For those of us sitting across the sea in America, the term “Brexit” simply seems like another odd couple name akin to the old, “Bennifer’s” of the past. With America’s own problems screaming across television screens daily, it’s not a stretch to see why nearly half of American’s don’t know what “Brexit” means.
The now coined British term Brexit perfectly describes The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum in which residents of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.
Though the margin of victory was slim, it would set the tone for all politics in Europe since. As of now, three deals sit in the minds of the British parliament when it comes to the European Union.
The first option, coming as close as April 12, would have the U.K. leaving the EU, completely cutting all ties between the two.
The second deal keeps a few ties between the U.K. and the EU and is mostly trade agreements and the ability for citizens to travel between European countries.
The last deal would send the original 2016 referendum back to the people of the U.K. for another vote.
Though the last option seems out of the question for democracy, given our own U.S. Senate report suggests Russian influence upon the 2016 referendum, a revote isn’t completely out of the question at this point.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette international students Arron Davies and Franziska Riepl know the term Brexit, and its consequences all too well. Hailing from Bolton, Manchester, Great Britain Davies joined the Ragin’ Cajuns of UL Lafayette for the excellent water ski team.
“(Brexit) was around the Trump era, I remember going to bed before the Trump candidacy and it looked like Hillary was going to win,” Davies said. “Then we woke up and Trump won. It was the same with Brexit. We all went to bed … thinking we’re not going to leave. By the time we woke up, it all switched.”
Davies said even though he’s someone who favors the U.K. remaining in the EU, three years have passed since the first referendum and the U.K. has no real direction in sight. Naturally, citizens of the U.K. are becoming restless.
“There’s a running joke,” Davies said. “Don’t mention Brexit over Christmas dinner because you’ll get one side of the table wanting to leave, and the other side wanting to stay. You’ll just cause a family argument.”
Echoing a sentiment felt here in America, Davies said there’s a noticeable disparagement between the older and younger generations and how they feel about Brexit. Davies feels that at the end of the day, the younger generations will see the consequences of Brexit far greater than the older generations.
“The 18- to 21-year-olds voted to remain hard,” Davies said “The older generations voted to leave because they said, ‘Oh we’ve got all these immigrants coming in and we want hard borders.’”
The original referendum to leave the EU and set the U.K. on a path toward hard borders came only a year after the European migrant crisis of 2015. According to sources in an article by The Washington Post, anti-immigration sentiments lead the charge for Brexit leavers rather than sentiments that would reflect sympathy toward asylum-seekers. Some among the EU believe this latest immigration crisis was set off by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and her pledge to give refuge to those seeking asylum from the Syrian Civil War.
Riepl, a native German citizen and a member of the UL Lafayette soccer team, said she’s felt nothing but an open and welcome atmosphere since coming here to South Louisiana — a sentiment she wishes people in the EU could reflect as well.
“I don’t think there was anything better you could have done,” Riepl said. “The people were already there, something had to be done. I actually think it was pretty courageous for Merkel to step up and do something about (the refugees).”
Though Riepl acknowledges other problems sprung up from Merkel’s pledge, Riepl sees hope through what others see as darkness. Involving herself in the refugee welcoming initiative she said at times others forget these refugees are simply people too.
“They’re not just numbers,” Riepl said. “They’re people that have their hopes and their own personal problems.”
Riepl echoed what Davies said on fear, uncertainty and Brexit. Now as the April 12 deadline inches closer, many just want to be done with the transition.
“You get the sense that even the people who voted to remain just want to leave now,” Davies said. “It’s been three years since we voted … and it seemed like nothing had been done until six months ago.”
Though four separate deals have failed to pass through the British parliament the frustrated sentiment echoes throughout the EU.
“We’re tired of it,” Riepl said. “Whatever (they) do, it will not work out well. We just want something to happen then be able to move on.”