One year on from Brexit, a world changed

No regrets: European leaders have said Britain could still stay in the EU, but would it?

It has been a year since the UK voted to leave the EU. The world has changed, and so has Britain’s place in it. With the benefit of hindsight, should the British regret the decision?

A year ago today, after a bitterly divisive campaign in which one side had been accused of scaremongering and the other of lying, the UK voted in a referendum. Many saw it as a foregone conclusion.

Pollsters and commentators agreed that only one result was conceivable: Remain. But they were wrong. The outcome: Brexit.

One year on and much has changed. David Cameron is long gone. Donald Trump, a Brexit supporter, is president of the United States. But new French president Emmanuel Macron has given European unity a shot in the arm.

The debate has also changed. Polls show most people are still in favour of leaving the EU, but should Brexit be “hard” or “soft”? Should Britain remain inside the single market in exchange for keeping some European regulation, or make a clean break?

From the moment she launched her campaign to be prime minister last July, Theresa May insisted that “Brexit means Brexit”. She pushed for a clean break, and chose an aggressive negotiating stance which critics say has alienated the rest of Europe and set the talks off on a bad footing.

But then the prime minister was stripped of her parliamentary majority in the general election, throwing her strategy into confusion. On Wednesday her government laid out an agenda dominated by Brexit legislation, but without a certain majority in Parliament to pass it. Had the UK got cold feet?

Yesterday, May arrived at her first summit with European leaders since the UK election appearing a weakened figure. EU officials told the press that the meeting would be “humiliating” for her.

President Trump may be a fan of Brexit, but the UK’s position has been met in Europe with exasperation and mockery. When May laid out her negotiating position in January, Germany’s Die Welt led with the headline “Little Britain”, underscoring the UK’s reduced stature on the continent. In March, another German paper warned “divorce hurts,” predicting that Britons would be £4,300 worse off per year after Brexit.

So, one year on from the referendum, should the UK regret the result?

Take it or leave it

Absolutely, say Remainers, it’s a disaster. The last year has revealed the scale of the challenge of leaving and all the problems that come with it. We’re a laughing stock in Europe and are on course to crash out of the EU without any trade deals in place. Brexit will cost us dear: we should change course now and stay in.

Of course not! say Leavers. The predictions of economic Armageddon turned out to be a load of rubbish and we’re now on our way to regaining control of our laws. Europeans were always going to be sour about us leaving, but they will get over it and we will be free to trade with the whole world once we leave.

You Decide

  1. Was leaving the EU the right decision?
  2. Should the UK aim for a hard or soft Brexit?

Activities

  1. Imagine a second referendum has been called. Design a leaflet campaigning for Leave or Remain, including the arguments you find most compelling.
  2. Research and write a one-page briefing on the economic consequences of Brexit. What have the effects been so far, and what might they be in the future?

Some People Say...

“Brexit was a fantastic example of a nation shooting itself full in the face.”

— Hugh Grant

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Britain has triggered Article 50 and begun the formal process of leaving the EU, but some European leaders including Macron have suggested that this could be reversed. One thing we do know is that Brexit is causing uncertainty, something financial markets tend not to like.
What do we not know?
What the final Brexit deal will look like, and what it will mean for Britain economically and for its influence on the world stage.

Word Watch

Scaremongering
The Remain campaign predicted that Brexit would cause an economic disaster, costing jobs and money.
Lying
The Leave campaign’s claim that Brexit could mean an extra £350m per week for the NHS was widely criticised.
Single market
In the EU it means the four freedoms of movement — of goods, services, capital and labour.
Regulation
EU leaders insist that remaining in the single market means accepting freedom of movement, which makes it difficult to control immigration, and rulings from the European Court of Justice.
Agenda
The government set out its plans in the Queen’s Speech. The speech focused largely on Brexit and did not include many of the pledges from the Conservative manifesto as it was judged that they would be too difficult to pass without a majority.
Majority
The Conservatives are negotiating an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to giain a working majority but no deal has yet been reached.
German paper
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said that it saw little prospect of a trade deal with the EU being reached before 2019.

Subjects

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