In a referendum on June 24, 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) of Great Britain and Northern Ireland voted to leave the European Union, with 51.89 percent voting to leave against 48.11 voting to remain.
Two of the nations making up the union, however, voted against leaving the EU – Scotland which voted 62% to remain vs 38% to leave; and Northern Ireland, 55.78 percent to remain vs 44.22% to leave. That meant only England (53.38% to leave, 46.62% to remain) and Wales (52.53% to leave, 47.47% to remain) were for the Britain exiting the European Union (Brexit).
In the two years and nine months since that referendum, the UK has been negotiating with the European Union for an orderly separation involving economic and commercial relations, movement of people, immigration problems, etc., with Prime Minister Teresa May meeting with EU leaders to forge an agreement to ease the separation scheduled on March 29.
The British Parliament, however, rejected in succession two agreements she forged with the EU. If Parliament continues to withhold its approval this week, Prime Minister May said she will ask the European Council for an extension for Brexit beyond March 29.
She expressed concern over the prospect of the UK having to vote for members of the European Parliament in the elections slated this May, if there is still no agreement. “There could be no more potent symbol of Parliament’s collective political failure,” she said.
Some quarters have suggested that the continuing disagreement in the British government could be a sign of the British people perhaps having second thoughts about leaving the EU, considering the very close vote in the referendum of June 24, 2016. But British officials rule out suggestions of a new referendum. The people’s decision in that first referendum must be carried out, much like a president assuming office after getting elected, even if the voters may have quickly changed their minds. The UK Parliament has thus rejected a call for a second referendum.
The United Kingdom has long been a close friend and ally of the Philippines, and its continuing travails have our deepest sympathies. Aside from its difficulties in settling its relations with the EU, the UK may be facing problems with Scotland and Northern Ireland, where many people want to stay with the European Union.
There are many problems faced by so many nations in the world today – continuing street violence in France for several months now, a gathering move to impeach the president of the United States, an open challenge to the president of Venezuela, India and Pakistan threatening each other with nuclear missiles, North Korea failing to get an agreement with the US.
Our problems in the Philippines – a water shortage, a reenacted national budget, pollution in Manila Bay, continued entry of illegal drugs – may not be as urgent or critical by comparison. But we all live in one world and so we must hope for peace and stability, agreement, and progress in all corners of our world, including in our close friend and ally the United Kingdom.