A Watershed Vote

Deputy Chief Editor
A Watershed VoteA Watershed Vote

June 23, 2016 will go down in the history of the United Kingdom as the day when decades of deep distortions, divisions and differences in and among its people were laid barefor the world to see. For all practical purposes the empire has diminished and unraveled of its own accord as Great Britain eventually becomes a small kingdomending its difficult partnership with the EU after 43 years.

Few if any know whether Britain would be able to endure and hang around as one nation as it is known today. The ripple effects of the vote was visible even before the final results were known. The Scots and the Irish, despite voting strongly to stick to the EU, soon said they have new and much different ideas and want to put a permanent end to the broken marriage with Her Majesty’s rule from Westminster.

The much talked about referendum on staying in the European Union is now over. The so-called Brexiters won, albeit by a razor-thin margin.  To the shock and dismay of many in the country and their peers in the EU, 52% of the voting population opted out of a club they so passionately rejected as the “huge, dysfunctional and bloated bureaucracy” that is “failing and dying.”

On the other side, the ‘Remain’ camp fought and lost what it ardently defended as an institution that gives (gave) the island nation “power, influence  and leverage” on the complex and chaotic world scene. The ‘In’ bloc was shy of 4% of the votes cast and lost the historic battle for the seemingly ringside seat in Brussels.  Even with 48% of the vote, the bloc suffered a stunning blow with no consolation prize!

Good or bad for the people of Britain is not for this column to discover.  What is, and should be, worthy of attention is the coming weeks and months when the naysayers  who won will have to come up with what they insist is practical solutions to practical problems of their country long suffering under the yoke of the  EU bureaucracy.

As Friday’s vote so resoundingly demonstrated, Britain is more divided today than it was at any time in its modern history. The deep tectonic shifts are apparent all the way from how to safeguard the UK’s independence and past glory, to finding ways to stop the “invasion” of immigrants, in particular from East Europe.

Add to this the fear and fury of millions of Brits at the lower end of the economic ladder trapped in the throes of poverty and the hollow promises of their leaders that patience is the name of the game and things will be better tomorrow  -- a tomorrow that never came!

For years the embattled David Cameron, who very soon will become a former prime minister, hardly lost an opportunity in tearing the EU leadership to smithereens. He was regularly pushing for big concessions, special treatment and higher status for the island to be able to remain in the union that already was displaying monumental signs of fractures and fragmentation on a whole lot of crucial issues.  

The fundamental problem of the union was, is, and will be how to fix the shattered economies of most, if not all, of the EU member states buried deep under the debris of debt and living on borrowed money for too long.

The key question that comes up is what next?

It can and should be said with absolute certainty that the vote has created more questions than answers. What role for the UK in the so-called globalized village? How will the country maintain its future economic and political relations with the world that it had become used to imposing power and pressure on for centuries? Will London be taken seriously in the halls of global power and prestige, especially when it comes to addressing the deep challenges vis-à-vis the universal economic paralysis, restoring international peace and stability and fighting terror?

The rejoicing, partying and jubilation of the Leave camp will be over soon and then a whole new era of uncertainty will emerge that could well be a tight slap on the face of all those euroskeptics who wasted no time in telling the voters that British interests will be better served outside the European Union and not in the club's cumbersome laws.

For better or worse the institution of the EU has unraveled suddenlywith huge implications for the now 27-nation bloc, albeit if it remains as a bloc. Ultra-nationalists and the extreme political fringes of the member states are already up in arms. They are demanding similar referendums the outcome and consequences of which are not difficult to imagine.

Can the European Union hold itself together and weather the economic, political and trade storm thrust this week on Brussels by the full force of the UK decision to part ways? Will the union continue on the broken path and be consigned to history or will it pool minds and rush to the much-needed reform trajectory?

And finally, will the architects of the controversial monetary union, tumultuous single market and contentious free trade stand up and admit that the neo-liberal economic agenda of the world's biggest trading blochas failed in more ways than one?