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Britain and Brexit


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Dr. Adam Bronstone presented a comprehensive, insightful brief on Brexit and the historical background and context to a TNWAC Global Town Hall in January 2019. This detailed examination of British-European relations through history up to the current Brexit troubles provided an excellent grounding in understanding this complex issue.


Brexit. A clever portmanteau that crept into the language of European politics around 2012, following the example of “Grexit,” when observers thought Greece was slipping out of the Eurozone. It has since evolved from a political football of the “remainers” and “exiters” to a political nightmare for the British government and their European Union colleagues.

The “exit” is a result of a referendum in the United Kingdom on June 23, 2016 in which 71.8%f eligible voters turned out to render a 51.9% to 48.1% result, calling for the UK to separate from the EU. Britain which had been in the EU since 1973 when the bloc was called the European Economic Community, invoked Article 50 of the treaty starting the countdown to the divorce — set for March 29, 2019.

In the interim the UK and the EU have talked about their respective futures after Brexit but much is left to be decided with little time left to negotiate the thorny issues that remain. And in the case of Brexit if not everything is decided then nothing is decided.

How did the UK and the EU get to this point? Where are they now? Where are they going? What does it mean for the United States? To get to the nut of the problem we asked Dr. Adam Bronstone to join us for our January 17th Global Town Hall at Belmont University. He is an expert on European politics and as a UK university doctorate holder has focused much of his attention on the Brexit issue — not many others stayed up to 4 a.m. to follow the referendum results.


About Dr. Adam Bronstone

Dr. Adam Bronstone is the Director of Planning for the Jewish Federation of Nashville. Dr. Bronstone holds a doctorate from the University of Hull (UK), where he specialized in European Union/European politics. He has published on a variety of related issues included security and political economic matters and is currently finishing a book for Routledge which examines the changing nature of political affiliation in the wake of the 2016 US election and the Brexit referendum. He stays in touch with his British colleagues on a regular basis and stayed up until 4am watching the Brexit vote.

