Again, the eye of the world is on the United Kingdom as the country will on Thursday, June 23rd, hold a referendum to determine if it should remain in the European Union, or not.
Popularly called Brexit, it has been a hotly contested debate as the country has been divided into two factions – one supporting the notion of leaving the EU (Leave group) and the other pushing for the UK to remain in the EU (Remain group).
Both factions have campaigned heavily – banking on different data, research work, sentiment, popular belief, and economics.
But either ways, the world will feel the impact of whatever decision the people of the UK make tomorrow.
Here are the top five things to know about the Brexit.
1) First things first, what is Brexit?
Brexit is a term coined from the words Britain and EXIT. Both words were joined together to get – Brexit.
A similar portmanteau is Bremain, gotten from Britain and REMAIN. The term is used to call for the continued membership of the UK in the EU
2) How does the voting process work?
In 2012, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron rejected calls for the exit of the UK from the EU. He, however, promised that a referendum (a referendum is a voting process that involves each citizen of a country to vote for or against an idea. The majority vote; wins) would be held before 2017 if he was re-elected in 2015.
And he was re-elected.
Cameron supports the call for the UK to remain in the EU and has since granted members of his cabinet (ministers) and party (the Conservative party) the freedom to vote according to their conscience without recourse to him.
Essentially the two major parties in the UK are divided on whether to Leave the EU or Remain, as is the cabinet of Prime Minister Cameron.
Basically every citizen of the UK, including those who have lived abroad for less than 15 years and Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK, above the age of 18 can vote for two options: to Leave or Remain in the EU.
Also to vote, an individual must be a registered voter.
3) But why do they want to leave the EU?
The EU was originally formed in 1957, but the UK joined ‘partially’ in 1973.
The country has continued to use its own currency, Pound Sterling rather than the Euro which is used as legal tender across the 28 member countries of the EU.
Also the UK is not a participant in the Schengen border-free zone, which allows EU citizens to travel across the zone without a passport.
The UK has been skeptical of the EU ever since.
In 1975, Britain held its first referendum to determine whether the country will remain in the EU or leave. The remain faction won.
The major reasons why citizens of the UK is opposed to remaining in the UK include:
Immigration: Immigrants from poorer EU countries have flooded the UK under the ‘freedom of movement’ right guaranteed by the EU for its member states. This, proponents of Brexit argue, has put huge strain on their country – economically and otherwise.
Economy: London, the capital of the UK, is seen as the epicenter of finance in Europe. Fears are on the impact of Brexit on the country’s financial sector and economic growth. Furthermore, people supporting Brexit say that an exit from the EU will mean less tariffs and regulations enforced by the EU
Then there is the issue of employment. Brexit supporters argue that leaving the EU will cause a boom in jobs and reduce the regulations imposed on the country by the regional union.
Security is also a major issue especially with the rise of terrorism and lack of border control within the EU.
4. Which is better, stay or leave?
It is not easy to say which is better or worse. Both sides of the divide have strong arguments for their causes.
However, an exit from the UK will have serious impact on the laws of the UK as several of UK laws are a result of its EU membership.
A Brexit will literally shake the EU.
It will affect the financial conditions of the EU as the UK is one of the major contributors to the union and also give credence to other countries seeking to leave the EU.
5) Should Nigeria worry about a potential UK exit?
Yes, Nigeria has a number of agreements and treaties with the EU, as well as UK. Furthermore, several Nigerian businesses have concerns in the UK too.
If Britain leaves the EU, it will have several geopolitical and economic implications on the rest of the world.
It will create a lot of uncertainty within Europe, the business world as well as diplomatic circles – as the rest of the world skeptically watches the steps the UK takes as a state free from the EU.