The world was shaken by Britain on Friday, 23 June, 2016, when it was revealed that the country voted to leave the European Union. So close was the final votes tally and so polarising the debate, people are still arguing over it on internet message boards and television screens. Here are the four main talking points.
On 23 June, 2016, Britain voted on a referendum that was simple on paper. Each voter had two options to choose from: remain in the European Union or to leave it. In the lead up to the event, much of the media denounced the ‘Leave’ option, saying how stupid it would be for Britain and the world and everyone else in between.
However, the voters shocked the world. In a 52-48 ruling, the ‘Leave’ voters won, sending markets around the world into a tizzy and the British Sterling into a plummet. Now, even after we’ve had a weekend to settle our nerves, both sides of the fence are shouting abuses at each other. Here are a few points of contention:
1. The bigger debate of globalism versus nationalism
In Britain, like it is happening in the US with the rise of Donald Trump, the bigger debate is between the liberal ideas of globalism and ‘free borders’ versus the conservative views of nationalism and ‘nation first’. This has driven a divide between the young and old in Britain, according to most surveys, with the younger people favouring globalism and the older ones opting for nationalism. Both ideas have merit, and they find favour with the majority in historical cycles. This cycle, as the vote has proved in Britain, perhaps belongs to nationalists. The bigger vote is yet to come in November, when the US goes to Presidential polls.
2. Will it be good or bad for Britain?
Leaving the EU has both good and bad consequences for Britain. On the good side, they can take care of their own country without having to toe the party line at the EU with policies such as immigration and debt deficits. They can make their own legislation, and chart their own country’s history. On the bad side, they will lose the cushion of being part of a club that will have their back in case something bad happens. Nobody really knows whether this will be good or bad, mainly because neither camp has access to a particularly good crystal ball.
3. Will the EU and the UK break down?
It looks like many of the strong countries in the EU now have a precedence to break away from the club and forge their own paths. There is also a possibility that the UK will break down, because Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to remain in the EU. With Britain exiting, Scotland has already called for an exit from the UK in order to remain with the other European nations. Future years will determine how many of the European countries will defect, and whether or not the UK survives in its current form.
4. What about Britain’s political future?
Immediately after the Brexit vote’s results were announced, Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, throwing Britain’s immediate political future into turmoil. There will be a new Prime Minister by October from the Conservative party, and there are already talks about a second referendum that has already gained millions of signatures. Whatever is in the future is likely to be slow, grinding and painful.
So while no one knows what exactly is going to happen, we can safely conclude that this has thrown Europe into a time of uncertainty and a slow period of painful reform.