Background notes for your assignment:BREXIT



The following background notes try to explain why this happened:

Note that the United Kingdom has always had an ambivalent relationship with the European Union.The British have a tendency to view themselves of Europe but not in Europe.The British supported the idea of European Union, but were not interested in becoming involved in a tightly integrated scheme.For example, the first important step in European integration consisted of the European Coal and Steel Community,which went into effect on 1951, based on the Treaty of Paris.The British did not join this organization, which originally consisted of six members:France, West Germany,Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.The idea behind the Coal and Steel Community was to tie together the coal and steel industries of Germany and France to make it impossible for these two countries to go to war.Germany(Prussia) and France had fought each other in the Franco-Prussian War(1870-1871), World war I, and World War II.The devastation wrought in World War II was the final, catastrophic stimulus to do something to prevent these two ancient enemies from fighting yet another conflict .

The idea was based on an approach to international relations known as functionalism,which offered an alternative to the realist approach to international relations.Functionalism was based on the idea that a working peace system could be established if states cooperated with each other in economic and technical sectors, and the habit of cooperation would spill over to the political sector. David Mitrany, the father of the classic functionalist approach,  argued that technical and economic cooperation would erode nationalism and the traditional concept  of state sovereignty.The loyalty of citizens would be transferred from the state to functional organizations that would be established at the international level,like the specialized agencies such as the International Labor Organization that are part of the UN system.Territorial representation associated with the nation-state would be replaced by functional representation.Mitrany did not originally envisage applying functionalism  to the European movement for unity which eventually resulted in the European Union,but rather envisaged it taking the form of international technically specific organizations like the World Health Organization.Mitrany underestimated the importance of the political will and nationalism of a state,and placed too much emphasis on economic determinism as the factor which would promote economic integration in an organization.Consequently, later revisions had to be made to Mitrany’s concept of classic functionalism,and took the form of neo-functionalism which emphasized the importance of nationalism and politics as opposed to economics.Therefore, in the case of the United Kingdom, it is nationalism and political will , besides dissatisfaction with the economic arrangement,which affects its decision to hold a referendum in June 2016, to determine whether the United Kingdom will stay in or out of the European Union.

The United Kingdom also did not join the Common Market when it was created in 1957,based on the Treaty of Rome.Although, as a result of the failed Suez adventure(the United Kingdom and France invaded Egypt in 1956 after Egypt had nationalized the Suez Canal which had been under international administration but was an important lifeline to British holdings in Asia,and also provided access to Middle Eastern oil), some British policy makers believed that their fate lay with a stronger identification with European nations.This was especially because the United States forced Britain to withdraw its military forces from Egypt, which the UK invaded in 1956 to regain control over the Suez canal.The U.S. subordinated British interests to its own national interests,in order to avoid a possible confrontation with the Soviet Union in 1956.(note that a considerable number of books have been written about the Suez canal crisis).

However,British opponents of European integration  believed that London”s “special relationship” with the US would still suffer if London joined the Common Market, as well as the UK’s special preferential trading arrangements (the “Sterling area’)with members of the British Commonwealth.The special relationship between London and Washington was based on a common history and language and the U.S. alliance with the United Kingdom during the First and Second World Wars.

