BREXIT, as the world knows by today, hit like a high intensity earthquake last week. The world, particularly Europe, is now assessing how to navigate the uncharted waters they find themselves in.
On the face of it, it has impacted negatively on the European Union, painstakingly built up stage by stage after World War II. The idea was for a united Europe to be more understanding of each other, more gathered toward certain standards of living and negotiating, more equal, less alien and, as a result, more peaceful. Two terrible World Wars fought over European issues were, in the past, with everyone hoping they would remain there as Europe went into the 21st century.
There will be no hostilities as the EU covenant has an exit provision. But the negotiations will be long and perhaps acrimonious.
The EU reaction has been grim if understated. The US commentators were more apocalyptic, verging on hysterical. Except for Donald Trump, the Republican candidate (presumptive?) who declared it a positive thing for Britain to “take back its country.”
What were the reasons for the British to opt out? Observers say they chafed at having to remit taxpayers’ money to the EU, to follow its standards on everything from food to drugs, to infrastructure requirements against their own that they have developed over centuries. Brussels, the headquarters of the EU bureaucracy, elicited resentment for the directives that came down from it as the Ten Commandments from the Mount.
One reason that is the elephant in the room is Immigration. The British are not anti-immigrant per se. They have welcomed to their midst migrants from their previous colonies in the recent past. Jamaicans, Pakistanis, Indians, Africans, etc. In historical times, Britain welcomed Huguenot refugees from France, Jews from other countries, all of whom enriched their society. But with the EU’s borderless conditions and with Britain being a welfare state, many migrants, too many, came for the welfare benefits. They came from EU countries whose economies could not give them the benefits that the British economy could give its residents. Naturally, these new welfare beneficiaries affected budgets, the economy, taxes. It is also said that the EU has admitted countries that are not ready or, rather, not quite in the same economic footing as the rest. The inequality in finding jobs, receiving benefits, having adequate standards of living has attracted migrants to where these conditions are available. Furthermore, the turmoil now going on in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa has attracted desperate waves of migrants to Europe, with Britain a top destination. So far, the EU has not come up with satisfactory solutions to handle the problem
All of the above and more are the inconveniences or, rather, burden of Britain’s membership in the EU. And what must be taken into consideration, too, is British culture, its way of life, its historical associations that come down from there to the present. They kept their currency as a tradition they would not give up. Even their electrical outlets they refuse to part with and use the ones the EU uses. British individuality and cultural characteristics are sacred to them for which they will resist change.
Having said all of the above, the near future looks unknown and fraught with problems. The financial world might move away from London for which many jobs might be lost. The young Brits will not have borderless conditions to look for jobs in Europe as many do.
Restrictions on travel, currency downgrades, a less hospitable continent may be in the offing.
Moreover, Scotland that decided not too long ago to remain as part of the UK and which overwhelmingly voted Remain is upset as it affects their economy adversely and its government threatens to have another referendum on whether to remain or leave the UK.
This is very threatening if it occurs. It has large consequences not only for Britain but the rest of the world. Already, the Dutch and the French have Leave populations in their midst. On that note of separatism, the Catalans of Spain do not need more encouragement to carry out their threats of leaving Spain.
The polls did not show the extent of the Leave population in Britain. At first they indicated a close fight, then an even result and at the last a hairline victory for Remain. Even exit polls seem to show it and some newspapers took it up. But it was a decisive victory for Leave at 52 percent versus 48 percent.
The young people from 18 to 40 voted overwhelmingly for Remain. By religion, the Islamics (mostly immigrants) voted for Remain against the Christians (white, established) who voted Leave. The upper and middle classes voted Remain. Those who voted Leave in large numbers were Britons 65 and up and the white working class. In the end, it was a vote along racial, religious, age and income. Those are the things that matter to all.