What is Brexit?
“Brexit” is simply a short-form way of saying the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. It’s the combination of ‘Britain’ and ‘exit’. The UK joined the EU’s predecessor, the European Economic Community, in 1973.
So, what is the EU anyway?
The European Union is a political and economic partnership involving 28 nations. Its origins go back to the end of the Second World War, with a belief that after two World Wars that claimed more than 50 million, enough was enough.
The premise is simple — if nations are doing business and trading freely with each other, there’s less chance they’ll fight each other.
It has small beginnings initially, based on the free movement of steel and coal between France and West Germany — a nation divided and on the frontier of an Iron Curtain between West and East.
France and West Germany, along with Luxembourg, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, set up the European Economic Community (EEC), or “Common Market” to allow for the free movement of goods and services, without customs or tax barriers.
Denmark, Britain and Ireland joined the EEC in 1973.
Why is the UK leaving the EU?
It voted to in a referendum held on June 23, 2016.
of those who cast votes did so to ‘Leave’ in the EU.
of those who cast votes did so to ‘Remain’ in the EU.
of those eligible to do so cast votes in the referendum.
of those who voted in England voted to Leave the EU.
of those who voted in Wales voted to Leave the EU.
of those who voted in Scotland voted to Remain in the EU.
of those who voted in Northern Ireland did so to Remain.
votes were cast in total by those who wanted to Leave.
votes were cast in total by those who wanted to Remain.
What is ‘Article 50’?
Article 50 refers to a section of the Lisbon Treaty between EU members. It says: “Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements. … A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention.
What’s the ‘European Council’?
The European Council is the body that leads the EU, and is made up of the heads of each member’s government, along with the President of the European Commission.
The UK gives notice …
Although the Brexit referendum was held on June 23, 2016, UK Prime Minister Theresa May did not formally give notice under Article 50 to the European Council until March 29, 2017, of her nation’s intention to withdraw.
From the EEC to the EU
As other nations joined, the EEC evolved and, through negotiations and agreements forged in Maastricht and later Lisbon, the European Union took shape. It has a European Parliament, with members directly elected from each country, a European Commission, which is akin to a Cabinet, with “Commissioners” in similar policy roles as ministers.
The European Court of Justice adjudicates and is the final arbiter for European law.
… and then there’s the euro
Each of the European nations previously had their own currencies, and to facilitate the free movement of trades, goods and services, the EU initially developed the European Currency Unit (ECU) — a wholly artificial monetary unit based on a basket of currencies.
This developed into the euro, the common currency now used by 19 members of the EU, also referred to as “the Eurozone”.
The Eurozone states
The 19 member states using the euro are Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Greece, Austria, Estonia, Finland, Cyprus, Lithuania, Slovakia, Malta, Slovenia and Latvia.
The other nine EU states still retain their own currencies. These are the Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, UK, Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Sweden.
… and the clock is ticking
The Lisbon Treaty allows for a two-year period in which all the arrangements for a nation to leave have to be finalised. Because the final deal will have to be ratified in various manners by each of the other of EU27 and the European Commission and European Parliament, the time period to reach a deal on Brexit is far less. Any final Brexit deal would likely have to be concluded by the end of 2018 at the latest.