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Brexit ... Notre Dame

April 17, 2019

During assembly on Wednesday, April 17, seniors Kate Appleton, Cassie Berns and Katie Kuhlman made a Current Events Club presentation on Brexit and the recent fire at Notre Dame. Their remarks follow:

The European Union is a political and economic alliance of 28 countries that began in the wake of WWII and has since grown into a single common market. It has its own currency and its own Parliament. While many in Great Britain saw the benefits of the European Union, growing unrest at the differences between Britain and other parts of Europe led people to question whether or not Britain should remain in the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron supported remaining in the EU, but called for a national referendum that he thought would strengthen his position. In the June 2016 referendum, more than 70% of the British people voted. While the majority of England and Wales voted to leave, much of Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain. In the end, Leave defeated Remain, 52%-48%. Cameron resigned the following day, the British invoked Article 50 of the EU Treaty which outlines how a nation can leave the EU, and Theresa May became Prime Minister, tasked with negotiating a separation between GB and the EU.

PM May has been working to outline a deal between the UK and the EU, and to get it passed by her parliament, as the UK and EU are much too intertwined to simply declare their exit from the EU and call it a day. For example, any EU citizen who wishes to reside in a different EU country than their own can do so, which means many UK citizens live elsewhere in the EU and many EU citizens live in the UK. A no-deal Brexit would jeopardize the residency rights these people currently have. Additionally, much of the UK’s economy relies on trade with the EU, and without a deal, such trade will become more difficult. However, parliament has rejected May’s proposals, and their inability to reach an agreement has already caused the deadline for the UK to leave the EU to be pushed back from March 29, to April 12, to its current date of October 31 of this year.

The path that the British government will take regarding Brexit over the next couple months is unclear. PM May still continues to push for an approved deal within parliament. However, given the current lack of a Brexit deal and the significant sect of UK citizens who still adamantly advocate to remain, some groups have suggested a second referendum on Brexit. Others believe that since the first referendum demonstrated the people want to leave, the UK should leave by their new deadline, deal or no deal.

Regardless of how, or when, the talks over Brexit end, it will continue to set precedents for how nations address the ever-growing dichotomy between nationalism and globalism.

Originally, our speech today was going to only focus on Brexit. However, as many of you know, on Monday evening Notre Dame, one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, caught fire and suffered severe structural damage. This Catholic cathedral is located on a small island in the middle of the Seine River that runs through Paris. Over 12 million people visit the Cathedral every year, which is almost double the annual amount of visitors to the Eiffel Tower. Construction on the cathedral began in 1163, and it was completed in 1345. This 800-year-old construction consisted of an extensive network of wooden beams, nicknamed “the Forest,” which caught fire and burned rapidly on Monday. Many important events and ceremonies have occurred there over the years, including Napoleon crowning himself emperor of France in 1804.

In the fire, the iconic rectangular towers were saved, but the rook and the spire collapsed. Around 500 firefighters worked to protect what was left until the fire was officially declared extinguished over 12 hours after it began. Many of the relics and artifacts were saved and will be transferred to the Louvre for safe keeping. There were also some larger pieces that remained inside the cathedral during the fire which have been affected but can be restored, according to a French national monument inspector, although restoration teams have not yet been allowed to enter the building. At this time, authorities said that they have ruled out arson and terrorism. An accident relating to the renovations seems to be the most likely cause. There have also been no reported deaths, although a firefighter and two police officers were injured.

Since this building is such a symbol of Paris, there have been immediate calls to rebuild Notre Dame. President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that he hoped to rebuild it in five years. It is unclear at this point how much this would cost, and as Notre Dame is the property of the French government, it will be the government’s responsibility to rebuild. Many groups, including prominent French families and businesses like L’Oréal and Louis Vuitton, have already pledged hundreds of millions of euros to help rebuild. The importance of this monument is clear in people’s response to this tragedy, and there are many, in France and beyond, who will not rest until it is restored.