So, 51,9% of British citizens have voted NOT to remain a member state of the European Union. You were probably faced with this bit of news this morning when you awoke, or maybe a colleague told you once you arrived at your workplace, or maybe you’re reading this for the first time and are shocked about it!
If you are shocked, you’re not alone.
Conversations here at the school with trainers and other staff members all have taken a tone of surprise, but also one of bafflement (Verblüffung). Many European stock markets such as the DAX or London Stock Exchange have posted major losses so far today; the British pound has hit a 30 year exchange rate low and David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has resigned.
But what comes now? Should we, the citizens or residents of the European Union, fear for the future? I’ve spent some time in the office this morning looking for helpful, not scary information about the future of the UK and the EU. A Reuters article posted at 6 AM this morning has done a very good job of answering a few of my most burning questions. I’ll summarize a few things for you to keep in mind while discussing the BREXIT (in English) with your friends, family, co-workers or even other passengers on the S-Bahn while heading home from work!
1.„The EU is in shock and entering uncharted territory. No member state has ever left and Article 50 of the EU treaty, which sets out how a state can exit the bloc, offers little detail.“ Anyone who claims (behaupten) to know what is going on is either a very, very high level EU policymaker- or they’re just lying to you! This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t continue to discuss what could happen- just remember that the BREXIT is a unique situation and that there is no exact plan for how a member state leaves the EU.
Article 50, the tricky bit of the Lisbon Treaty that regulates withdrawal (Rücktritt) from the EU, only has the following excerpts to explain what exactly will happen:
„A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention … The Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union.“ So far, so good. Nobody in the EU wants to burn bridges with the UK, which will hopefully remain a trading partner with the EU for a long time.
„It shall be concluded … by the Council, acting by a qualified majority.“ A qualified majority does not constitute the usual 51% majority- in some cases, 55% is necessary and in others, 72% of country votes or 65% of the represented EU population are necessary.
„The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification … unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.“ So, two years after the withdrawal agreement has been submitted (which hasn’t officially happened yet), the UK will stop being a member. Unless they are given more time, or decide to leave even earlier.
2. What is the EU’s immediate response?
„There has been a mantra of Three Rs from EU leaders speaking on Friday: Regret (Bedauern) – at losing nearly a fifth of the EU economy and more of its military and global clout; Respect – for the will of the British people; and Resolve (Entschlossenheit)– to keep the rest of the Union together. „
Which of these do you feel the most? Are you upset at the idea of a European Union without the United Kingdom? Or are you surprised and amazed that a majority of Britons have decided to take a very difficult path? I feel a mixture of these two- as a non-EU citizen, I don’t have much say about the resolve of the EU to remain strong!
3. Where does the EU go from here?
„The Union needs quickly to fill a 7-billion-euro hole in its 145-billion-euro annual budget, which is currently fixed out to 2020, as it loses Britain’s contributions while saving on what Britons receive from EU accounts.“ These contributions have been, admittedly (zugegebenermaßen), higher than their paybacks, which you can see from this graphic:
„EU leaders may push for a quick show of unity on holding the bloc together in the face of eurosceptics inspired by the result in Britain — including National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who leads polls for next April’s French presidential election.“ The last thing in EU leadership needs is further unrest or mistrust of the currents political situation.
4. What really happens now?
„In principle, nothing changes immediately. Britons remain EU citizens and business continues as before. In practice, many believe trade, investment and political decisions will quickly anticipate British departure from the bloc. The EU could also face a Britain breaking apart if europhile Scots make another push for independence and seek to join the EU on their own.“ This is not the end of the story, this is only the interesting plot twist that gets you interested and keeps you engaged!
What are your thoughts on the matter? Are you able to understand why the majority (Mehrheit) of UK citizens voted the way they did? Do you think there will be similar referendums in other EU member states in the future? Is it a historic moment?
I’ll be sure to revisit this topic in the coming weeks as the EU/UK divorce (Scheidung) continues to unfold!