Graded Reading - Intermediate
Tempting though it is to put your head in the sand and ignore all things Brexit, one point is clear, anyone considering travelling to Britain should at least know a few facts.
First of all, what is Brexit and who are the main groups of people involved?
The word 'Brexit' is short for Britain exiting the European Union and this is scheduled to happen at 11pm UK time on Friday 29th March 2019. The people of Britain, who voted in the Referendum (public vote) on 23rd June 2016, can be divided into 'Leavers' or 'Remainers' according to whether they voted 'Leave' or 'Remain' on their voting paper. Leavers are also sometimes called Brexiters or Brexiteers. Remember that the Leave side won in the vote with nearly 52%, against 48% for the Remain side. The fact that the vote was so close helps to explain why there is still much discussion and disagreement among the British people as to the way forward. However, since the vote was counted, Article 50 was triggered which set in motion the leaving process.
Next point to consider: What type of Brexit are we likely to have? Soft, hard, clean or disorderly?
Hard Brexit is often used by Remain campaigners to describe what they see as the worst possible type of Brexit. It is a situation where most ties with the EU are cut and trade and travel become difficult. There is little or no cooperation over matters of justice, state affairs or security.
Soft Brexit is the opposite position where the UK leaves the European Union but retains free movement of people and stays in the Single Market. Therefore, people, goods and services continue to move around Europe with as few boundaries or obstacles as possible. In this scenario, the UK has to keep to the rules of the EU, so some people call this a 'Fake Brexit' because they do not consider it to be Brexit at all.
Clean Brexit is the system preferred by Leavers like the Change Britain group. Under this arrangement the UK is removed from all parts of the EU which stop us signing our own global trade deals or writing our own regulations. It also means there is clarity and everyone knows what is going to happen.
No Deal Brexit This involves the UK leaving in a chaotic fashion with no exit deal at all and is sometimes called a Disorderly Brexit . Some countries like France have been planning for a No Deal Brexit for some time and are starting to put their plans in place just in case this becomes a reality. Back in Britain, many people are realising that a No Deal Brexit will cause many practical problems with legislation and trade and are therefore hoping there is a way to avoid this situation.
However, Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, says she would like to have a 'Red, White and Blue Brexit'. Presumably she feels that this system, like our Union Flag, is the more patriotic version and is more inclusive of all parts of Great Britain.
Lastly, what exactly is the Withdrawal Agreement and how is it implemented?
This is basically a 'divorce deal' which sets out exactly how the UK leaves the EU.
- The amount of money the UK will have to pay the EU in order to break up the partnership , which comes to approximately £39 billion
- What would happen to UK citizens who live in other parts of the EU, and what would happen to existing EU citizens living in the UK.
- How to avoid the return of a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland when it becomes the official frontier marking where the United Kingdom stops and the new European Union starts. (The Republic of Ireland is a state in its own right and will remain as a full member of the EU.)
If this agreement were to go ahead, the UK would then enter the Transition Period from 29th March 2019 to 31 December 2020. This had already been agreed in order to allow both the UK and the EU to make a trade deal and to give businesses and organisations time to adjust.
However, on Tuesday 15th January 2019, after much discussion of this agreement, UK Members of Parliament voted against the deal by 432 votes to 202. Prime Minister Mrs May now has to produce alternative options to present to the UK Members of Parliament. However, if she is unable to get their approval it means that the UK would leave the EU on 29th March without a deal. If the UK leaves without a deal in place, then there will be no transition period after 29 March and EU laws would stop applying to the UK immediately. However, it is possible that the deadline could be extended, giving more time to win approval for the deal.
Alternatively, the European Court of Justice has said that the UK could even cancel Brexit altogether without the agreement of the other countries, by simply revoking Article 50 which began the whole process. In Britain, the Final Say campaigners are now trying to bring about a new public vote to see if the majority of the people in Britain still want to leave the EU or if the mood of the nation has swung towards Remain.
Youtube: Brexit Divorce - Foil, Arms and Hog. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdMcbLT3jSY [09.01.2019]
Channel 4 News: Brexit Explained: What happens when the UK leaves the EU? Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eoDwvl0QGk [19.01.2019]
BBC: Brexit: Jargon-busting guide to the key terms. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43470987 [09.01.2019]
BBC: Brexit options: Hard, soft, grey and clean versions. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-38611676/brexit-options-hard-soft-grey-and-clean-versions [09.01.2019]
BBC: Brexit: Your simple guide to the UK leaving the EU. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46318565 [19.01.2019]
Brexit: comprehension questions
1. According to the results of the UK Referendum of 23rd June 2016, what percentage of the people wanted to stay in the EU, and what percentage wanted to leave?
2. What official step began the leaving process?
3. What is the difference between a hard Brexit and a soft Brexit?
4. What is the British Prime Minister's description of the type of Brexit best for the whole of Britain?
5. If Mrs May is unable to get approval for her proposed Withdrawal Agreement in time, what will happen on 29th March 2019?