As a matter of fact, instead of joining the Common Market in 1957,the British set up a rival trading bloc, known as the European Free Trade Association or  Outer Seven(consisting of the UK and some Scandanavian and neutral European countries) as opposed to the” Inner Six”,the six original members of the European Coal and Steel Commmunity, who formed the Common Market in 1957.The Common Market was designed as a customs union based on the elimination of tariffs and trade barriers, and the free circulation of labor and goods.Tariffs were to be progressively eliminated between six original members of the Common Market,and a common external tariff wall ws created around the original six members of the Common Market(now known as the European Union).The Common Market also consisted of a number of political institutions which it was hoped would provide a political basis for the economic integration of its members, a sort of United States of Europe.Some of the more important institutions consisted of the European Commission, the Council of Ministers,the European Parliament,and the European Court of Justice.the European Commission is an elaborate bureaucracy in which all 28 members of the European Union are represented.The European Commission is responsible for overseeing the various rules and regulations for the EU that comprise thousands of pages.The Council of Ministers consists of the representatives of the government which determine the overall policy of the EU.The Council of Ministers makes its decisions through a system of weighted voting,with the larger members of the EU wielding  more votes than the smaller members.members of the European parliament are elected directly by the voters in each country.The number of seats allocated to each member are based on the size of the population of a member.Over the years, the European Parliament has been able to increase its power in the system.For example, the European Parliament now has the power to approve or reject the budget of the EU.It has the power to approve or reject the commissioners who serve on the Executive Commission, the body of technocrats which actually runs the European Union.
However, by the 1960s,the British began to experience significant economic difficulties,which led them to apply for membership in the Common Market.The original British application was vetoed by France,led by a very nationalistic President, Charles DeGaulle.DeGaulle believed that British membership would be used  as a means of American domination of Europe.But with the resignation of DeGaulle in 1969, the way was clear for British membership in the Common Market,which took place in 1973.(The United Kingdom held a referendum , in 1975 which the public approved membership in the Common Market.Ireland also joined the Common Market in 1973).However,over the years, the United Kingdom had not fully integrated into all of the activities of what came to be known as the European Union.For example, when a common currency known as the Euro was adopted, the United Kingdom opted out of the common currency arrangement(the UK was not the only member of the EU to do so)and continued to use the British pound as its currency.The EU has agreed to allow the UK to continue to use the pound rather than the Euro as its currency.

However,Euroskeptics in Britain continued to express concern about the negative effects of membership in what came to be known as the European Union.The United Kingdom,unlike the United States, does not have  a written constitution,but has a political system that is based on custom, tradition, common law, prerogatives, and statutes.Under this system, the British Parliament, more specifically the House of Commons, is considered to be the supreme legal sovereign in the system.The British continued to be uneasy with the fact that in some cases, the authority of the British parliament could be subordinated to the European Union.Opponents of UK membership argued that the national sovereignty of the UK was threatened by continued membership in the EU.Critics  also argued that there is a “democratic deficit “in the EU, which is run by “Eurocrats” or bureaucrats ,who are not held democratically accountable for their policy decisions.The British, as a condition of continued membership, wanted more power to be exercised by the national Parliaments of the members of the European Union.In some instances, British law had to be subordinated to the law of the European Union.In 2016 the British Prime Minister, at the time,David Cameron was able to win agreement from EU leaders that if 55% of national parliaments of the EU opposed an EU policy, it would be reconsidered.The UK,in negotiations that took place before the “Brexit” vote, also gained the right not to support a move toward ever greater union in the European Union in the negotiations that took place before the referendum on June 23 2016 in the United Kingdom and Gibralter.

The British also believed that they were not getting their money’s worth as a member of the European Union,which resulted in a renegotiation of British financial assessments during the administration of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.Thatcher,the “Iron Lady”, was quoted as saying, “I want my money back”.Thatcher was successful in renegotiating a repayment of Britain’s overpayment to the EU,although British depressed regions did benefit from the EU’s(European union’s)Regional Fund.

But, the financial and economic benefits which Britain receives from the EU is still an important issue.The proponents of a British exit from the European Union argue that the United Kingdom could save billions of pounds by leaving the EU.Small businesses in the UK, in particular, do not like all of the rules and regulations tand red tape that they have to deal with in the European union.On the other hand most of the British multinational firms would prefer to stay. in the European Union.If the United Kingdom exited from the EU, it might have to negotiate separate bilateral trade agreements with each of the other 27 members of the EU,and as an outsider, would also face higher tariffs for the goods and products that it exported to the EU.

Euroskeptics are also opposed to the rather liberal provisions, as they see it, of the European Union,which allow migrants to move from one member of the European Union to another.Critics have expressed concern over the loss of British jobs to to workers emigrating from other members like Poland.Critics would like to curb the flow of emigrants to the UK, especially from Eastern Europe, and reduce the benefits which such emigrants receive in Britain.Cameron has promised to try and reduce the number of immigrants to the UK.The Conservative party would like to require that immigrants from other countries of the EU must live in the UK for four years before they are eligible for various benefits.This proposal, which also was accepted in the renegotiation between Cameron and other EU leaders, was accepted, and would be in place for 7 years.Child benefits, for the children of immigrants living in their home state, would also be reduced.

