How did we end up here?… one may ask this importance question but not get a straight answer. First, we need to understand why the European Union was set up in the first place. Formed with the aim of ending the frequent wars between neighbouring counties, like what happened in the Second World War. Starting in 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community begins to unite European countries economically and politically to secure lasting peace.
In the 60’s
This decade was a good period for the economy, helped by the fact that EU countries stop charging customs duties when they trade with each other. They also agreed on a joint control over food production, with the aim of making sure that every country had enough to eat.
In the 70’s
Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined the European Union on 1st of January 1973, raising the number of Member States to nine. The EU regional policy started transferring huge sums of money to create jobs and infrastructure in more deprived areas. The European Parliament increases its influence in EU affairs and in 1979 all citizens can, for the first time, elect their members directly. The fight against pollution intensifies in the 1970s. The EU adopts laws to protect the environment, introducing the notion of ‘the polluter pays’ for the first time.
In the 80’s
The changing face of Europe – the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The Polish trade union, Solidarność, and its leader Lech Walesa, became household names across Europe and the world following the Gdansk shipyard strikes in the summer of 1980. In 1981, Greece became the 10th member of the EU, and Spain and Portugal following five years later. In 1986 the Single European Act was signed. This is a treaty which provided the basis for a vast six-year programme aimed at sorting out the problems with the free flow of trade across EU borders and thus creating the ‘Single Market’. There was a major political upheaval when, on 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall was pulled down, and the border between East and West Germany was opened for the first time in 28 years. This led to the reunification of Germany when both East and West Germany were united in October 1990.
In the 90’s
A Europe without frontiers
With the collapse of communism across central and eastern Europe, Europeans became closer neighbours. In 1993 the Single Market was completed with the ‘four freedoms’ of: movement of goods, services, people and money. The 1990s was also the decade of two treaties: the ‘Maastricht’ Treaty on European Union in 1993 and the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999. People were concerned about how to protect the environment and also how Europeans could act together when it came to security and defence matters. In 1995 the EU gained three more new members: Austria, Finland and Sweden. A small village in Luxembourg gave its name to the ‘Schengen’ agreements that gradually allowed people to travel without having their passports checked at the borders. Millions of young people studied in other countries with EU support. Communication was made easier as more and more people started using mobile phones and the internet.
2000 – 2009
The euro was now the new currency for many Europeans. In this decade more and more countries started using the euro. After September the 11th EU countries began to work much more closely together to fight crime. The political divisions between east and west Europe are finally declared healed when no fewer than 10 new countries join the EU in 2004, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. A financial crisis hit the global economy in September 2008. The Treaty of Lisbon is ratified by all EU countries before entering into force in 2009. It provided the EU with modern institutions and more efficient working methods.
2010 – today
A challenging decade
The global economic crisis strike hard in Europe. The EU helped several countries to confront their difficulties and establishes the ‘Banking Union’ to ensure safer and more reliable banks. In 2012, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Croatia became the 28th member of the EU in 2013. Climate change was still high on the agenda and leaders agree to reduce harmful emissions. European elections were held in 2014, and more Eurosceptics were elected into the European Parliament. A new security policy was established in the wake of the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Religious extremism increased in the Middle East and various countries and regions around the world, leading to unrest and wars which resulted in many people fleeing their homes and seeking refuge in Europe. The EU was not only faced with the dilemma of how to take care of them but also found itself the target of several terrorist attacks. – europa.eu
The Brexit negotiations are taking place between the United Kingdom and the European Union for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union following the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum on 23 June 2016. The negotiating period began on 29 March 2017 when the United Kingdom served the withdrawal notice under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The period for negotiation stated in Article 50 is two years from notification unless an extension is agreed. Brexit negotiations (2017–15-03-2019)
The Biggest business challenges and opportunities
Robert J Jackson argues the Commonwealth’s role in the future of UK trade should be promoted more enthusiastically. The 53 Commonwealth countries include a third of the world’s population and 40% of people under 30 and 14% of global GDP.
Most newspaper articles about Brexit have concentrated too heavily on the negative aspects of withdrawal from the EU. The approach has created an exaggerated focus on the uncertainty of Britain’s future after Brexit rather than a discussion of positive and upbeat ideas about wider alternatives.
On occasion, government politicians and Ministers have called for balanced approaches, but few have offered the degree of idealism that could move large numbers of people to believe they can have a better future after Brexit. Prime Minister Theresa May’s approach has not emphasized enough her endorsement or future vision for an “outward looking and Global Britain”.
Since the referendum, three topics have predominated– citizens’ rights, Britain’s financial obligations, and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is generally agreed that the details of future trading arrangements between the UK and EU can be settled out only after agreement is reached on these three issues. But a rancorous and selfish debate is already well underway about a possible customs union between the two entities, with some Brits – especially in the House of Lords – advocating a clean break with Brussels and others demanding a continued close association.
Politicians also seem to believe that it is too soon for the UK to begin negotiating new trade arrangements with non-European countries while this heated debate continues. But this is a political mistake. As soon as possible, and certainly before the culmination of this initial negotiating period, the Prime Minister should promote a public, optimistic approach for the future.