I visited with two British farmers this week about the challenges facing them over the possible exit of Britain from the European Union. Their story will be aired next week. Long story short: even with our headaches, I’m not sure I would trade places.
To understand what they are dealing with, today I’ll make sure we’re all on the same page geographically by first making clear the difference between England, Britain, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. England is the largest portion of an island laying to the west of Europe. England and Wales comprise what is called Britain. England, Wales and Scotland make up Great Britain. And here’s where it gets weird.
The United Kingdom – UK – adds Northern Ireland to Great Britain. This is hard for outsiders to understand, but trust me the explanation would take several weeks. It’s kinda like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with a much longer and sadder history. As you can see, Northern Ireland is also geographically a part of the sovereign island country of Ireland. The best description then of the UK is three countries and one province. Finally, if you draw a line around the UK and Ireland you have the British Isles, a term which has little political meaning but is often used by the travel industry.
Now for the other team. The UK and Ireland are both part of the European Union. The EU consists of 28 countries that participate in identical business laws and regulations, free trade, and free labor flow. Nineteen of those countries use the Euro as a common currency. This subgroup is called the Euro Area or Euro Zone. Notable exceptions are the UK, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. In addition, there are other treaties such as the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area. There are some special arrangements with Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and other countries on trade and regulations. This complexity may be one of the core problems.
Those are the players and the playing field. Next week I’ll outline why the UK is trying to leave and why it’s turning out to be really, really hard to do.