The flood of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria in 2015 , has further added to this anxiety.The terrorist attack which occurred in Belgium in March 2016 has further fueled British anxiety.Euroskepticsargue that by being a member of the EU, the United Kingdom has lost control of its borders.Proponents of remaining in ,on the other hand argue that the UK can screen immigrants in France in Calais, before they move on to the UK.


By the time of the British general elections in  May 2015, an anti-EU party known as the British Independent Party,which called for withdrawal from the EU, had gained a significant amount of support in the United Kingdom,electing representatives to the European parliament.The Independent party was drawing votes away from the right wing of the Conservative  party(the Independent party also was an anti-immigrant party)resulting in a promise by Prime Minister David Cameron,the leader of the Conservative Party,to hold a referendum on British continued  membership in the European Union.Cameron himself has said that he favors continued British membership in  the European Union, if favorable terms for continued membership can be renegotiated.A number of important British leaders are also in favor of continued membership in the European Union.Cameron was able to renegotiate what he considered were favorable terms,and recommended that the UK stay in.At a special cabinet meeting of the British government, the majority of ministers of Cameron’s government also supported staying in the European Union.However. several ministers opted to lead the battle to leave the EU, among them the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

The Conservatives did surprisingly well(you can look at the exact breakdown of votes in the British 2015 general elections),setting the stage for a referendum on British membership in the EU .As a result of the election, the Conservative party gained a slim majority in the House of Commons, while its coalition partner, the Liberal democrats suffered a significant defeat and was dropped from its coalition with the Conservatives.Also the Independent Party suffered a setback, and its leader lost his seat in the House of Commons,but the UKIP still got about 13% of the vote,but did garner close to 4 million votes.

British Prime Minister Cameron held a series of meetings with various European leaders to persuade them to support London’s efforts at renegotiating the terms of its membership.This was not  an easy task, since it required the support of all the other 27 members of the European Union.Not every member of the EU supports the British efforts to pick and choose which terms it seeks to renegotiate.France, for example, is one of the strongest critics of the British efforts to recalibrate the terms of its membership,and the Czech Republic does not favor restrictions on emigration from one state to another.leaders from various countries around the world also urged the UK to stay in the European Union.

The United States, which is not anxious to negotiate a new free trade agreement with the United Kingdom,has urged it to stay in the European Union.Washington has argued that by leaving the European union, London will lose its voice in world politics, and certainly in Europe.The UK, however, has drawn back from being overly involved in some EU problems, such as the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine.

Another important issue is what will happen in Scotland,if the UK decides to leave the EU.There is a movement for Scottish independence, and an independent Scotland would like to remain in the EU..After Brexit was passed, there was a move in Scotland to hold another referendum calling for scottish independence.

On June 23, 2016, the British voted to leave the European Union.The vote was about 52% for leaving, and 48% for staying.The  results were quite stunning because they were quite unexpected and resulted in the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron,in which Cameron will be replaced by a new Prime Minister in the Fall,(2016),probably by a Conservative leader.The need to replace Cameron has created turmoil in the Conservative Party,as the different leaders of the Conservative party vied with one another to head the government,reminiscent of a Shakesperean drama of royal intrigue .The leading candidates for the position of Prime Minister consisted of two women, as the final decision would be made by about 150,000 members of the Conservative Party in the Fall.Further turmoil was created when the leader of the UKIP(the United Kingdom Independence Party), who had led the battle to leave the EU, resigned.He had achieved his goal of leaving the EU, and was quoted as saying that  he “wanted his life back.”

.The referendum is not binding and will need to be followed up by legislation adopted by the British Parliament.According to article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty,negotiations dealing with the “Brexit”, should take about two years.There were some suggestions that the British should rethink the decision to leave,and hold a second referendum.Large demonstrations took place in London,protesting the Brexit decision.Some of the immediate results of the decision were a drop in the value of the pound, a decline in stock markets around the world, and a drop in consumer confidence in the United Kingdom itself.One of the reasons for the economic turmoil was the uncertainty which was associated with the British decision to leave.

