[JURIST] A majority of British citizens voting in a referendum Thursday chose to leave the EU. The vote, an extension of British discontent with the EU, defied the suggestions of economists and British leaders, including Prime minister David Cameron, who stated that he plans to resign as a result of the decision. There were many reasons for the citizens’ desire to split from the EU, not the least of which was immigration [The Economist report]. The EU grants free movement of member citizens and, as immigration in Britain has continued to surge, public rejection of free movement has garnered increased support. In departing from the EU, Britain would be able to “take back control” of immigration, but here is uncertainty as to how immigration will be handled going forward. Assuming Brexit takes effect, many have called for an Australian immigration system [Financial Times article], in which a point system is set up based upon certain characteristics, including language, work experience, occupation, etc. Regardless of the path the British government chooses to follow, changes in immigration policy will likely have serious implications for the Britain, as EU immigrant workers “account for almost 8 per cent of the 5.7m people employed in shops, hotels and restaurants.”
The implications of this move extend beyond just immigration, though, as many believe this separation will negatively effect the British economy, which will likely be cut off from the EU’s single market, unless an agreement between the two can be reached. Concern over the economic health of Britain [Reuters report] going into the future led to a global market plunge today, as the pound fell as far as 10 percent against the dollar—a low not seen since 1985. While the vote has fallen in favor of departure, no legal changes have taken place yet [Guardian report], as Britain must take further steps to confirm its separation. The EU has set out a mechanism for leaving in Article 50 [materials] of the Lisbon Treaty, where a member state “may decide to withdraw from the union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements,” and “must notify the European council of its intention.” Under Article 50, a member country can only be removed from the EU two years after notification. While Britain might bypass this process through repeal of the European Communities Act of 1972, it is believed that this would make coming to a preferential trade agreement with the EU more difficult.