Responsive Ad Slot

eSCAPE Book
Latest

Sports

Relationship Matters

Opinion

‘Brexit’ Aftershocks: More Rifts In Europe, And In Britain, Too

Britain votes to leave the European Union

Britain’s startling decision to pull out of the European Union set off a cascade of aftershocks on Friday, costing Prime Minister David Cameron his job, plunging the financial markets into turmoil and leaving the country’s future in doubt.

The decisive win by the “Leave” campaign exposed deep divides: young versus old, urban versus rural, Scotland versus England. The recriminations flew fast, not least at Mr. Cameron, who had made the decision to call the referendum on membership in the bloc to manage a rebellion in his own Conservative Party, only to have it destroy his government and tarnish his legacy.

The result of the so-called Brexit vote presented another stiff challenge to the leaders of the other leading European powers as they confront spreading populist anger. It was seized on by far-right and anti-Brussels parties across Europe, with Marine Le Pen of the National Front in France calling for a “Frexit” referendum and Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands calling for a “Nexit.”

European officials met in Brussels to begin discussing a response and to emphasize their commitment to strengthening and improving the bloc, which will have 27 members after Britain’s departure.

“At stake is the breakup, pure and simple, of the union,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France said, adding, “Now is the time to invent another Europe.”

Germany urged calm. “Today marks a turning point for Europe,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “It is a turning point for the European unification process.”

Financial markets swooned as it became apparent that the Leave forces would prevail, with the British pound and global stock prices plummeting in value as the vote tally showed the Remain camp falling further behind.

With all votes counted, Leave was ahead by 52 percent to 48 percent, an enormous snub to Britain’s elite.

The process of withdrawal is likely to play out slowly, perhaps taking years. It will mean pulling out of the world’s largest trading zone, with 508 million residents, including the 65 million people of Britain, and abandoning a commitment to the free movement of labor, capital, goods and services. It has profound implications for Britain’s legal system, which incorporates a large body of regulations that cover everything from product safety to digital privacy, and for Britain’s economy.

Supporters of the campaign to leave, one draped in Britain’s Union Jack,  in central London on Friday.
Supporters of the campaign to leave, one draped in Britain’s Union Jack,
in central London on Friday.
The main ways in which the change will be felt are on trade — Britain will lose automatic access to the European single market — and on immigration, with Britain no longer bound to allow any European Union citizen to live and work in the country. Britain will have to try to negotiate new deals covering those issues.

To those in Britain who supported remaining in Europe, the result of Thursday’s in-or-out referendum was a painful rejection, leaving the country exposed to a possible economic downturn and signaling a step away from the multiculturalism that they say has made Britain among Europe’s most vibrant societies.

To backers of leaving, the outcome was vindication of their belief that Britain could pursue an independent course in the world, free of the Brussels bureaucracy and able to control the flow of immigrants into the country.

“Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom,” Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, one of the primary forces behind the push for a referendum on leaving the European Union, told cheering supporters just after 4 a.m.

For Mr. Cameron, the results were a humiliating disaster, forcing him to announce his departure only 13 months after he won re-election behind a surprisingly large Conservative majority in national elections. Critics said that he had led Britain out of Europe for no good reason and that the unity of the United Kingdom itself was threatened, with Scotland now more likely to try again to bolt.

Speaking in front of 10 Downing Street early Friday, with his wife, Samantha, standing nearby, Mr. Cameron said he would resign once a new leader had been chosen by his party, a decision he expected by October. He will stay now to provide stability, but a new prime minister, he said, should formally begin Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union and negotiate the terms of that divorce.

“I held nothing back,” Mr. Cameron said. His voice breaking, he said, “I love this country and I feel honored to have served it.”

His statement created an immediate churn in the political waters, with speculation that the two Conservatives most likely to succeed him are Boris Johnson, the flamboyant former mayor of London who helped lead the Leave campaign, and Theresa May, the Home secretary, who supported Mr. Cameron and Remain, but concentrated on doing her job rather than campaigning.