Theresa May was selected as the next Conservative Prime Minister(the second woman in British history to serve as Prime Minister,the first being Margaret Thatcher).Prime MInister May had to face a constitutional issue as to whether or not the government enjoyed the prerogative(prerogatives were powers that the executive could exercise and were derived from Royal preorogatives(such as the power to declare war), or the powers that were originally enjoyed by the monarch,but then mostly transferred to the executive branch of government) to start exit negotiations with the European Union without the consent of Parliament.Prime Minister May took the position that parliamentary approval was not necessary for the executive branch to initiate and conduct  exit negotiations.However, the various layers of the British judicial system ruled that Parliament had to approve the conduct of negotiations by the executive branch under article 50 of the EUs Lisbon Treaty.(One of the pillars of the British constitutional system is that sovereignty, or legal and political power resides in the British parliament. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled in January 24 2017,by a vote of 8-3 that an Act of Parliament  was necessary to authorize negotiations for an exit under article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.(Article 50 said that state could withdraw from the EU according to its constitutional processes;there was no way for a state to unilaterally withdraw from the European Union until the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.An exit deal has to be approved by a “qualified majority” of the members of the Council of the European Union,in the case of setting the terms of the “divorce’ settlement,but could  be vetoed by the European Parliament,)The ruling was based on the point that the European  Act of 1972 by which the UK joined the Common Market in 1972 was a source of and affected the domestic law of the United Kingdom.The ruling runs to some 97 pages.Much of the argument in the decision of the Supreme Court consisted of countering the Goverment’s claim that Ministers could use the power known as  the prerogative to exit the European Union without parliamentary approval.The court ruled that prerogatives did not involve the right of the government to withdraw from the EU without parliamentary approval, namely an act of parliament.This was because the 1972 Act of Accession to the European Union affected the domestic law of the European Union.Decisions by European institutions such as regulations and directives, or decisions by the European Court of Justice or the Council of Ministers of the European Union, had an effect on British domestic law.Moreover, withdrawal from the EU affected the rights of EU citizens living in the United Kingdom,as well as the rights of British citizens living in other members of the European Union.Anything that affected domestic law, required parliamentary approval.By leaving the European Union, a source of the UK’s law was cut off, affected the British constitutional system, and therefore required Parliamentary approval.This was also based on the principle of parliamentary sovereignty,since any thing that affected domestic legislation had to be approved by the House of Commons.The House of Commons can make or unmake any law.

The UK Supreme Court also ruled that the approval of the devolved assemblies in Scotland , Wales, and Northern Ireland ,was not necessary for the execute branch to undertake Brexit negotiations.The First Secretary of the Scottish Government, however, stressed that it needed to be kept appraised of the Brexit negotiations.

The Conservative Government of Theresa May opted for a fast track approval of article 50 negotiations by  parliament,hoping for  a bill that simply consisted of one or two lines..

There was some speculation as to whether or not the House of Commons and the House of Lords would approve the exit negotiations.However, even though the referendum to exit the European Union was not binding,it represented the will of the British people which the House of Commons did not want to block.The leader of the Labor party said that the party would not stand in the way of the will of the people,even though the Labor party had some serious concerns about Brexit.and there were significant Labor party defections on the vote…The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, were opposed to leaving the European Union.The question of Brexit also resulted in some defections from the ranks of the Conservatives in Parliament.The  national parties(Plaid Cymru-the Welsh nationalist party-and the Scottish Nationalist party, were also opposed to a bill authorizing article 50 negotiations.The Scottish government has contended that the approval of any final deal between the UK and the EU, would have to be approved by the Scottish parliament.

The House of Lords also tried to attach two amendments to the law authorizing article 50 negotiations, but these were overturned by the House of Commons.One amendment was designed to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the United Kingdom,and the other amendment dealt with giving Parliament a meaningful vote to approve the final Brexit deal between the UK and the European Union.The process of approval of article 50 in Parliament turned out to be rather difficult.

