A cost-of-living crisis, a pandemic and war in Ukraine - how has Britain changed since 2016 Brexit referendum?

How has the UK changed since Brexit?How has the UK changed since Brexit?
How has the UK changed since Brexit? | NW
A lot has happened in the UK and in international events since the Brexit referendum vote in 2016

The date is June 23, 2016 and by the slimmest of margins, the UK has voted to leave the European Union and forge its own path. 51.89% of voters have voted to leave the EU, while 48.11% of those who turned out wished to remain in the UK.

The reality is, the UK is now well on its way to a new future away from the UK as talk of a controversial second referendum seems in the distant past and trade deals are being discussed that have promised to bring long-term gains to the nation. That remains to be seen.

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You may have noticed Brexit affects some aspects of your life, like the line you queue in at passport control at international airports. But what has happened since Brexit that the 2016 referendum obviously couldn't take into account?

Well, seeing as that vote was now an astonishing 7 years ago, lots has happened since then - as NationalWorld summarises the key events below.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives his daily Covid-19 press briefing at Downing Street on March 22, 2020 (Photo by Ian Vogler-WPA Pool/Getty Images)British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives his daily Covid-19 press briefing at Downing Street on March 22, 2020 (Photo by Ian Vogler-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives his daily Covid-19 press briefing at Downing Street on March 22, 2020 (Photo by Ian Vogler-WPA Pool/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Covid-19 pandemic

Around two months after the UK officially left the EU, the world effectively came to a standstill. The most ground-breaking event to occur since Brexit is undoubtedly the Covid-19 pandemic which began in early 2020 and was declared to have ended in May 2023.

Just under 227,000 people died in the UK with Covid-19 listed as one of their causes of death on their death certificate and the global pandemic took both a social and economic toll globally.

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The threat has never completely gone away, but thankfully we're no longer being urged to stay indoors or only drink at the pub with a meal.

Cost-of-living crisis

A year after Covid-19 was first declared a pandemic, the UK slipped into what was termed a cost of living crisis in 2021. This was caused partly by a rise in inflation in both the UK and the world in general, as well as the economic impact of the pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But another cause some economists cite is Brexit. Back in June 2023, former Deputy Governor at the Bank of England Sir Charlie Bean said inflation was worse in Britain because "Brexit has made it harder for firms to suck in the extra labour they need at short notice from abroad."

Russia's invasion of Ukraine

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine initiated by Russia's invasion has been another stark reminder of the fragility of order in our world after Brexit. Although tensions have been present here since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, a fully blown conflict began in February 2022.

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HOSTOMEL, UKRAINE - APRIL 08: Ukrainian soldier waves Ukrainian national flag while standing on top of an armoured personnel carrier (APC). (Photo by Alexey Furman/Getty Images)HOSTOMEL, UKRAINE - APRIL 08: Ukrainian soldier waves Ukrainian national flag while standing on top of an armoured personnel carrier (APC). (Photo by Alexey Furman/Getty Images)
HOSTOMEL, UKRAINE - APRIL 08: Ukrainian soldier waves Ukrainian national flag while standing on top of an armoured personnel carrier (APC). (Photo by Alexey Furman/Getty Images) | Getty Images

More than 70,000 have been left dead as a result of the conflict and economic strains have been felt globally with food supplies and fuel prices in particular.

It's hard to not agree that Britain's initial post-Brexit future was impacted and the squeeze was tightened as a result of this conflict.

Post-Brexit trade deals

A big promise of Britain's post-Brexit future was our ability to secure our own trade deals globally.

Examples of these are trade deals signed with Australia in December 2021 and another with New Zealand in February 2022. Another was the free trade agreement with Japan in October 2020.

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The deal with Japan was hailed as a 'landmark' one at the time but some have since branded this as a failure. Figures collated by the Department for International Trade show exports to Japan fell from £12.3bn to £11.9bn in the year to June 2022. Exports in goods fell 4.9% to £6.1bn and services fell 2% to £5.8bn.

One of the biggest and most talked about post-Brexit deals is still to come into fruition as well. That's the trade deal with the US.

According to the Commons Library website: "There is no current trade agreement between the UK and the US. Negotiations started in May 2020 but there have been none since October 2020. An agreement is not expected soon."

While the true realities of post-Brexit remain to be seen, the world we live in today is quite clearly a different one to the world where Britain announced it was leaving the EU in 2016.

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