Brexit — Why and What Next?
On Thursday, the people of the United Kingdom spoke. Well, the less well educated, the economically vulnerable and the old spoke. In a world not short of contradictions, it is those who are most likely to suffer most from any economic downturn that comes as a result of the turbulence that is undoubtedly ahead who set the UK (or more likely England and Wales) down the path to “independence”.
My Social Media feed has been full of Remainers in dismay, devastation and anger, sharing petitions for another vote, independence for London, plucking numbers out of thin air to point out the market crash (so far, a myth. The FTSE closed higher on Friday than it was ten trading days ago, and almost 10% above its 2016 low point), bemoaning the increased cost of their summer holidays and the prospect of having to queue at passport control on their trips to Paris and beyond.
It seems probable that there will be an impact on the economic strength of the UK. It seems unlikely, for example, that a non-EU car manufacturer would build a car plant in the UK, unless there is unfettered access to the EU trading zone. It would be logical if certain financial institutions shifted activity from London to Dublin, Paris and Frankfurt over the next decade. There will be consequences.
Why is the EU, which has achieved much over its 50 plus years of existence to promote European prosperity, reduce conflict and increase harmony so unpopular? This is not simply a case of the Little Englander; the EU is unpopular in many of the member states. If there were a referendum in France, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and elsewhere, it would be a brave punter who would bet against a repeat of Nigel Farage’s Independence Day.
So why has the Exit movement build up a head of steam?
I think the fundamental reason is simple and profound. The EU and the people responsible for running the EU have forgotten that their responsibility is to enhance the prosperity of the peoples of the EU. The mantra of continued integration, as espoused by successive Presidents of the European Commission, has been treated as an end in itself, not the means to an end. The economically illiterate Euro project is the best example of this obsession with integration and harmonisation. To hell with the unemployment and deprivation caused by the adoption of the single currency by countries that should never had attempted currency union with Germany. All must be sacrificed at the altar of closer union.
Europe has been in relative economic decline for 20 years or more. Challenged by low cost, dynamic economies from Asia to Africa, Europe has seen stagnation in the income levels of what the Americans call the Middle Class.
If the EU and its leadership had focused the energy expended on the adoption and preservation of the Euro on helping the population of Europe to deal with the consequences of this decades long shift, perhaps the populations of the EU would be more prosperous and more content with the development of the EU.
The initial reaction of two key figures the EU since the vote on Thursday have been instructive.
Angela Merkel, democratically accountable to the people of Germany and therefore with a developed sense of the importance of achieving an outcome that is most likely to benefit the electorate of Germany, has stated that we must all work together to ensure that the British exit inflicts as little harm as possible.
Jean-Claude Juncker, on the other hand, seems almost eager to get into a punch up with whoever is going to be leading the UK, even if this leads to an outcome that is worse for everyone in Europe. His sole concern is maintaining the progress of the “European Project”, and to hell with welfare and standards of living.
Lets hope that calmer heads, heads concerned with the welfare of all citizens of Europe, prevail. If Mr Juncker gets his way, I fear his victory will prove to be a pyrrhic one, and we will all be worse off as a result.