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Guyon: The Brexit Gap

The term Brexit is not a morning cereal as I'd originally thought, but rather a mash-up of the words “Britain” and “exit”, as in the UK leaving the European Union. It’s a rejection of membership in a multi-country economy, the largest in the world, with a population of 510 million people, and an official commitment to "human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.” In 2012, it even won the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the past, the concept of a unified Europe was mostly associated with oppressive regimes like the Roman Empire. But this European Union – or EU – is a post-World War II economic partnership that was established to foster trade and goodwill between its members.

This, in turn, evolved into a “single market” that allows residents and goods to move freely across borders, and has its own currency, called the Euro. Though England was a part of the EU, it never switched to the Euro, finding it hard to imagine currency without the queen on it.

And then in June of last year, after a campaign as fraught with misinformation as our presidential election, and an equally slim margin in results, 52 percent of voters chose to leave the EU with the other 48 percent wishing to remain.

My cousin Laura, in London, says most leave voters are baby boomers over 50, who then voted in a conservative government. But she says a great many millennials are angry to have had their right to work freely in 27 other countries taken away. This anger is echoed by my friend Joe, who’s from Scotland, which had the highest percentage of remain votes than any other region in the UK.

Now, under the weak leadership of Tory Prime Minister Theresa May, clumsy implementation of the vote has caused yet more frustration – especially for those who voted to remain in the EU.

After the Revolutions of 1848 and the Napoleonic Wars, author Victor Hugo promoted the concept of “a supreme sovereign state, which will be to Europe what parliament is to England” with a United States of America and a United States of Europe “face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas."

As one who still believes in that ideal, I can only say: we are not amused.

Annie Guyon works in Development at Dartmouth College and occasionally writes as a freelancer for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe.
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