New Group Tells British Government to Speed Up Break with Europe

15 September, 2016

Three months ago, voters in the United Kingdom decided to withdraw from the European Union. Now, some supporters of the planned withdrawal are calling loudly for a quick, sharp break with the EU.

Last June, 52 percent of the voters agreed on a proposal for Britain to cancel its EU membership. That membership made Britain part of a political and economic alliance with 27 other countries.

The voters' decision to cancel – or exit – the membership is known as Brexit.

British politicians (L-R) John Whittingdale, Theresa Villiers, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel pose for a photograph at the launch of the Vote Leave campaign, at the group's headquarters in central London, Feb. 20, 2016.
British politicians (L-R) John Whittingdale, Theresa Villiers, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel pose for a photograph at the launch of the Vote Leave campaign, at the group's headquarters in central London, Feb. 20, 2016.

The official process to leave the EU takes two years. It begins when the British government invokes Article 50 of a treaty. Britain's new prime minister, Teresa May, has repeatedly said she plans to delay invoking Article 50.

But "hard Brexit" supporters say the government should act quickly – before the end of the year. Those supporters note that the British stock market is strong, and that numbers related to jobs and sales are high. In other words, the British economy is doing well.

On Sunday, leading Brexiters formed a group to pressure the government to start the exit process. The group is called Change Britain. Organizers say it aims to "deliver the UK's referendum result in the most effective way."

Politics and the prime minister

Prime Minister Teresa May campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU. Now, she is walking a political tightrope.

Some people in her Conservative Party want to make sure Britain breaks completely with the EU. If Britain does not, those party members might revolt.

At the same time, Britain's trading partners want the country to remain a member of the EU Single Market. They are pressuring the prime minister to find a way to stay close economically to the rest of Europe.

Relationship with EU

One of the Brexit supporters in May's government is Iain Duncan Smith. He said last week that the EU bloc is currently a "complete mess."

Duncan Smith worries that the longer Britain delays the exit process, the closer the country will remain to the EU.

Several leading Brexiters in the government spoke privately with VOA. They worry the prime minister might try to negotiate a deal between Britain and the EU. The deal would enable Britain to stay in the EU Single Market. But, Brexit supporters fear, the deal would probably require Britain to accept migrants and provide financially to the EU budget.

International concerns

The international community is also speaking out about Brexit.

Last weekend, Japan's Foreign Ministry took an unusual step. It published a paper on the effects of the Brexit vote. The paper urged Britain to keep full access to the Single Market. And, it said the government should let British businesses offer jobs to EU nationals without restrictions. Japanese businesses are major employers in Britain.

The Japanese aren't the only ones who are worried.

American bankers also believe a hard Brexit would be bad for their investments and businesses. They have already created plans to move workers from London to Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris or Frankfurt.

Brexit boom?

But Brexiters do not believe withdrawing from the EU will affect their economy poorly.

They point to the country's currently strong economy, calling it a "Brexit boom." The situation, they say, shows Britain will continue to do well on its own, outside the EU.

But many economists say it is too soon to judge the economic results of Brexit. One reason, they say, is that Britain has not yet withdrawn from the EU. But they warn the longer-term signs are not good.

Rupert Pennant-Rea is a former deputy governor of the Bank of England. He says the "strongest clue" of what Brexit might mean for Britain comes from international financial markets.

In a story in the Financial Times newspaper, he noted that all the currency markets show British assets are worth less than they used to be. "Land, property, companies, bank deposits, government debt — everything in the UK has been marked down against the rest of the world," he wrote.

Conservative Party leader and former government minister John Whittingdale rejects talk about economic dangers. He says people who do not like Brexit are just looking for problems. Wittingdale told Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper that delaying Brexit gives opponents time to try and stop the process.

Those opponents – called Remainers – still hope Britain won't withdraw from the EU. They are waiting for the result of legal challenges to the Brexit vote.

But legal experts say those challenges are very unlikely to succeed.

I'm Mario Ritter.

Jamie Dettmer reported this story for VOA News. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

invoke – v. to make use of a law or a right

tightrope – n. a tightly stretched rope or wire high above the ground that a performer walks on, especially in a circus. The word is often used figuratively to describe a dangerous or uncertain situation in which you have to be very careful not to make mistakes

revolt –v. to act in a way that shows that you do not accept the control or influence of someone or something

boom– n. a rapid increase in growth or economic success

migrant n. a person who goes from place to place, usually for economic reasons

access – n. a way or getting near or close to something; permission or the right to enter

challenge – n. a refusal to accept something as true, correct, or legal