June 29th, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 26
What exactly is Brexit and the EU? (Brexit for dummies)
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Elk Valley Herald Reporter
I'm sure everyone has heard by now that the United Kingdom has held a vote to decide whether to stay with the European Union (EU) or to leave it in the dust. This somewhat complicated issue is otherwise known as Brexit. If you are like me or many of my friends you may not fully understand what's happening. Don't worry you are not alone. I have spent the last few days trying to educate myself on what this all means and although I'm no expert, I will try and provide a simpler explanation of the unfolding events and the impact they may have, in layman's terms. The following is my interpretation of random articles and expert discussions on the topic that I hope together, can provide a clearer picture for those of us that don't readily follow European economics and politics.

What is the EU? Well I can't tell you completely and a lot of people struggle to grasp it in its entirety, however the basic concept can easily be explained. In short, the EU is the unification of European countries that together, some believe, may benefit through open trade, greater economic stability and collective decision making. But how did it come to be and why?

Europe, for many years, has been a group of states that constantly had conflict with one another and caused many problems for one another. However there was always discussion that if they ever should get together it would benefit the greater good.

After World War 2, destruction and chaos nearly left the whole of Europe in ruins. As assurance that they could more easily defend themselves if war of this caliber were to ever again occur within Europe, they decided to create the first stages of a union. There were also the added benefits that all of Europe could financially benefit from unification. There may be much more money in general, higher standards of living and opportunities in free trade and more.

In 1957 the European Economic Community (EEC) was formed which was somewhat of a precursor to the EU with its goal being to integrate the economies of all of the member states. Originally it was formed without the U.K. until they eventually joined the EEC in 1973. The decision at the time was made strictly by British Parliament and without the people which caused a fair amount of backlash.

In 1975 however, there was a referendum where 2/3 (2 to 1)of the public voted to stay with the EEC.
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Then in Maastricht Netherlands in 1993, the Maastricht treaty was signed by European leaders which led to the creation of the EU. This is also the time the Euro was created as a single currency for Europe although Britain would keep the British pound which would maintain greater value throughout the years even until today.

Britain was very indecisive at this time and for two decades an ongoing debate would carry on whether Britain should become more of a part of Europe or try to remain more independent. Many people would argue to adopt the Euro as British currency while others wanted to keep the pound.

In 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron was receiving a large amount of pressure from skeptics which motivated him to give an important speech called, The Bloomberg Speech. In this Speech Cameron would pledge a vote for Britain and added the promise to let the people decide on the matter and therefore, the fate of the U.K.

This was an important moment for the U.K. and the 10 year long question whether the people or the government should decide on the matter.

After his conservative party won the 2015 election, David Cameron set out to renegotiate its terms for the involvement in the European Union. He met with leaders of the EU but those meetings did not make much progress. Even so Cameron believed the U.K. should stay in the EU and last February he decided to hold a vote.

The remaining campaign was headed by Prime Minister David Cameron and the leader for the leave campaign was Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Boris Johnson was once the former Mayor of London and both he and Cameron were old friends from Oxford. They had come to know each other a great deal and were also both Tories.

Cameron's remaining argument was that it was risky to leave Europe and that there were many benefits for Britain to remain part of the super national government. Johnson's leave campaign argued that Britain should have more independence, less European bureaucracy for business and generally more control over its immigration system.
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At this point there were many major issues on peoples minds. The biggest of these were populism, income inequality, migration, nationalism and globalization.

This leads us to the recent vote on June 23rd which led to a 72% voter turn-out. This is more citizens turning out to vote than in the last 2 general elections of 2010 and 2015.

Many people including many media outlets were on the verge of celebration for the remain campaign yet they would be celebrating early as when the poles closed it was revealed that 51.9% of Brits wanted to leave the EU.

England and Wales wanted out of the EU while Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted to stay. In fact Scotland now wants to leave the U.K. so that it can stay in the EU, which means we could be seeing another major referendum occurring.

The stock market, the Canadian dollar and the British pound plunged immediately after the decision was announced but still the pound remained stronger than the euro, which it always has.

Prime Minister David Cameron would then announce his resignation as this was not his intention for the future of the U.K. he had envisioned and he would be handing off the reigns to the next suitable candidate for leadership of Great Britain, which most believe will likely be Boris Johnson who led the leave campaign.

This is the point we are at now and many people are wondering what may happen, what this all may mean. Is it the ends of the EU? Is it the end of the UK? How vastly will this effect the economy?

