On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom made history. On that date, the UK became the first country to ever leave the European Union. This move fulfilled the promise made about a referendum that was held years ago. It took over 1,100 days and multiple prime ministers before the UK could arrive at a deal with the EU about what leaving would look like.
It turns out that Brexit is a very big deal. The issue of the EU has loomed large over politics in the UK for decades. Margaret Thatcher wasn’t a fan. The issue of the EU isn’t drawn neatly along party lines, either. Former Liberal leader Jeremy Corbyn has also been a skeptic at many points during his political career. The EU has been seen as increasingly important for Britain, though. As part of the EU, Britain had close ties to countries on the mainland. It was easy for people to move from the UK to Europe for work, and vice versa. In the end, this was one of the most controversial issues for voters. Many working-class Britons, especially in England, didn’t want unrestricted immigration, meaning more competition for jobs and apartments in already competitive marketplaces.
In other parts of the UK, the EU was seen as a useful place to be. Northern Ireland enjoyed a non-military border with its EU neighbor the Republic of Ireland. Scotland was heavily favorable to EU membership. Since the Brexit vote, the movement for Scottish independence has been rejuvenated. Some of the biggest worries about Brexit come from the business community. Free trade with other EU countries was much easier to manage than negotiating deals with individual countries.
EU membership has also been a key part of Britain’s identity around the world for decades. As a larger entity geographically and population-wise, the EU helped the UK to maintain a high profile on the international change. Today, many observers fear that the UK will only lose ground by going its own way. Foreign policy will definitely have to change. Some people also worry that the UK won’t be able to stand up to its other key ally, the US, if needed. Without the EU, the country is now totally alone on the world stage.