The European Union (EU), which had long been considered a guiding light toward a cross national political and economic union, has recently faced numerous threats of disruption. Of those conflicts, one incident that fused a greater fire was when the United Kingdom (UK) declared that it would withdraw from being a part of this community. This has exceeded beyond the mere problem of UK’s remaining, but extended to a more fundamental, macroscopic question with regards to the pessimistic attitude of the EU itself, as well as the role it plays.
Earlier this year on February 19, the member countries of the EU opened a marathon summit in Brussels in an effort to restrain the UK from leaving this union. “The UK’s withdrawal from the EU was initially bandied out when the union faced severe incidents of financial crisis in 2012,” said Dr. Jung Sae Won (General Manager of KU-KIEP-SBS EU Centre). “It was firmly resolved in 2013 when David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the UK, called for a referendum on the country’s membership of the EU before 2017.” It was once again determined on February 22 at the House of Commons to be held on June 23 of this year.
The UK’s protracted consideration in dropping out from EU has undeniably caught a notable amount of attention on a global scale, even to the extent that a newly coined word, Brexit (Britain and exit), had come about in order to explain this phenomenon. Even Greece’s possible leave has formerly been dubbed Grexit.
Brexit: Is This the First Time?
“A similar occurrence with regards to the current Brexit incident did manifest in 1975,” Dr. Jung said. “This event had materialized merely two years after the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC), a precursor to the EU.” Taking the conservative party’s assertion that the UK should secure its own values, the labor party, once the ruling party, held a referendum about the duration of the UK’s EEC membership. The result was to remain in the community.
Contrary to 60 years ago, when a vast majority of the public voted to remain in the union, the opinions on the Brexit issue, in the modern era, is fairly evenly split. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Telegraph on March 15, 49 percent of the participants have answered that they are in support of the UK from the EU, while those who were against the Brexit movement was 47 percent. Presuming that those who are for Brexit would show a higher turnout in the voting rate, the UK’s residual within EU remains unknown.
UK: Why in Support of the Leave?
Why then, are so many citizens headed toward the UK’s withdrawal from the EU? “It is true that membership countries of the EU, as well as the United States (U.S.) and other nations abroad, had officially proposed that they are for the UK’s remaining,” explained Dr. Jung. “Despite this fact, however, significant concerns regarding economic, diplomatic, political, and cultural fields exist, leading people to go for the Brexit movement.” Of these, the major factors that triggered the UK’s leave are mainly economic and diplomatic.
To begin with, the UK has constantly displayed its dissatisfaction with the EU’s share of allotments. That is, as a method of carrying out the duties as a member country of this union, each country has to contribute a share of expenses to the EU. The payment is allocated in such a way that considers the financial condition and situation of that nation. In 2014, the UK was notified that they should pay an additional 2.1billion euros, a 20 percent increase compared to the previous year. Germany and France, equally countries with affluent economic budgets, had received refunds for their allotments. “Here, the crucial part is that the British people benefit less compared to what they contribute to the union,” Dr. Jung elaborated.
In addition, the uncontrollable increase in the influx of immigrants and refugees played another notable factor in the UK wishing to leave from the union. Being one of the most favored settlement destinations within Europe, the UK had been granting its well-established National Health Service (NHS) to these newcomers as well. However, as unemployment rate intensified due to the worldwide economic crisis, the UK decided upon limiting these benefits, when the country faced constraints from the EU. “Along with that, Brexiters argue that they should be granted the right for the overall management of the nation’s border line,” said Jung.
The Marathon EU Summit: What the UK Called for
In a desperate effort to restrain this country from leaving the EU, the representatives of the EU member countries held a marathon summit for 30 hours, accepting most of the residual conditions presented by the UK. “Of the negotiated requirements, the essential points included limitations of NHS to immigrants, the red card system, and the right to invoke the safeguard system,” Jung said.
To explain further, the right to limit the benefits granted to the immigrants, which had been the most controversial, yet the biggest issue with regards to this latest negotiation, was accepted by other membership countries of the EU in the form of an emergency brake. According to the agreement bill, only immigrants that resided in the country for four years are granted NHS. “The UK government has the right to postpone, or halt NHS in difficult situations,” added Dr. Jung.
Not only that, systems that would enable the UK to use its veto in order to block proposals made by the union were also implemented. The systems include the red card system and the safeguard system, through which the nation was regarded to display a special status within the EU. To be specific, the red card system is the right of individual governments to band together to block unwanted legislation. In addition, the safeguard system is utilized for vetoing decisions made by the Eurozone, or countries that use the euro. Here, the UK can keep the pound while being in Europe, and any British money spent on bailing out Eurozone nations will be reimbursed.
Where to Head: Could Europe Still be United in Diversity?
“While some fear that Brexit would lead to the overall pessimism toward the existence of the EU itself by triggering the exit of other nations such as Denmark and the Czech Republic, my personal opinion is that it is too much of an exaggeration to decline the continuation of the union,” claimed Dr. Jung. Like what he said, though it is true that the EU has encountered crises and troubles, the success of unifying distinct areas, as well as its ability to overcome those hardships, should be highly regarded upon. Though the future of the UK, as well as the union itself, remains to be seen, the EU’s seeking of “unification through diversity” is a motto that urges deliberation in a global scale.