Many individuals believe that the decision for the U.K. to leave the EU will lead to an economic crash and we may see major layoffs in Great Britain.

Others are hopeful that Britain will gain greater independence and be able to better control its immigration issues at a time when these issues are on the forefront of the collective British mind.

Noone has actually ever left the EU, so this is likely to be a long process with many issues to contend with and will be very complicated.

One of the things making the water even muddier is the role Scotland will have with its wish to remain somehow involved in the EU.

It is hard to predict what exactly may occur while the Brexit ball keeps rolling but it does appear that Scotland will hold a referendum for independence and many think this situation brings the potential for the re-unification of Ireland.

What does the Brexit leave vote mean for Canadians?

Although nothing is guaranteed there definitely may be some shockwaves to contend with here in the true North, strong and free.
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The first possible problem may come from Canadians savings. Those saving for retirement suddenly saw parallel traits with the 2008 economic crisis and began to worry history would be repeating itself. It is said that the more European equities someone may have, the bigger the issue may be. However many believe that the markets will initially overreact but eventually people will recover any losses.

The second issue would be the housing market.

Thanks to the economic whirlwind created by Brexit, some are speculating that the Bank of England could possibly see cut interest rates. In Canada interest rates will almost certainly remain low for even longer.This may not be a good thing for homeowners or those of you hoping to purchase a home in the near future. Experts warn that prolonged low interest rates will only further fuel Toronto and Vancouver's bursting housing markets. For hopeful home buyers in these cities housing prices may become to of reach. The next thing to look at would be the impact on the global economy. Experts say the impact of Brexit will somewhat dim the global growth outlook. There is potential for this to turn into a European crisis if other European countries decide to do as Britain has and divorce the EU. This could cause great uncertainty and has the potential to systematically dismantling of the EU and could cause stress on the global and Canadian economies for some time, stunting growth. What effect Brexit will have on the global economy ultimately comes down to what happens with the EU in the future.

What is the impact on Canadian businesses? It is said that the most direct and immediate fallout for Canada will be felt by companies doing business with the UK as their trade relations are now basking under the bright lights of uncertainty. The U.K. accounts for only 2.5 percent of Canadian trade so the overall effect will be minimal, however those doing business in the U.K. must now contend with the real mess of economic uncertainty.

next is he impact this all has on the almighty loonie. The loonie dropped more than a full cent as the Brexit bomb went off, closing at 76.93 cents U.S on June 24. Experts believe the loonie will continue to degrade in the near future due to global uncertainty although it is believed the decline will be nothing too severe.

This may be good news to those travelling to Europe as the pound will be taking a hit but travellers to the U.S. may be losing more than they were already when they head to the bank to exchange their loonies for American dollars.

At most this all just means that there is heavy concern within Canada over Brexit repercussions on the economy but as of now we are seeing no major issues , surely nothing we have not been through before.
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It may be important to remember that this referendum is not binding and that if the U.K. decided this whole thing was a mistake, there are a few ways they can reverse the decision.

Strangely enough, they could just ignore the vote altogether. Somehow, even though the majority of Britons spoke loud and clear that they wish to divorce the EU the result is not legally binding for the British government to actually follow through with. This seems unlikely as Prime Minister Cameron has said that he will honour the wishes of the voters.
The next possibility is to sign a petition. There already is a petition underway with approximately 1.6 million signatures and rising. The petition asks the government to hold a second referendum and add a rule that would make the leave vote valid only if 60 percent of Britons voted to leave. This 60/40 vote seems strange to me however and defeats the purpose of the vote in the first place.

Another general election may also be an option. There is the existence of The Fixed Term Parliament Act that provides two ways to trigger a new general election. There seems to be little chance of this occurring however as the Labour Party and the Conservative Party are both divided on whether to leave or remain, as well as many other issues making it pretty likely that they would not be able to agree on holding a new general election.

There are more ways the decision could be taken back however they are all very circumstantial and involve a lot of what-ifs down a path of complicated possible scenarios. At the end of the day it looks like we may just have to wait and see what happens and how the whole thing plays out before we can really make any strong, accurate predictions.

I also find it interesting that Google searches for "what is the EU" and "what is Brexit" spiked in the U.K. AFTER the vote was held. This suggests that perhaps eager voters riding on bandwagons may be regretting their choice in separating from the EU. I wonder if leave supporters, if asked, would swallow their pride and also wish to re-vote along with those who know they want to stay? I guess we will have to see, the possible outcomes are numerous and the U.K. has spoken….for now.
June 29th ~ Vol. 85 No. 26
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