Lesson from Brexit – don’t rush into federalism


IN what German Chancellor Angela Merkel called a “watershed for Europe and the European unity process,” and what one Oxford University professor called “an act of unparalleled frivolity” which the British people may enjoy now but will eventually regret later, Britain decided to leave the 28-member European Union last week by a vote of 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent, causing a “bloodbath” across financial markets, the pound to plunge to its lowest level in 30 years, and David Cameron to announce his resignation as Prime Minister. Calls for similar secession from far-right parties in France, Italy, Holland, Denmark and Greece quickly followed, threatening a possible chain reaction that could ultimately dismantle the EU, just as the Cold War dismantled the Soviet Union in 1991.

Poor England
Once described as an Empire upon which the sun never set, Britain is now faced with the possible breakaway of northern Ireland and Scotland and its reversion to its old size before it became the United Kingdom. A leader of Sinn Fein, northern Ireland’s largest Irish nationalist party, said the British government had lost its democratic mandate to represent northern Ireland in any future negotiations with the EU, and should now call a referendum on whether it should leave the UK and unite with the Irish Republic.

For its part, Scotland voted 62 percent to 38 percent to remain in EU in last Thursday’s referendum, and sees its future in the EU rather than with England, despite their three centuries of shared history. In 2014, the Scots voted against leaving UK in a referendum, mainly because it meant leaving the EU as well. Britain’s vote last Thursday could now deepen any Scottish desire to leave the UK.

This is what we are able to piece together from foreign newspaper reports and Reuters.

Who were for ‘Remain’?
Led by Cameron, the campaign to “Remain” in the EU counted on the active support of 23 Cabinet ministers, the Labor Party, liberal democrats, most of Britain’s economists, 13 Nobel laureates, international organizations like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Monetary Fund, most of Britain’s allies like Canada and the United States, most large employers, and most trade unions.

They believed that pulling out of EU would be an economic disaster for Britain. At least 40 percent of British trade is with the EU, and London’s unfettered access to the EU has made it the leading financial capital of the world; leaving could result in slower growth, job losses, higher prices and a possible recession. They believed the EU could be reformed from within.

Business and economic leaders, academics, politicians and even celebrities bombarded voters with messages, saying how important it was for Britain to remain. On the eve of the vote, Remain released a letter signed by 1,300 businessmen warning against the dangers of voting for “Leave.” Many CEOs used direct mail to urge their employees to vote Remain. Even the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, warned against the dangers of “Leave.”

Who were for ‘Leave’?
Manning the “Leave” campaign were seven senior Cabinet ministers, former mayor of London Boris Johnson, who is seen as a future Prime Minister, nearly half of the Conservative Caucus, the UK Independence Party, and the Sun newspaper. They believed it was time for the UK to control its borders, free itself from “mountains of EU red tape,” cut billions of dollars of regular payments to the EU and use them for health care and other programs.

On the day of the vote the opinion polls predicted a 52-percent to 48-percent win for Remain. The vote showed the opposite results, although with the same numbers. It was a bad day for pollsters. So stunned were the Remain supporters that they immediately called for a second referendum. As reported by The Independent, 145,570 voters had endorsed the call as of Friday, 11:54 a.m., and the number was “climbing.”

The petition said, “We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the Remain or Leave voter is less than 60 percent based on a turnout less than 75 percent there should be another referendum.” The referendum had a turnout of 72.2 percent, a few points short of 75. The petition needs at least 100,000 signatures to be debated by Parliament. But even with the number of signees rising, the report on The Independent indicated little optimism about a second referendum reversing the June 23 decision.

Back to piracy?
Such is the apparent apprehension about the vote’s economic consequences that Professor Margaret Macmillan, professor of international history and warden of St. Antony’s College at Oxford University, for one, asks in a column: “Will the English have to take up piracy again to help them pay the bills?”

But more than what will happen to England, which is a matter of serious concern to Filipinos, especially those with a family member who has found employment there, the more serious concern for everybody else seems to be what will happen to the EU?