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Britain and Brexit

  2. 2. OVERVIEW • History of Britain and the foundations of ‘Europe’ • British attempts to join the EU • Thatcher and Britain • Middle England and Europe • The Never-ending Conservative Party Internal European Issue • Brexit and Beyond
  3. 3. HISTORY OF BRITAIN AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF ‘EUROPE’ • Britain as primary European victor ofWorldWarTwo • Churchill’s 1946 Zurich speech – a call for a ‘United States of Europe’ • Messina Conference – agreement by six members of European Coal and Steel Community to create a more unified European structure. • Britain sends a junior representative to Messina Conference – it will not succeed, and even if it will, it will fail • Britain relies on traditional commonwealth and American relationships instead
  4. 4. HISTORY OF AMERICAN SUPPORT FOR ‘EUROPE’ • United States supports a politically and economically strong Europe as a counterweight/bulwark against Soviet expansion • Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan and NATO are evidence of this support • American support allows forWestern Europe to regain strength, focus on domestic growth and for Germany to integrate into western alliance • Over time, as EEC grows, trade and political disputes take place over agriculture, defense burden-sharing and relations with the USSR and Eastern Europe (Ostpolitik, for example)
  5. 5. BRITISH ATTEMPTS TO JOIN THE EU • Macmillan (1961) seeks to join EEC for economic reasons • DeGaulle rejects UK membership based on assumption of ‘Trojan Horse’ theory (UK will serve as a ‘plant’ for the US’ and ‘deep hostility to the European project’ by Britain. • Edward (Ted) Heath becomes Prime Minister, the first truly pro-European leader of the country • DeGaulle resigns because of 1968 riots; Pompidou becomes French leader and agrees to British membership • 1975 referendum – 67% agree to stay; PM promotes EEC membership
  6. 6. THATCHER AND BRITAIN • Thatcher becomes Prime Minister (1979) and promotes two aspects of EC progress • Capitalism/free market vision through the creation of the Single European Market • Proposed a ‘widening’ of EC membership. Such a position would make it more difficult to ‘deepen’ the competencies of the EC because of the veto provision • Fights for Britain-only ‘rebate’ from EC budget • After ‘BlackWednesday’ market crash, Britain leaves Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM)
  7. 7. MIDDLE ENGLAND AND EUROPE • Labour PM Attlee (1950): Labour is "not prepared to accept the principle that the most vital economic forces of this country should be handed over to an authority that is utterly undemocratic and is responsible to nobody.“ • English perspective as a great power and victor inWorldWar Two, in comparison to the original six member-states of the EEC. (FRG, France, Italy, Benelux) • Referencing of the ‘Gerries’ (Germans) when England and Germany play soccer • Desire to maintain English heritage, including, but not limited to the role of the monarchy, and traditional global role
  8. 8. THE NEVER-ENDING CONSERVATIVE PARTY INTERNAL EUROPEAN ISSUE • 1990 leadership contest between Thatcher and Michael Heseltine overThatcher’s relationship with European leaders and EU • Thatcher wins, but forced to step down. John Major (compromise candidate) becomes PM • 1993 confidence vote on Major’s leadership is Europe-based. Major wins, and calls three euroskeptic cabinet ministers as "bastards"
  9. 9. AND ALSO A LABOUR PARTY PROBLEM • ‘Old Labour’ politicians such asTony Benn have said that ‘Britain's continuing membership of the [European] Community would mean the end of Britain as a completely self-governing nation…’ • Tony Blair becomes PM and vows to place Britain at the ‘Heart of Europe’, but no substantive policy changes take place during his tenure • Current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is historically skeptical of the EU as because of the single market focus and its apparent bias towards business, and NOT committed to overturning the original Brexit vote
  10. 10. BRITAIN AND THE EU BEFORE BREXIT • The EU, taken as a whole is the UK’s largest trading partner. In 2017, UK exports to the EU were £274 billion (44% of all UK exports). UK imports from the EU were £341 billion (53% of all UK imports). • The share of UK exports accounted for by the EU has fallen over time from 55% in 2006 to 43% in 2016, increasing slightly to 44% in 2017. • The share of UK imports accounted for by the EU fell from 58% in 2002 to 51% in 2011 before increasing to 53% in 2017. • The UK had an overall trade deficit of -£67 billion with the EU in 2017. A surplus of £28 billion on trade in services (financial) was outweighed by a deficit of -£95 billion on trade in goods.
  11. 11. BREXIT AND BEYOND • 2010: David Cameron becomes PM, and promises ‘in-out’ referendum (like that of 1967) on EU membership • Referendum pledge is response to growing (again) vocal Euro-opposition in his party and rise of UK Independence Party (UKIP)
  16. 16. ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF BREXIT • Mr. Carney, Head of the Central Bank of England, in 2016 warned that Brexit would lead to an immediate year-long recession for the UK. • Jacob Rees-Mogg, leading political ‘Leave’ voice: “I think it (Carney’s comments) discredits the governor - who is basically a failed second-rate Canadian politician who is talking down the pound which I think is unprecedented.” • Note: Mark Carney was the former Chair of the Bank of Canada
  17. 17. BREXIT RESULTS • 2016: Referendum results are 52 to 48 percent on June 23, 2016. Cameron resigned the morning after the vote and was replaced by Theresa May. • Notable results include: • London: 60/40 Remain • Scotland: 62/38 Remain • Southeast England: 52/48 Leave
  18. 18. YORKSHIRE • Yorkshire voted 58/42 Leave Hull is a port city to Europe Largest industries are education (University of Hull) and European-oriented businesses Point: an apparent vote to leave is against the direct economic interests of the people of a city like Hull.
  19. 19. BREXIT RESULTS • People with formal/higher education voted to remain • Younger people (24 years of age and below) voted to remain (75%) • People in the 25-49 age category – 56% voted to remain in the EU
  20. 20. BREXIT PROCESS AND AGREEMENT • UK citizens in the EU, and EU citizens in the UK, will retain their residency and social security rights after Brexit. • Agreement that no ‘hard body’ should exist between Northern Ireland andThe Republic of Ireland. • If no final agreement has been reached, this ‘backstop’ will continue and the entire UK will be subject to a single customs territory between the (European) Union and the United Kingdom. • The end of this backstop must be agreed to by both parties (UK and EU)
  21. 21. THE ‘BACKSTOP’ AND WHY IT MATTERS • It is believed by politicians on both sides of the Irish border that an open border, that has allowed the free flow of people and goods, has helped make peace much more possible and stable in Northern Ireland and between N.I and Ireland • The concern is that the re-imposition of a ‘hard’ border with border controls will erode this peace built upon the flow of people and goods, and return N.I to the days of the ‘troubles’ • Ireland, as a member-state of the EU, has a veto on any agreement with Britain
  22. 22. BREXIT PROCESS AND AGREEMENT • PM May triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. • Article 50 gives the two sides (UK and EU) two years to agree the terms of the split. , with a deadline of Friday, March 29, 2019. • Draft agreement includes: • Transition period ending on December 31, 2020. • Britain will not be a member of any institutions, but must abide by all EU rules • Britain to pay EU $39B (pounds)
  23. 23. WORSE CASE SCENARIOS • 1) A ‘no-deal’ takes place, with Britain adhering to WTO-based trade rules • 2) EU extends the Article 50 period beyond March 29 and a new agreement is reached that is likely to pass the House of Commons • 3) Referendum #2 takes place, based on three options – Brexit, No Deal and Remain • 4) An EFTA deal (Norway-like) where UK stays in the customs union, but not in the EU proper. (EFTA countries do not want UK to join)
  24. 24. THE MUCH LARGER PICTURE • ‘Europe’ and the ‘European Union’ represent something much larger for people on both sides of the Remain/Leave divide • For some – a loss of identity, place, status in the world (Britain no longer is great), and a world that is being disrupted, and flooded with people not like them • For others – Europe is about progress, the new world, one that is globally connected without borders, where people from all across Europe learn, work and live together
  25. 25. WHY THIS SHOULD MATTER TO AMERICANS War and Peace: a stable Europe is good for the United States from a political standpoint (in comparison to the history of pre-1945 Europe and the cost to the United States) Economic stability: A strong Europe is also a strong economic partner with respect to the maintenance of a liberal economic order (if you believe this is critical for overall growth) Political:A strong Europe serves, again, as a bulwark against Russian aggression Shared common values of liberalism, democracy and market economics (democracies tend to not go to war against each other)
  26. 26. WHAT MIDDLE ENGLAND ‘THINKS’ • RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: • Let's revive the Bulldog spirit ofWorld WarTwo, defy the Brexit Jeremiahs and dig for victory as we prepare to leave the EU
  27. 27. CURRENT EVENTS • Draft Brexit agreement sponsored by the government is defeated by over 100 votes. • No confidence motion defeated, by slim majority • 11 Members of Parliament break from their parties over Brexit, including 8 from Labour
  28. 28. QUESTIONS • Dr. Adam Bronstone •