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Building Fluency: The road to Brexit

These materials look at talking about Brexit and what lead to it happening.

I have used part of the the article What Is Brexit? And How Is It Going? and a section from the article The road to Brexit: how did the UK end up here? as the basis of the materials.

Before reading the texts below, have a think about the following questions, these are designed to help you to start think about any gaps in your vocabulary around the reasons for Brexit and how you might start to engage with the topic.

  1. What do you think were peoples main reasons for leaving the EU? What did they think would happen?

  2. What were peoples main reasons for staying in the EU? What did they want to hold onto?

  3. Should people have even been allowed to vote for Brexit, is it possible to fully understand the consequences of voting leave or remain?

  4. Was it expected that people would actually vote leave?

  5. Demographically, which kind of people do you think voted to leave?

  6. If there was a vote to leave the European Union in your own country (assuming it is in the EU), what do you think the result would be?


*the article*

What Is Brexit? And How Is It Going?

Almost a year after it took full effect, the consequences of Britain’s split from the European Union are still unfolding. Here is a guide to what it means, how it came about and what the future may hold.

Britain broke from the European Union’s regulatory orbit on Jan. 1, casting off nearly a half-century inside the bloc and embarking on what analysts described as the biggest overnight change in modern commercial relations between countries.

Far from closing the book on Britain’s tumultuous relationship with the rest of Europe, the split, known as Brexit, has opened a new chapter — one that could reshape not only the country’s economy, foreign policy and politics, but even its borders.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks of creating a more agile “Global Britain,” with stronger ties to the United States and other democracies, like Australia, India and South Korea.

But while that plan has hit setbacks, risks from the new dispensation have quickly become evident, including on empty supermarket shelves as the country struggles with a shortage of truck drivers.

And arrangements for the sensitive territory of Northern Ireland have fueled rioting and diplomatic tensions.

Let’s start with the basics.

Why “Brexit”?

A portmanteau of the words Britain and exit, Brexit caught on as shorthand for the proposal that Britain leave the European Union and change its relationship with the bloc on trade, security and migration.

Britain has debated the pros and cons of a club of European nations almost since the idea was broached, after World War II. It joined in 1973 — and held a referendum on whether to leave less than three years later. Then, 67 percent of voters supported staying.

But that was hardly the end of the argument.

In 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron promised a new national referendum. The options were “remain” or “leave,” and Mr. Cameron was convinced that “remain” would win easily.

But by the time of the vote on June 23, 2016, a refugee crisis had made migration a subject of political rage across Europe.

After an acrimonious campaign, in which the “leave” side was criticized as pushing misleading and contradictory messages and later accused of breaking election rules, withdrawal from the European Union emerged with the support of 52 percent of voters.

Leaving is a big deal economically.

Europe has been Britain’s most important export market and its biggest source of foreign investment, and E.U. membership helped London cement its position as a global financial center.

For decades, British companies could move goods to and from the European Union without taxes or tariffs. People could move freely, too.

But as 2021 began, business changed for many — including British automakers, who rely on suppliers across Europe, and touring musicians, who suddenly faced a thicket of visa rules.

The agreement that London and Brussels reached late in 2020 avoided tariffs or quotas on goods. But traders still confronted new paperwork and unpredictable delays, sometimes resulting in rotting cargoes.

And the services sector — about 80 percent or more of British economic activity, comprising not only the financial industry, but also lawyers, architects, consultants and others — was left dependent on patchwork decisions by European regulators.

Britain’s Office for Budget Responsibility, an independent official body, says trade with the European Union took a sharp hit in January and remained 15 percent down in August, even as business with other countries began to recover from pandemic effects. It estimates that Britain’s economy will be 4 percent less productive than it would have been inside the bloc.

Brexit’s supporters say their aim is a ‘Global Britain.’

Opponents of Brexit describe it as an attempt to reclaim an imagined Britain of the past, one with fewer European migrants and more patriotic singing. But Mr. Johnson, like many prominent proponents, often presents it as a way of embracing change.

Outside the E.U. single market, with its shared regulations, Britain can set rules to encourage innovation, although the deal permits either side to seek redress for regulatory changes that might create an unfair advantage.

Outside the bloc’s customs union, with its common tariffs, Britain can seek trade deals with countries such as India and the United States. It signed a major trade deal with Australia in June.

Some Brexit supporters also argue that ending free migration for European Union citizens will allow more flexibility for others — a case that resonated in British Asian communities during the referendum campaign. When China imposed a security law last year on Hong Kong, Mr. Johnson offered British residency rights to three million people in the city, though without helping them leave.

In Northern Ireland, Brexit is waking old demons.

Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, has the country’s only land border with the European Union — the politically delicate 310-mile frontier with the Republic of Ireland.

Thousands died in decades of sectarian strife there before a peace process in the 1990s, and both sides in the Brexit talks made it a priority to avoid reimposing border checks. They struck a deal that the region would keep following many European rules, so trucks could cross the Irish border freely, with new paperwork for goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

The changes have prompted British companies to limit distribution there. Britain has indefinitely delayed some checks, as part of a back-and-forth that led Brussels to begin and then later suspend legal action.

The situation has contributed to a rise in sectarian tension, with outbreaks of rioting in the spring.

Mr. Johnson had tense exchanges on the subject with President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Group of 7 summit in June, where President Biden is also said to have raised it privately.

The prime minister has said that this part of the Brexit agreement, known as the Northern Ireland protocol, might have to be abandoned if it cannot be rewritten. European officials said they would seek creative solutions but would not renegotiate.

Scotland could make its own split.

Along with Northern Ireland, Scotland rejected Brexit in the 2016 referendum, with a vote of more than 60 percent to remain in the European Union. That stark divergence of opinion has shaken the far older union between England and Scotland.

Scots voted against independence from Britain in a 2014 referendum, but the pro-independence Scottish National Party, or S.N.P., has dominated the Scottish Parliament for more than a decade. It has promised to legislate for a rerun, with Brexit as its justification. A reversal would cost Britain 8 percent of its population, a third of its landmass and significant international prestige.

For a new referendum to be legal, however, it would almost certainly need the agreement of London, and Mr. Johnson has repeatedly said no. Scottish elections in May left the S.N.P. one seat short of a majority, but it has support from smaller pro-independence parties. If neither side backs down, the result could be a court battle, or even a constitutional crisis.

*end of article*


*section from article explaining impact of immigration to the UK*

Eastward expansion, westward migration

From 2004 to 2007 the EU expanded to encompass former Communist states including Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. The Labour government of the time (assuming that other member states would do the same) chose not to impose temporary travel restrictions on migrants from the new territories. It forecast only 5,000 to 13,000 arrivals. In fact, 129,000 people came in the first two years (2004-05).

To many Britons, it appeared not only that the government had lost control of immigration, but that no British government could ever regain control again while the UK was under the EU’s freedom of movement laws. Euroscepticism gained new public appeal from the recognition that continuously rising immigration would have implications for infrastructure, housing, public services and welfare, social relations and the job market. Such concerns later sharpened in view of the European migrant crisis.

While the nation’s main political parties had avoided the issue of immigration, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), led by plain-speaking Nigel Farage and devoted above all to taking the UK out of the EU, filled the vacuum. Farage reassured voters that it was neither racist nor xenophobic to want to see immigration controlled. His party’s growing popularity seemed to threaten the electoral hopes of both main parties, but especially those of the Conservatives.

*end of section*


You've started to think about the topic and build your vocabulary - to really build on developing your spoken fluency then this needs to be done through active usage of the language - contact me on to discuss how we can put together a series of personalised lessons to develop your fluency on the topics that are most relevant to yourself!

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