France Soir, the French newspaper, has called the Leave vote “a leap into the unknown,” while Le Figaro fears the risk of other EU members rushing into the breach opened by Brexit—Britain’s exit from EU. France could be the first of these others, after the leader of the National Front, Marine le Pen, called for a referendum in France.

Chain reaction?
If a chain reaction follows, it could have a far more devastating impact upon the future of Europe than the dissolution of the Soviet empire. Thus, some British commentators have suggested that President Vladimir Putin could be drinking champagne now while Britain and its allies are still trying to understand what really happened.

The EU has been hailed as one of the greatest political constructs of the 20th century devoted to peace, prosperity and development. It is an outstanding model of international solidarity and cooperation, and indeed the working model that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations chose to emulate when it decided to become an ASEAN Economic Community with one vision and one identity in 2015.

EU backgrounder
It evolved slowly. Founded by Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in 1950 as the European Coal and Steel Community, it became the European Economic Community (Common Market) under the Treaty of Rome in 1957. In Jan. 1973, Denmark, Ireland and the UK joined, raising the EEC membership to nine. In 1975, a referendum was held in the UK on its membership in the EEC; 67 percent decided to stay. In 1981, Greece became its 10th member; Spain and Portugal followed five years later.

In 1993, four years after the Berlin Wall came down and Europe lost all its political borders, the Treaty of Maastricht was signed in Maastricht, a town in the southeast of the Netherlands. In 1995, Austria, Finland and Sweden joined. In 2004, 10 other countries joined, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. The Treaty of Lisbon was ratified by all EU member-states in 2009. In 2012, the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2013, Croatia became its 28th member.

The euro and Schengen
The EU has a European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, where all its member-states send their representatives. They also have a European Court of Justice, a European Central Bank, a common currency and a flag. Of the 28 members, only 19 have opted to abandoned their respective currencies and use the euro; the nine others who are not part of the eurozone are Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the UK.

The EU also has a passport/visa-free arrangement, signed in Schengen, Luxembourg in 1985, for the movement of people across the borders of member-states. The agreement designates the treaty area as “Schengen area” and covers all EU member-states, except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania, which have yet to perfect their Schengen membership, and Ireland and the UK, which have opted to be permanently out. Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are associate members.

Under this arrangement, a Filipino traveling on a Schengen visa, once admitted in any EU member country, say France or Italy, is free to travel to any other part of the Schengen area without need of another visa. This privilege, among other things, would surely disappear if and when the EU disintegrates. But Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, which will take two years to implement under Article 50 of the Treaty on the EU, could have adverse consequences on, among other things, the employment of foreigners in the UK.

Effect on Pinoys
If, as the Remain campaign had warned, secession could mean job losses, Filipino nurses and other health-care providers could be among the first ones to be affected by any recessionary retrenchment.

But quite apart from the potentially adverse economic consequences upon countries supplying labor to the British jobs market, Brexit offers a shocking lesson about federalism, which the incoming Duterte government appears to be looking at as the “silver bullet” needed to lay to rest the country’s insurgency and other intractable problems of development.

One of the first statements of DU30’s congressional allies is that they would like to “fast track” the constitutional shift from the unitary state to a federal republic. The Brexit fvote should now make it clear that federalism is not without its risks; they cannot and should not rush into it. This is not to counsel paranoia. Just as one swallow does not make a summer, one Brexit cannot possibly make us totally paranoid about the federal system of government.

The United States of America, the Federal Republic of Germany, Canada, Australia, the Swiss Confederation, to name just a few, are enduring successes of the federal system. But if Brexit were a shipwreck, it is in the category of the Titanic. We cannot blame some DU30 watchers if they tend to worry a little too much about it.

Federalism a ploy?
It was the British people, not just one big power bloc, who decided to pull out of the EU in a free and open democratic process. There is no sign of an equivalent situation in which the people of Mindanao are aching to leave the Republic; but some DU30 watchers seem to fear that a big power bloc, with roots in the old Mindanao independence movement and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front, could use the proposed federal structure as a jump-off joint for the creation of an “independent Mindanao republic.”

This theory cannot be accepted nor rejected outright. It needs to be carefully examined. DU30 will swear by the good Book to fulfill his duties faithfully and conscientiously as President of the entire Republic of the Philippines, to preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man and consecrate himself to the service of the nation. We cannot ask for anything more than this.

