The EU opponents in the UK - led by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) under Nigel Farage (member of the European Parliament 1999-2020) - has been asking since the early 1990s that the UK leave the EU to achieve national independence, so that it could determine its own laws (e.g. in matters of immigration, fishing, tariffs) and conclude free trade agreements with all countries of the world.
In 2013, in order to secure his government, Prime Minister David Cameron promised to negotiate with the Brussels to get special rights for the UK, and to hold thereafter a politically binding referendum on the country's withdrawal from the EU. In February 2016, Cameron praised the compromise he had achieved with the EU: He recommended to remain in the EU.
However, following a fierce campaign, in which Nigel Farage and UKIP had played a key role, the EU opponents narrowly won the referendum on 23 June 2016: 17.4 million or 51.9% of the voters supported Brexit, i.e. Britain's exit from the EU, with a turnout of 72.1% of all registered voters.
This historic decision signalled the start of seemingly endless, epic and sometimes chaotic Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU.
After his defeat, David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister. His interior minister Theresa May, who also had campaigned against Brexit, took over on July 13, 2016.
Throughout Theresa May's premiership, Brexit opponents, who dominated her government, parliament, and the British civil service, succeeded in virtually blocking the negotiations with the EU by doing everything they could, incl. contacting Brussels, to undo or delay Brexit and to keep the country as close as possible to the EU - even though before and after the referendum of June 2016, both government and the Labour and Tory parties had steadfastly been claiming (even in their 2017 election manifestos) to strictly adhere to the citizens' decision.
On the basis of documents from the UK government, think tanks, banks and big business, Remainers have been cautioning, in the case of a hard Brexit (according to WTO, without a special bilateral trade deal) against total chaos in the UK, e.g.:
Food and drug shortages, traffic break-downs, the loss of entire sectors with dramatic economic consequences, heavy unemployment and a long recession were prophesied. At the same time, these remainers have been warning of exaggerated expectations from the hoped for new trade agreements with third countries (Commonwealth, USA ...).
The EU acted much more successfully, coherently and more united than Theresa May's government: In order to avoid, by all means, the exit of other countries, resulting, possibly, in the Union's failure, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his team meticulously made sure that the UK would not get an attractive agreement and definitely no "cherry picking"! Thanks to the impressive unity of the EU and among the remaining 27 member states, this strategy worked perfectly.
The "Brexit Deal" Theresa May presented after three years of negotiations was for the Brexiteers, i.e. for the proponents of a hard, "credible" Brexit, especially for Nigel Farage and his Brexit party, founded on January 20th, 2019, a Brexit in name only, a betrayal of 17.4 million voters with fatal consequences for the British democracy as a whole, and Great Britain's permanent submission under the EU as a "vassal state". The voters confirmed this view: On May 23, 2019, the (not even 6 months old) Brexit party won the European elections spectacularly with 30.1% of the vote. On May 24th, 2019 Theresa May announced her resignation.
On June 24, 2019 - three years after the referendum - Boris Johnson became the first Prime Minister supporting Brexit. On October 2019, the Lower House supported, in principle, Johnson's new, partly improved agreement with the EU; but it rejected his time-table and forced him to postpone the withdrawal date once more.
The decisive turning point came with the early parliamentary elections on December 12th, 2019. Under the slogan "Get Brexit done", the elections brought the Tories an absolute majority in the Commons - mainly thanks to the support of Nigel Farage and his Brexit party. On 9.1.20 the British parliament approved the exit treaty agreed on 17.10.19 as well as a transition period, according to which Great Britain would remain under EU law until the end of 2020, but without being allowed to participate at the decisions! On January 31, 2020, the UK formally left the EU according to this treaty!
Further tense, sometimes dramatic negotiations followed, under the constant threat of a "no-deal Brexit". Again and again new departure dates were set. The drama reached its climax on December 24th, 2020: The EU Commission and the British government agreed at this very last minute - so to speak as a Christmas present in order to avoid a Brexit under WTO rules - on a free trade agreement of 1200-2000 pages*, which was then approved by the British Parliament and the governments of the 27 member states of the EU in an absolute record time, within a few days, before the end of the year.
Great Britain thus left the EU, the Customs union and the Single market on January 1, 2021. The UK is no longer subject to the European Court of Justice; nor to the automatic adoption of EU law, nor to the free immigration of citizens from all other EU-countries. The British largely get back their national sovereignty, which is what they asked for in Juni 2016. According to Nigel Farage, this is "the end of the war, the triumph of the people over the elites in Great Britain and the beginning of the end of the EU".
*) The draft constitution for our new
Europe including explanations consists of 14 pages.
The effects of Brexit on the UK, but also on the EU, will only show up gradually; But after Great Britain's exit from the EU, the following fundamental questions arise for Europe's future: Is a democratic revolution like the one in the UK possible throughout Europe? Is Brexit now setting a precedent for other EU countries? Is a mutually beneficial cooperation with the EU possible for other countries, too, without political integration? Will Brexit be the beginning of the end of the Union - or a chance for its renewal, for its sustainable democratization, diversification and stabilization?
The vast majority of citizens not only in Great Britain (including Brexit supporters), but everywhere in Europe undoubtedly want a sensible, efficient and prospering cooperation that serves all European countries and peoples - at least in the areas of trade, transport and research - but they never were given the opportunity, so far, to publicly discuss these matters and, above all, their own role and responsibility for the new Europe, in a binding manner.
That's why all citizens across Europe are invited to do this here and now by choosing their future Europe: Brexit, i.e. the exit of their own country from the EU (scenario EU-); or "Brussels" i.e. an ever closer, more powerful and more centralized Union (EU+); or the 3rd path: a new, democratic, diverse, prosperous and sustainable Europe of the citizens, for and with us citizens (EU*).