In a vote of historic proportions, the people of the United Kingdom have decided by a slender margin to jump ship and go it alone, turning their backs on the European Union (EU), a relationship they have maintained, albeit shakily, since 1973.
While supporters of “Brexit” celebrated a victory they have argued will restore the nation’s “sovereignty” and “control of its borders and laws,” millions of British citizens woke up on Friday June 24 to reflect on a future not only of economic uncertainty, but one they fear may become infinitely less tolerant and compassionate, and far more introspective and reactionary.
It is a decision that most world leaders and economic experts and corporation heads agree will provoke an economic slowdown and relegate the U.K. to a secondary player on the global stage. It also goes against the wishes of Britain’s younger generation, a bloc that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and whose futures will most be affected by a legacy that (still) Prime Minister David Cameron says is “irreversible.”
Leaving Europe will now require the U.K. to renegotiate a slew of trade agreements, not only with the EU but also other nations, including the United States. This may take years. It also releases the country from any obligations to European court rulings and allows the government to set its own policy regarding levels of European immigration.
The Remain campaign implored voters to consider above all the economic arguments for maintaining the relationship with Europe – the EU is the U.K.’s biggest trading partner by a huge margin – but the referendum was always going to boil down to concerns about escalating immigration and the changing face of Britain’s traditional communities.