This Week In Europe

Brexit happened. So now what?

After four long years of Leave-Remain battle – from the referendum campaign, the voting day, and all of the chaos since then – from the resignations of David Cameron and Theresa May, to the re-election of Boris Johnson, and all of the anticipation and #Regrexit in between – is it all finally over? (Spoiler alert: no, it is not).

It’s been a long and oftentimes outright ridiculous journey since that infamous morn in June 2016, where the UK declared its decision to cut ties with its European family. Whatever your views on the UK’s forfeited EU membership, one thing we can all agree on is that the process has been far from smooth, putting all involved on edge – both Remainers and Leavers, Brits and non-Brits.

So what’s happened since Brexit day?

We’re still only a few days into our post-Brexit world, and the lengthy transition period means that there haven’t yet been any extreme changes to everyday life. That being said, a lot has gone down since that much-contested Big Ben bong marked the beginning of this new chapter.

Here’s a summary:

Brussels orchestrated an elegant farewell to the UK

The UK’s penultimate night in the EU was marked ceremoniously in Brussels by British-themed celebrations. The Mayor of Brussels arranged for the city’s Grand-Place to be lit up in the Union Flag’s red, white and blue, while a band played British music.

Philippe Close set up the event – which also included a mock London-style telephone box and bagpipers – to celebrate the friendship between Brussels and the UK in a wholesome way ahead of Brexit.

The UK, on the other hand, took a different approach

Conversely, devout leavers from the Bolton in Greater Manchester (incidentally the hometown of yours truly), have gained media attention by attempting to burn an EU flag to “celebrate” Brexit’s long-awaited arrival – only to be disappointed. Ironically, thanks to those pesky EU health and safety precautions, the flag was designed to be inflammable.

Somehow Brexiteers in the capital had more luck, and burned EU flags beside Downing Street in central London, while others jeered at pro-EU demonstrators marching in the same stop.

Scottish independence may again be on the cards

Meanwhile, the pro-Scottish Independence party SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon requested the EU ‘leave a light on’ to symbolically guide Scotland home. Indeed, the general disdain for Brexit in Scotland has reignited the conversation on its independence from the UK, and another referendum to follow the one in 2015 seems probable.

Is the UK on course to lose the EU and Scotland all in one fell swoop?

In a statement to the Scottish parliament, SNP MP Michael Russell urged the UK government to give Scotland a role in the upcoming negotiations to decide on the future relationship between the UK and EU, commenting:

Scotland has the right to choose its own future and the best option for Scotland is to be an independent country in the EU. In the meantime, we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of Europe around our shared values and interests.

Some leavers are confused about what a “transition period” is

…and seem to think that the fact we still have planes and groceries in the first few days post-Brexit means that they can already declare a roaring success… Indeed, Twitter has been inundated with Tweets since the 31st January leering at Remainers due to the fact that things seem to be business as usual, despite the warning of their pro-EU contenders that Brexit will bring nothing but problems long-term. These self-congratulatory declarations that Brexit is a success are rather premature.

Some leavers have already started to turn on migrants

Posters, entitled “Happy Brexit Day,” were stuck to doors on all 15 floors of a block of apartments in Norwich, in Norfolk, England, the morning after the UK formally left the EU.

Addressing residents, it stated (in ironically bad English) the following:

Queens [sic] English is the spoken tongue here… we finally get our great country back.’

Ominously adding:

‘You won’t have long till our government will implement rules that will put British first. So, best evolve or leave.”

The author of Article 50 himself called the UK “stupid”

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard – the man who wrote the infamous clause allowing the UK to signal its planned departure from the EU – claimed that the ‘last great benefit’ the UK has brought to the EU is that no other country will be ‘stupid‘ enough to leave.

The former diplomat claimed that other members would be put off following the UK’s lead, as the negative consequences had now been demonstrated, declaring ‘it will ensure that no one will be as stupid as us again.’

Petition for the UK to return already launched

Perhaps predictably, a petition has already been launched for the UK to rejoin the EU, by the same individual who set up the record-breaking petition to revoke article 50 back in 2018.

Adorning the hashtag #RejoinEU, the petition calls for the UK rejoin the EU ‘as soon as possible’ after it leaves. It states:

Leaving the EU is currently undemocratic: it ignores the current wishes of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, and large swathes of England.

Brexit: a job done or is this just the beginning?

Indeed, much to the dismay of not only Brexiteers, but all who are still following the Brexit saga, it seems that despite the UK finally having left on paper, we can’t draw a line under Brexit just yet.

The transition is only just starting, meaning there are many months to go before we will even see the beginnings of noticeable change. On top of that, I would argue that Brexit will never truly be a “done deal” as many may have hoped. This will eventually mean a huge shift in not only many tangible policies, but also in the very identity of both the UK and the EU.

It will take years before the UK even has a chance of finding its new place in the global community. And by then, with a new generation of voters and some retrospect on the troubles caused by the UK’s revoked membership, rejoining the EU (a #Breturn?) may very well be on the table.

So is rejoining really a realistic option? Andrew Glencross declares in Al Jazeera that:

‘Instead of playing the blame game or indulging in self-pity, so-called Remainers should think more seriously about the option of rejoining the EU. This scenario may sound far-fetched at present, but so was Brexit itself prior to 2016.’

Overall, although the 31st January was a symbolic day for many, in truth it is still just one step of many in this long Brexit journey. We won’t be able to stop talking about Brexit any time soon, or be able to reassure ourselves of a job well done for a very long time – if ever at all.

What do you think lies ahead in post-Brexit Europe? Let us know in the comments!

Roxanna Azimy
Roxanna is a British and Iranian advocacy writer specialised in human rights, health, and welfare. With a languages degree from King's College London, a Masters in European Studies from LSE, and an EU communications background, she strives to increase the visibility of ethical and sociocultural issues in Europe and beyond. Twitter: @RoxannaYasmin Medium: @RoxannaAzimy

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