This Globe and Mail “explainer” article summarizes Britain’s three-year roller coaster ride as its government attempts to produce a plan to secede from the European Union, following a referendum on the issue that resulted in a vote to leave. Paul Waldie’s associated article of April 5 Britain’s Theresa May seeks another Brexit extension from EU until June 30 details proposed and past delays and extensions, as internal British politics continue to hamstring Prime Minister Theresa May.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events

Key Question(s) to Explore:

  • What is Brexit about?

New Terminology:

Brexit, EU, exodus,

Materials Needed:

Globe articles

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The current story of Brexit, a short form of British-Exit, began when former Prime Minister David Cameron decided to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU. To his and most Britons’ surprise, a majority voted to leave. Since then, the British parliament has been unable to agree on a disengagement plan.

Students can benefit from a lesson that explains what Brexit is about. Following an introductory class discussion, students will review the articles and complete a work sheet.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Begin with a discussion.

  • Ask students if any have been to Great Britain or Europe in recent years (Although they are members of the EU, the British do not consider themselves to be part of the continent of Europe). If so, what was involved in crossing from France to England, or Germany to the Czech Republic? (A visitor who has cleared customs and immigration into any of the EU member countries is free to cross into member countries without impediment.)
  • Ask if students have heard of Brexit and to explain what they know about it.
  • Name some EU countries. ( Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, among others)
  • Note that, following secession, Britain would once again determine which immigrants to accept or reject, rather than being open to any who are already in the EU.
  • Note as well that what is now a relatively free flow of goods and services among the EU and Britain would also be at risk, as would the status of non-British EU residents now residing in the United Kingdom.

Next, have students read the accompanying articles, then assign them to small groups and provide groups with the task sheet, below. Answers, for your benefit: 1. Via a referendum in 2016; 2. David Cameron; 3. The “remain in EU” side; 4. Current prime minister of Great Britain; 5. A soft Brexit would keep some ties with the EU, especially related to the freedom of movement between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland, an EU state; 6. One that requires trade, customs, and immigrations controls; 7. “…gridlock at the border, shortages of food and goods and the flight of corporate headquarters from Britain;” 8. France; 9. The leader of North Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, and the leader of Britain’s Labour Party; 10. Answers will vary.

Task Sheet

Using the articles—and any personal additional reading or research you have already undertaken—as your source material, work as a group to answer the following questions:

  1. How did Britons decide to leave the EU?
  2. Which prime minister chose this approach?
  3. Which side of the vote did most people expect would win?
  4. Who is Theresa May?
  5. What is meant by “soft Brexit” and “hard Brexit”?
  6. What is meant by a “hard Irish border”?
  7. What happens if Britain secedes from the EU without a deal?
  8. Which EU country has “a lot to lose,” if Britain leaves without a deal?
  9. Which British politicians are against requesting another extension from the EU?
  10. From what you’ve learned today, do you think Britain made the right choice to leave?

When they’ve completed the assignment, take up the questions in class.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students discuss their reports in class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can answer, in general terms, what Brexit is about.

Confirming Activity:

  • Ask students to report when they notice news items on Brexit.