So much for the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.
On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland voted to leave the European Union. The Leave campaign won 52% of votes among the more than 30 million voters in the non-binding referendum.
But it's more divisive than the numbers already suggest: each of the United Kingdom's four constituent countries voted differently. England and Wales voted to leave the EU; Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to remain. Soon after the referendum results were announced, calls renewed in the U.K. for an independent Scotland, which could possibly remain in the EU as the rest of the United Kingdom leaves, and for the reunification of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member country.
The Brexit vote was the first major sign this year of increasing discontent among the people for globalization, as the positive effects of an ever closer union of European weren't necessarily felt among everybody in the United Kingdom. It turns out this vote wasn't about facts, figures, experts, or what's economically, socially, and politically best for the United Kingdom.
It was about a sense of nationalism and – I think it's fair to say at this point – xenophobia. The U.K. Home Office, responsible for policing, justice, and crime, recorded a 41 percent jump in hate crimes the month after the referendum.
The new prime minister, Theresa May, has announced her intention to formally begin the process outlined in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, regarding leaving the European Union, in March 2017. But there's also a pending case in the U.K. Supreme Court about who has the legitimate authority to begin the exit process by giving formal notice of the intention to department – the Queen (effectively, the government) or Parliament.
If the Supreme Court rules that Parliament must act to initiate Article 50, then the prime minister is going to need to have answers for the Members of Parliament concerned about the consequences of this exit.
And there are many questions. What happens to EU citizens currently living in the U.K.? What about U.K. citizens in the EU? Will the U.K. continue to have tariff-free access to the European single market? Will it have to contribute to the EU budget? Will the EU remain the U.K.'s largest trading partner?
No matter what the court rules, Prime Minister Theresa May needs to have answers within the next few years, because Article 50 sets a two-year limit on negotiations regarding EU departure, unless all the other leaders of EU countries unanimously agree to extend this period.
I think the channel between the England and the rest of the European continent got a little wider.