In my opinion Brexit is the most challenging issue the European Union is facing at the moment. The reasons the British decided to vote to leave the Union lie in misperceptions and false news. Before the vote the reasons for remain or leave got a lot of media coverage and unfortunately there were an abundance of false news and many important factors were not considered. It was only after the result of the vote was published when people started to realise the seriousness of the mess they had created. Brexit has brought and will continue to bring lots of uncertainty to Europe. During the study trip to Brussels we got a chance to listen to different experts talk about the current situation in the European Union and speculate possible outcomes of the negotiations. According to the representative of Business Europe the biggest issues about the Brexit are the Irish border and questions considering the future of the free market and trade agreements.
The Irish border is an extremely sensitive topic for the UK and Ireland since the violence between these two nations did not end until a few decades ago and thus it’s still in fresh memory of many people. Currently there is no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK) but if Brexit happens border controls must start to take place there. This causes huge problems both psychologically and in reality. The fear of the return of previous violences might be overwhelming because the hard border would remind people of those violent times. Maybe the even bigger issue is the practical part of this. The representative of Business Europe noted that there’s no infrastructure for border controls – space for trucks to park, for example – and there is cattle on fields that are split by the border. If this becomes a hard border the cattle won’t be allowed to cross the border freely since it would need to be checked for possible diseases before entering the European single market area. So far they have managed to negotiate a so called transition period to take care of all these issues but it would still be a huge problem and its solving would take lots of money and energy.
Another topic that is extremely worrying is the UK’s future in the single market. If a country leaves the EU it can not have the free movements of labour, capital, services and goods and it has to negotiate its own trade agreements with different countries which would take an unprecedented amount of time. The problem here is that UK wants to keep free movement of goods and capital but wants to stop free movement of labour which EU won’t allow. According to EU representatives UK has to leave either with ‘soft’ Brexit meaning it would keep all of the free movements by joining EFTA for example, or with ‘hard’ Brexit which would mean no agreement between the two negotiating parties. Currently it seems like Britain might be heading for a soft Brexit which most likely will not please everyone. If the UK was to have a similar agreement than EEA countries like Norway it would mean the country would still need to obey most EU regulations but it would not have any say at the negotiation table anymore making its situation even worse than before Brexit. Obviously this is not what Leave-voters had in mind but this seems to be the direction to which the negotiations are currently heading. Only time can tell what will happen.
For me the Brussels study trip with Audencia was an unforgettable experience. I found visiting different institutions extremely interesting and I learned so many new things. I think the trip clarified my understandings of how the European Union really works and even though I had studied some of the topics discussed before I still got many fascinating insights to the daily functioning of the Union. I also got a chance to met like minded students and form new friendships which I found very pleasant.
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