Mr. Johnson was booed Friday morning as he left his home in London, which voted overwhelmingly for Remain. In a brief statement later, Mr. Johnson praised Mr. Cameron, an old friend and rival from school days, as “an extraordinary politician” and said he was sad to see him go.

Mr. Johnson refused to answer questions about his own future but praised the result. “We can find our voice in the world again, a voice that is commensurate with the fifth-biggest economy on earth,” he said.

But if Britain’s Treasury and Central Bank are to be believed, the economic hit the country will take from leaving the single market of the European Union will be considerable, with permanent loss of economic growth, higher unemployment and lower tax receipts.

The immediate market reaction was an effort to find a floor in the midst of so much uncertainty, said Barrington Pitt Miller, an equity research analyst at Janus Capital. But he said he expected British economic growth to be zero or negative in the short and medium term, with a secondary impact over time as London’s financial services sector, which makes up about 10 percent of the economy, begins to move staff members and headquarters to Frankfurt, Paris or Dublin.

A lot will depend on how the European Union chooses in the end to respond — whether it is “vindictive, friendly or frightened,” he said.

Mr. Johnson and some in the Leave campaign argued that the other European nations valued trade with Britain so much that they would negotiate a special deal after Britain’s withdrawal to let Britain remain in the single market without having to guarantee freedom of movement and labor. That seems highly unlikely because it would only encourage other nations to pressure Brussels. But it may be that as the dust settles, some sort of association agreement with Britain could be negotiated, as Ms. Merkel suggested on Friday, though the price could be high.

The economy aside, the United Kingdom itself now faces a threat to its survival. Scotland voted by 62 percent to 38 percent to remain in the European Union, and the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said Friday that it was “democratically unacceptable” for Scotland to be dragged out of it against its will. Another independence referendum, she said, “is now highly likely.”

Appearing before reporters in front of the flags of Scotland and the European Union, Ms. Sturgeon, who leads the dominant Scottish National Party, said, “It is a statement of the obvious that the option of a second referendum must be on the table, and it is on the table.”

The threat is real, but any new vote will not come soon, because it is only two years since the last one, which the Scottish nationalists lost, and the price of oil, on which the Scottish economy largely depends, has dropped.

Northern Ireland, too, voted for Remain, although Protestants and Roman Catholics, as usual, were split. But the prospect of an open border with Ireland now becoming a hard border between the European Union and the United Kingdom will change matters and require checks of passports and goods, putting strain on the Good Friday peace agreement.

In England, which voted for Leave, there are obvious strains, too.

They can be found between the young who voted in large numbers for Remain and those over 45, who voted for Leave; between the cities and the countryside; between richer and poorer; and between better educated and less educated.

London itself, the glittering, expensive, multicultural and multinational global capital, with its many immigrants and liberal values, was isolated in a sea of those favoring Leave; in some sense, the vote was against the wealthy elites who live in London and rule everyone else from there.

Last, there is the chasm between political leaders, nearly all of whom backed Remain, and many of their voters, who rebuffed them.

Bronwen Maddox, former editor of Prospect Magazine and the new director of the Institute for Government, a research institution, said in an email that “there is a growing intolerance for representative government, which is likely to have consequences for the ability of any government to run the country.”

The referendum, she suggested, might have been about Brussels, but it revealed and unleashed many other forces. Those forces, she said, “have ejected the U.K. from the European Union; they may now wreak similar turmoil on the old political parties themselves.”


Share this post with your friends and also share your thoughts by adding your comments below. 

Follow us on Social Media or Subscribe to our RSS feed for our latest posts.

Google+: +Nigeria News World
Facebook: @NigeriaWorldNews
Twitter: @nigerianewszone
Pinterest: @nigerianewszone
 


Source

No comments

Post a Comment