With the ink now drying on an agreement between the UK and the EU’s 27 remaining states, the end is finally in sight for a series of negotiations that have dominated the public sphere in Europe over the past year. However, 2018 has been an incredibly significant year for the continent beyond Brexit, with many nations continuing to face a surge in populist movements alongside one of the most intense heatwaves in recent years.
Starting with some of 2018’s significant elections, on 4 March, Italy’s governing centre-left coalition was swept aside by the right-wing league and anti-establishment Five Star movement. This upheaval in the Italian political system has had ripple effects across Europe as the new government has clashed frequently with the EU on issues from immigration to banking reform.
The Presidential election in Russia on 18 March was marred by accusations of corruption as well as the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal at Salisbury on 4 March. After being re-elected for a fourth term, President Vladimir Putin faced down Britain and a number of international allies as international pressure mounted in response to the poisoning.
Also in March, Europeans were caught up in the global Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Potentially 15 million European users were compromised in a global leak that allowed personal data to be used without consent for political marketing – the 2016 Brexit vote being cited as an example of the type of key political event where this data was utilised.
A bright spot in the news was the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May at Windsor Castle. From the powerful sermon delivered by the Reverend Michael Curry to the multitude of impressive musical performances, the wedding served as a joyful event to bring unity to Britain at a contentious time.
However, bad blood between the UK and Russia continued to persist well into the FIFA World Cup held largely in Moscow and St. Petersburg as British and Russian fans clashed on multiple occasions between matches. After an impressive performance, Gareth Southgate’s England team finished the tournament in fourth place with France taking home the trophy.
After the tournament finished, a heatwave began to sweep across the continent. With the record-breaking temperatures, drought was experienced across Northern and Central Europe alongside devastating wildfires, the deadliest of which claimed the lives of at least 99 people in Greece.
Returning to Brexit, 2018 has been the year where negotiations seemed to be following a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs with European unity being tested in the face of perhaps the greatest challenge to the EU in its history. While the current agreement (largely seen as being on the ‘soft’ end of Brexit) must still be approved by Parliament, the EU has consistently attempted to create a deal that would ensure the values of the union can be kept intact for the years to come.