However,the House of Commons granted its approval for the initiation of British negotiations to leave the European Union.On March 29, 2017,the British Ambassador to the European Union delivered a letter(written by Prime Minister May)initiating the notice of withdrawal,which had been authorized by an Act of parliament. London’s exit according to article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.It was expected that the negotiations would take two years, and might even be extended if necessary,given the complexity of the divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

The British government also issued a  white paper in March 2017,which spelled out the strategy which would be followed in moving toward a Great Repeal Bill of the 1972 European Communities Act by which the United Kingdom became a member of the European Union.The main strategy was to convert European Union Law into UK domestic law  on the day of the exit.However, legal adjustments had to be made to fill in any gaps which would not be covered by the conversion process.For example, laws which contained reference to the European Union, or European institutions would have to be changed.Once the UK exited, European Union law would no longer take precedence over UK law, as had been the case when the UK was a member of the EU.

The UK government plans to submit the major features of the Great Repeal Act to the UK parliament at its next session in May 2017.

UK negotiations with the EU may take two parallel tracks.The first would deal with the terms of the “divorce”.That is, how to deal with issues such as assets and money.For example, the position of the EU is that the United Kingdom would have to pay around 64 billion pounds which it would owe to the EU..Another issue that had to be resolved consisted of the rights of EU citizens living in the UK,and the rights of UK citizens living in EU countries.

The other set of negotiations would involve the negotiation of a free trade agreement with the European Union.The United Kingdom would like to maintain access to the single market which the European Union comprises.The British would like to negotiate this on a sector by sector basis,however, the position of the European Union negotiators is that the British will not be allowed to “cherry pick” parts of the single market.Prime Minister May has threatened that “no deal” is better than a “bad deal”.

Decisions reached by the European Court of Justice before the exit woulld still be applicable to British domestic lawAlso there is the question as to what extent the United Kingdom would be able to maintain access to the EU’s customs Union.The United Kingdom would also like to stop immigration from the other members of the EU to the UK.About 189,000 people are allowed to emigrate to the UK per year, from other EU members.The British government would like to stop the flow of immigration,but not exclude highly skilled workers from emigrating to the  UK.

The European Union Charter of Human Rights would no longer apply to the United Kingdom.However, the United Kingdom  would continue to belong to other organizations, such as the Council of Europe,which would continue to guarantee human rights.The United Kingdom would also continue to be a party to the international treaties which also guaranteed various substantive and procedural aspects of human rights.However, decisions of the European Court of Justice would no longer be applicable in the UK once it exited from the European Union.

A deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union had to be concluded by March 29,2019,although there was apparently nothing that could prevent an extension if necessary.Negotiations were not expected to start until June 2017,at least until the French Presidential elections were over.Substantial negotiations might be further delayed until the German elections were over in September 2017.Until the exit negotiations were concluded, the United KIngdom would continue on as a full member of the European Union, with all of its rights  intact.

The question was whether or not there would be a “hard” Brexit exit, or a ‘soft” Brexit exit.

The President of the Council of Ministers of the European Union,Donald Tusk,also issued a nine page policy paper, setting out a series of negotiating guidelines that the European Union would follow in negotiating Brexit.The resentment of the European Union over the disruption caused by the abrupt British decision to exit was evident in the letter.The 27 members of the European Union would negotiate with the United Kingdom as a single entity.A summit meeting was scheduled for June 2017, to allow the members of the EU to further discuss negotiating guidelines.

On the other hand, the European leaders of the EU said that Britain should exit the EU as soon as possible,but German Chancellor Angela Merkl said that there was no need to rush,as long as it did not take an eternity.The British faced two years of tough bargaining in order to try and maintain access to the single market of the European Union.According to experts, 44% of the United Kingdom’s trade was with the European Union.Also British financial services played a significant role in Europe as well,given the fact that London was a leading global financial center..But as Henry Kissinger wrote in an op ed in the Wall Street Journal, the EU should not seek to punish the British for leaving,but should renegotiate on generous terms.This is because one did not want the fallout from” Brexit” to result in the failure of the European project,which had resulted in peace in Western Europe for about 70 years.

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