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June 23, 2017

Happy Brexit Day! Is the UK really going to leave the EU?

Today marks a year since the UK public voted to leave the European Union – 23 June 2016.

After a year of resignations, a snap election, and lots of confusing headlines – is the will of the 52 percent going to stand up?

Is Brexit even going to happen?

Due to the referendum result being so close — 52 percent said yes compared to 48 percent who said no — the country has been fairly divided on how it stands about Brexit.

In particular, the Liberal Democrats pledged to stand up for the Remainers in its election manifesto, saying that it would request a second referendum if it won the election.

The party subsequently didn’t win the election (it gained four seats, but got a lower share of the vote than in 2015) but the divisions over Brexit remain.

As well, after Theresa May’s Conservative party failed to return a majority to parliament on 8 June, it was thought that the prime minister’s mandate to carry out a strong and stable Brexit might be over.

Ex-Conservative deputy prime minister and current peer in the House of Lords, Michael Heseltine said on BBC’s Newsnight programme that he doesn’t think the idea for a so-called hard Brexit is credible after the general election.

He said:

I think the idea of a ‘Hard’ Brexit is not credible, I don’t think there’s a majority for it in parliament, we have a split cabinet, we have a split country.

On the subject of whether the UK will leave the EU, he said he wasn’t sure.

“I’m not sure. I think that is very much open to question now,” said Heseltine.

Will Theresa May lead the UK to Brexit?

The snap election on 8 June was largely seen as a vote of confidence for May, and because of the bad result for the Conservatives, many were asking if the prime minister would step down on 9 June.

Whilst she is yet to leave 10 Downing Street at the moment, it is not yet clear if May will stay leading the now-minority Conservative government over the next five years.

Heseltine said that a leadership election could be on the cards soon:

The friends of each of the potential participants are canvassing the House of Commons, looking for support. That’s how it happens and you can’t stop it.

May is currently in Brussels for an EU summit, however, the other 27 heads of state aren’t going to be very welcoming. Reuters reported that she has had “her wings clipped” as other EU leaders, such as Germany’s Angela Merkel have said they want to discuss the future of the 27 without Britain, rather than the process of Brexit.

The Belgium prime minister, Charles Michel, spoke to reporters at the start of the summit saying:

Theresa May is in a very difficult situation in terms of leadership so we will have to see what position Great Britian will defend. We can speculate, but it is a waste of time.

At least we know there’s going to be Brexit legislation

The Queen’s Speech took place this week to mark the opening of parliament.

As well, the speech is a chance for the Queen to lay out the policy initiatives the government will be working on over the next few years.

In terms of Brexit, eight separate bills are expected.

1. Repeal bill: This will repeal current EU legislation, the European Communities Act 1972, and enshrine them in UK law.

2. Customs union bill: Whilst politicians are still bickering about trying to stay in the Customs Union, May has been fairly clear she wants out. This bill wants to make sure the UK has a standalone customs regime once it is out of the EU so the country can negotiate its own future trade agreements. In particular, there will be a separate British VAT to look forward to.

3. Trade bill: Once this bill has passed, the UK will have its own legal framework to operate an independent trade policy. How exciting.

4. Immigration bill: Arguably, this bill is what Brexit is all about – repealing the EU’s freedom of movement. The immigration bill will allow the government to control the number of people moving to the UK from the union. As well, it will make the migration of EU nationals and their families subject to UK law.

5. Nuclear safeguards bill:  This is to make up for taking the UK out of Euratom after Brexit, the treaty governing safety in the nuclear power industry. Back in May, the cross-party business, energy and industrial strategy committee published a report saying that a no deal in Brexit would put the UK’s nuclear industry at risk, so it’s good to see this being addressed as at the forefront of new government legislation.

6. Agriculture bill: The agriculture bill wants to provide stability for farmers and protect the natural environment after Brexit.

7. Fisheries bill: This bill wants to enable the UK to set its own fishing quotas after Brexit. Regaining control of the UK waters was a key priority for the Leave campaign.

8. International sanctions bill: Finally, this Brexit bill will focus on international sanctions, allowing the UK to implement a new sovereign framework for sanctions on a multilateral or unilateral basis.

How has Brexit affected the UK economy?

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, the UK chancellor Philip Hammond admitted that Brexit is affecting economic investment in the country.

As well, inflation is now at one of the highest levels it has been since 2013, and UK earnings are at one of their lowest levels since 2014.

All these things point to the fact Brexit has had a negative impact on the UK economy. And that’s before we start discussing the Brexit bill, which could be anything from £5bn to £50bn allegedly.

According to a report on the year anniversary of the referendum by think tank The UK in a Changing Europe, the UK currently has the least liberal domestic economic policy in over found decades.

A spokesperson for the think tank told Verdict:

The UK is far more exposed to Brexit trade related risks than any other EU state except Ireland. Germany and the Netherlands will be less affected by Brexit than the UK and many other member states will feel almost no effect. Authors conclude that the economic strength of the UK’s negotiating position is far weaker than the British public understands.

Hungarian billionaire George Soros has said this week that he thinks the process should be reversed because the UK economy will suffer because of it. He told Reuters:

Households will realise that their living standards are falling and they will have to adjust their spending habits. To make matters worse, they will also realize that they have become over-indebted and they will have to pay back their debts.

As well, even though Britain has a deadline of March 2019, Soros believes it will take longer than five years to work out the details for Britain leaving the bloc.

The divorce process would take at least five years to complete, and during that time new elections would take place. If all went well, the two parties may want to remarry even before they have divorced.

Once Brexit happens – here are some things we can look forward to

Did you know you currently pay a 17 percent tax on trainers from outside the EU? This might end once the UK is outside of the customs union which is something to celebrate. Here are some other things that could happen after March 2019.

No more hangovers:  The right-leaning think tank Adam Smith Institute said that once the UK is out of the union, drink manufacturers will be able to make hangover-free drinks out of synthetic alcohol because they won’t be subject to strict EU regulations.

Sam Brown, executive director of the think tank, said:

Britain can be a world leader in safe alternatives to alcohol and cigarettes.

Powerful vacuum cleaners: From September 20114, manufacturers were banned from making or importing vacuum cleaners above 1,600 watts within the EU. No more once 29 March 2019 comes.

Bananas that look like bananas: This is known as a so-called Euromyth. It was thought that Brussels banned bent bananas. This is what the BBC had to say about it:

As Commission Regulation (EC) 2257/94 puts it, bananas must be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature”. In the case of “Extra class” bananas, there is no wiggle room, but Class 1 bananas can have “slight defects of shape”, and Class 2 bananas can have full-on “defects of shape”.

Regardless – the UK can look forward to less regulation on its bananas and cucumbers too post-Brexit.

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