Great Britain Remains Divided as Brexit Process Begins

Apr 6, 2017

Last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered Article 50, which starts the process of the UK’s departure from the European Union, known as “Brexit.” Public opinion in Great Britain remains sharply divided on the process, just as it was when the issue was put to a vote last year.

"This is not going to be easy for Britain. They don't want Britain to leave, not least because it sets a terrible precedent and they're worried that others might [think], 'Oh, if it's not hard, then we might leave too,'" says Claire Bolderson, a longtime veteran of the BBC now working as an independent journalist in London. 

"This is not going to be easy for Britain. They don't want Britain to leave, not least because it sets a terrible precedent."

"They don't want people leaving, so yeah, they're taking a tough stand and that is not going to help the whole tone of the negotiations and there's not going to be a very sympathetic hearing when Britain says, 'Well please help us to do this,'"she continues.

Bolderson says that previous prime minister, David Cameron, was hoping to stop the nationalist party UKIP from "siphoning off conservative votes," through the Brexit vote, assuming that Britons would vote to stay in the European Union. Since the referendum was passed, UKIP has become a much stronger voice in the conservative party.

According to Bolderson, negotiations over how the U.K. will leave the E.U. have been dominated by UKIP members saying they have to leave "on their terms," and "be aggressive about it," without discussing how the country will be affected when the U.K. actually parts ways with the Union. 

"There is the possibility that the U.K. could break up, because Scotland could become independent because of this whole issue of wanting to stay in the European Union."

"The rest of us are just left thinking, 'Well, hold on a minute. You're not actually talking about the future of the country and what our economy's going to do and what our new trade relationships are going to be like. And what's going to happen,' very important question, 'to European Union migrants who are an enormous part of our economy here,'" says Bolderson. 

Lawmakers are left to juggle many, opposing views and desires from the different countries the U.K. represents. While England and Wales both voted to leave the E.U., Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted to remain. With Republicans - who seek to reunite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland - gaining strength in Northern Ireland, Bolderson says there's a possibility they could try to leave the U.K. 

"There is the possibility that the U.K. could break up, because Scotland could become independent because of this whole issue of wanting to stay in the European Union," says Bolderson.