But his choice mostly of Mindanaoans for the major Cabinet posts and for leadership of the two Houses of Congress, his apparent decision to make Davao City the virtual seat of his government, even though Manila remains the nation’s capital, make certain DU30 watchers afraid that the proposed federal structure could be used to hasten the dismemberment of the Republic. For instance, his next Speaker of the House of Representatives, handpicked by him rather than by the elected members of the supposedly independent House, used to be associated with the movement for Mindanao’s Independence, and has yet to make a full public renunciation of any secessionist tendencies or beliefs.

Perhaps, there is no real reason for anyone to be afraid. But some people are afraid. President-elect DU30 must know this; he must do something about it.



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  1. Danny Cascolan on

    XAt simple lang naman intindihin, when these people officials in the Government are working not for the nation and country but for their own business regions, for their own enrichment and influential power. Ethnicity by historical colonial slavery and oppression don’t really matter as issues if we the people of our archipelago are really willing to band as the new one nation archipelago (1946 liberation). Federalization in fuzzy terms and illusory fallacy is gambling to lose our nation just for the vested wealth and power interests of these few neoliberalists.
    The problem was the nation and people never did benefited much from own resource harnessing, never did develop a sense of industrialization and own technology upgrade. And these control by neoliberalism scheme accentuates the same pawning of sovereignty and exploitations, but this time minus the one archipelago nation we have.


  2. This has nothing to do with federalism. Our government failed for decades under unitary. Just look at australia, usa, malaysia, etc they are all under federalism. With brexit its a different problem. Britain is already a powerful nation itself, they need to be integrated to eu. Because britain does not agree with immigration, refugees and be an insurance for greece, portugal and soon spain and more will of this will come.

  3. arthur keefe on

    Worth noting that all age groups under 45 voted to stay in. The 18-25 by 75% to 25%. It was the older people, many yearning for a long lost country, who voted to leave in large numbers. It is the young who will bear the consequences of the decision.
    Nurses and care workers have nothing to fear. They are needed as much now as ever.

  4. pedro somoroy on

    hi sir kit:
    i think the EU is like the asean, its not really a federal form of government. it is organized as an economic organization. please dont scare us. if mindanao will secede , we will all be happy. no love lost.

    you see if i cut a tree and sell it, i am accused of illigal logging but those logging concessioners are not from mindanao and they have permits and everything. mindanao natives got lands from the land reform program or we buy it, people from luzon and the visayas were given homesteads. you know what i mean.

    you have bridges all over metro manila , no rivers: in mindanao we have all the rivers and no bridges.

    mindanao the land of promise – we get the promise, you grab our lands.
    please dont infect us with your fears. manhid na.

  5. isidro c. valencia on

    Duterte sponsored Federalism is a prologue to secession.
    If BBL failed, Federalism is hailed.

    Duterte promised “heaven and earth” to secessionist movements, NPA just to be elected as President. Never mind the future.

  6. After Digongs Presidency there will be no more Philippines, mahahati ang Pilipinas sa Apat, Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao at Bangsamoro.. mahihiwalay hindi dahil sa Federal kung hindi dahil sa magsasariling bansa na sila. Pangarap na ng grupo ni Du30 na humiwalay ang Mindanao sa Pilipinas para sila na mamalakad dito. Kalokohan lang yung sinasabi nya mahal nya bansang sinilangan nya.. dahil kung mahal nya bansa nya bakit imbes na magkaisa mga Pilipino parang lalo pa nagkawatak-watak.

  7. The comparison to a MIndanao exit from the Philippines can be likened to the fear mongering of Cameron. I live in northern mindanao, definitely we will not vote for an independent Mindanao, but I cannot say about the muslim areas in Basilan and Maguindanao. But, nevertheless, I would not oppose for this area to separate. Their leaders are corrupt. the government is subsidizing this areas with taxes from other parts of Mindanao, or even the Philippines. And they literally buy positions in “money generating” agencies in Mindanao which are majority non muslim.

