OXFORD, UK – “I have no answers to the Brexit problem. If I did, I’d be prime minister,” Alan Mackenzie, a former visiting professor in journalism at St. Bonaventure University, said during his recent lecture to students in St. Bonaventure's 2019 Francis E. Kelley Oxford Program.

Mackenzie, a Scotsman who has had a long career as a journalist, explained to the group in the Britton Room at Trinity College that in June 2016, voters approved Great Britain's Brexit referendum to leave the European Union by 52 to 48 percent.  And he added that the EU was founded after the end of World War II to ease trade between European countries and to limit the possibility of another world war. 

The EU has a membership of 28 countries, and Great Britain is considered the second most powerful in the EU, behind Germany. 

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“It’s the idea that the strong help the weak,” Mackenzie said. “They’re fighting divorce. They want us to stay in because we’re a rich country.”

According to Mackenzie, one of the main reasons citizens want to leave the EU is because of the free movement of labor among EU countries, possibly increasing immigration into Great Britain, which some citizens may see as a threat. 

Great Britain does benefit from federalism and the trade alliances from the EU, making the result of the citizens’ vote a surprise to many, Mackenzie said. 

Since the vote, Great Britain and the EU have been trying to negotiate and it has been difficult to come to a conclusion, he said. 

“Anyone who tries to negotiate a way out of the European Union, including Theresa May, has failed,” Mackenzie said. “And she’s tried for three years.” 

“I think all of this has happened, the shambles, because Brexit doesn’t make any sense to begin with…this is the mess that we’re in,” Mackenzie said. 

Mackenzie said that if Great Britain does leave the EU, there is a good chance that Northern Ireland might separate from Great Britain to remain in the union. Northern Ireland, once a very poor country, ended a civil war in 1998. If it does separate from Great Britain, Northern Ireland might again have problems, he said. 

The likelihood that Great Britain will leave the EU moved much closer to reality Tuesday, five days after Mackenzie's talk, when Boris Johnson was elected the new leader of the Conservative party, effectively making him the next UK prime minister. Johnson campaigned on a pledge to have Great Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31, even if an agreement on a withdrawal plan has not been reached.

Because the 2016 Brexit vote had been so close, Mackenzie said that the nation seems to be divided on Brexit beliefs. And he noted that his wife, Barbara Mackenzie, a English woman  who was in attendance, has a very different opinion than he does on the issue. Barbara Mackenzie also is a former visiting professor in journalism at St. Bonaventure, and the couple twice were Lenna Scholars, a lecture program shared by St. Bonaventure and by the Olean and Jamestown campuses of Jamestown Community College. 

Such division in the UK only makes solving the split more difficult, he said. 

“This country is in a mess. It’s a political nervous breakdown. There’s two reactions to this: be in complete despair or laugh at everything,” he said. 

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