little shaky, with a couple of years ahead in negotiations, time will tell. As Thatcher said: "Europe was built by history," and when a boat is rocked, it makes a splash. The wave of the future lies in Britain making the best of leaving the EU, deal or no deal, which is not beyond our limits. Populism proves one thing, people are tired of self-sercing elites and can speak for themselves more than ever, Brexit and Trump was just the beginning of blocs toppling like Jenga!