So What Happens Now: After The Brexit

Last night after I got home after my customary relaxing evening reading, I was treated to the sight of many of my friends writing and sharing posts about the Brexit poll.  For those who do not pay attention much to European matters, over the past few weeks there has been a referendum campaign in Great Britain over whether Great Britain should remain in the EU, a referendum that was promised by Prime Minister David Cameron during the most recent parliamentary campaign, and which was likely at least somewhat responsible for his narrow Parliamentary majority.  It soon became apparent that the “Shy Tory” effect was present when what had appeared like a 50-50 split ended up as a less narrow 52-48 victory for those who wished for the UK to leave the EU after a campaign that had involved some tepid support for the EU on the part of many and violent extremism that had led to the death of a pro-EU MP.  The obvious question is, what happens now?  Let us briefly answer that in several different ways.

What Happens Next For David Cameron and the Conservatives:  Prime Minister David Cameron, in light of the defeat of the effort to remain in the EU, has already agreed to step down as Prime Minister before October.  The historic and unprecedented defeat of the European project in Great Britain is likely to have massive ramifications for Cameron personally, as his political career in the limelight is likely over, and it marks a decisive shift to the right for the Conservative Party as a whole, which is looking like it will have a difficulty in holding together its more populist wing and its more European wings given the bitterness of the campaign and the fallout from what is likely to happen as the UK tries to sever its connections with the EU, a process that is likely to be a messy and ugly divorce.

What Happens Next For The UK:  Not very long ago, Scotland narrowly remained in the UK in a referendum about whether it should seek independence.  Given the wide degree of support for the EU among Scots, it appears that a large part of the decisive margin of support for remaining in the UK was the threat that Scotland would not be able to remain in the EU if it separated from the UK.  But given the large degree of support for the Scottish National Party (a very pro-EU party) within Scotland, and the fact that the UK is leaving the EU anyway, it seems that Scotland is likely to try its hand again at leaving the UK, with the aim of pulling a “West Virginia [1]” and remaining loyal to the European Union while splitting from England to the south.  Besides dealing with its own devolution mess, and with the flight of capital as businesses relocate their European offices to other countries in order to remain in the EU themselves, and with the decline of the pound as a result of the uncertainty and expense of legal separation, the UK faces a lonely road ahead as it seeks to convince nations to do one-on-one Free Trade Agreements with it now that it will no longer be covered by the agreements of the EU, and with the fact that it will likely separate from the common European customs zone as well.

What Happens Next For The EU:  Not since Greenland left the European Community in the early 1980’s has a nation left the European project upon entering it.  Article 50, the article for departing the EU, has never been tested before, and this is likely to be a messy and contentious affair.  Many fingers will be pointed and many tongues will wag, and there will be a lot of expenses and laws written and resolutions made and negotiations undertaken as the UK slowly winds up its involvement in the EU.  On a larger scale, this could prompt a crisis of legitimacy for the EU as a whole, as its efforts to maintain price security and curb state indebtedness is likely to suffer when nations are able to leave whenever conditions are at a point where they make domestic voters unhappy.  Whether this stops new nations from wanting to join the EU or not, or stops the EU from welcoming new nations in Eastern and Southern Europe, is not yet clear, but at any rate, the EU will likely want to punish the UK to set an example so that other possibly restive nations do not attempt the same action themselves, and they are likely to accept a Scottish bid to remain in the EU just to spite England and aid in its own devolution.

What It Means For Everyone Else:  The UK was not an ideal fit for the EU anyway.  With its own strong ties to its Commonwealth, and with its reluctance to part with key elements of national sovereignty, and with its concerns over the “democratic deficit” among the bureaucrats in Brussels and other places, the UK was a reluctant marriage partner for the EU to begin with.  This messy divorce is likely to be a geopolitical lesson in what happens when people reluctantly join a union on the strength of promises made by a party about the way things are going to be.  If you are not really committed to union in the full “till death do us part” or “for better or worse” way, you should not enter into it, since promises in the dark are not likely to look as good in the harsh light of day.  This lesson applies to states engaged in nation-building projects [2] just as it does to people looking forward to marriage or business partnerships.  Let this be a lesson for us all.

[1] In 1861, Virginia seceded from the Union after the call for soldiers to suppress the rebellion of the Deep South after the Battle of Fort Sumter.  In turn, the westernmost Piedmont and Appalachian counties of Virginia, which had long resented the power of slaveowning elites, seceded from Virginia and remained loyal to the Union.

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, International Relations, Musings and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to So What Happens Now: After The Brexit

  1. Pingback: The Unexpected Triumph Of Arcadia | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Never Split The Difference | Edge Induced Cohesion

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