Members of the House of Commons, January 31, begin the process of formally giving notice to the European Union that it is leaving, triggering a potentially long and difficult period of negotiations over its future relationship with the trading bloc.

 

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A political earthquake happened when Britain voted in a referendum June 2016 by 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU, following years of rancor over its membership — particularly within the Conservative Party, which has been divided over membership for years — as well as rising anti-EU sentiment.

 

Although the UK as a whole voted out, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain, which has thrown the whole matter into chaos. Scotland narrowly voted to remain a member of the United Kingdom in a 2014 referendum. The EU vote has brought calls for another independence referendum in order for Scotland to remain part of the EU, outside of England and Wales.

 

Meanwhile Northern Ireland has its own issues with the result — not least because it has benefited most from EU membership, receiving billions in various subsidies or relief programs. It is also in a state of political flux, with the delicate arrangements for government — arrived at as part of the Northern Ireland peace process — in the balance, following a row between the two main parties.