  8. Amnata Pundit on

    Western powers would like nothing better than to balkanize us. Why? I don’t know but thats what they have been doing to countries ever since they became the dominant power in this world. If you do not think that The West is our enemy, study our history again for the last 500 years. This federalism is a foolish idea for the problem it addresses is not the people’s problem but the problem of the politicians who are currently lording it over them. Instead of the people, it is the local politicians who will gain more control over the power structure, and the class struggle will just merely intensify. Lets pray that Duterte will not allow himself to be used against the Republic.

  9. Joshua Schneider on

    Facts.. pesky little irritating facts. For some reason they just do not want to go away and let liberal politicians and press get on with the job of creating a New World Order.
    The EU was flawed form its very inception. In trying to unite countries of different economic well being, it gave politicians of bankrupt countries the money to continue their wayward spending. Greece is just one of a few that come to mind. In a article written in 2014, Glen Owen tries to understand the mindset of the Elites in Belgium wanting to remove the word “Bankrupt” and replace it with “Debt Adjustment”.
    Another sign of future problems was written in 2010 by writers extolling the lack of leadership in addressing serious problems among the EU. It is well worth the read.
    The facts just do not want to disappear, England, finally unable to come to a political solution put the burden on the voting population which preformed the cut they were morally bankrupt of making. More will follow, and many more articles of lament will be written. Time will give us the answer if England was correct, my tea leaves tell me the exodus is just starting.

    Note to Tatad…. I read you first each morning…. Many thanks for some great articles.


    • Nomer obnamia on

      Britain iwants its sovereignty back to make independent decisions for themselves. So much fear mongering here of the offshoot of separation from EU. Europe is done and bankrupt due to socialism and free entitlements from government causing confiscatory tax rates. Britts are concerned with uncontrolled influx of refugees that threaten security, economy and their way of life. Hurray for the Britts for coming to their senses that EU is the gateway to One World Government that will usher in a one world dictator to rule the world with iron fist. By the way, it will come eventually. European elites love socialism and control.

  10. It seems that the Brexit had come to realized that there is more to it than just leaving the EU. Businessmen are worried because the bulk of their business is with the EU and in England if there is a recessionary retrenchment, the first one to go are foreign workers. I have seen this happens in the US, the first one to go are Filipinos regardless they are US citizens or other wise. What lesson had we learn from this Brexit, with the new administration, Federalism must be examined and studied so that the Filipinos can understand what the real consequence before they go on voting if there is any referendum.

  11. There is nothing to fear if an Independent Mindanao will come out of this archipelago.

    Your baseless fear, personal fear, you won’t get the same constituency that you desire.

    It’s time for a Free Independent Mindanao Republic.

    • Split now. Not later. An Independent Mindanao Republic planned six years from now would allow the current administration to concentrate funds to Mindanao for infra and other investments. This would jeopardize the rest of R.P.

  12. chromaticfrog on

    I think the lesson here is: don’t settle these matters through a public referendum. Most of the people who voted for “leave” didn’t even know what they were getting into, and they were misinformed by Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, along with tabloid newspapers such as the Sun and the Daily Mail. Who can blame them? An ordinary, middle-class voter in the UK doesn’t have the time, the patience, or the knowledge to navigate the complexities of the EU’s economics. Sure, it’s a free and open democratic process. It was also a very stupid move.

    There’s a reason why governments were formed — so that politicians can make the decisions that their constituents are ill-equipped to make.

    Moral: Direct democracy, as a concept, is a bad idea. People don’t necessarily know what’s in their best interests, and their leaders need to make the tough, unpopular decisions that will steer their country clear of danger.

    Apparently, the UK parliament is devoid of such leaders.

    • Nomer obnamia on

      Are you suggesting then people are stupid and leave their basins at the door? Your total reliance on government to make decisions for the people is scary. Politicians are elected to do the will of majority good. As we know, present predicaments of nations around the world are caused by corrupt politicians that you trust to rely on the future of the country. This is the straight road to tyranny and abuse of power. People wake up and be vigilant and hold politicians accountable. Don’t let them stay in office too long to establish their feifdom. Beware of the evil one dressed as politicians. Don’t you ever learn the lessons of history?