The UK referendum on whether to remain or exit the European Union was always going to be a highly emotive, divisive and controversial affair, and it certainly did not disappoint.
The Brexit campaign divided the nation, political parties and businesses with claims and counter claims and campaigns of fear. Topics such as immigration, economic ramifications and national sovereignty played on the minds of many. It was projected to be a very tight contest but Remain camp lingered firmly in the driving seat on referendum day.
However, it was the Exit camp that won the day with 51.9% of the vote with Britons, Europeans and global powers waking up to a new reality that sent shockwaves across the continent.
The value of the Pound against the Dollar see-sawed wildly on the night before settling at lows not witnessed since 1985. The global markets were braced for turmoil and this was even before UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation in a teary speech.
Fluctuations and anxiety in markets are to be expected, after all, we are entering the unknown. The UK has two years to negotiate its exit once it invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Economic uncertainty is topped by a deepening national divide. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted strongly to remain. An exit from the EU, now threatens the very existence of the UK with Scotland very likely to press ahead with a second referendum on independence with view to rejoining the EU.
There is already much talk of a referendum on uniting both parts of Ireland after the Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. Allegiance to the UK will be tested versus desire for EU membership.
This social, political and economic uncertainty will take time to settle. But once the dust eventually settles, it remains unclear exactly what UK is left behind. However, in spite of all the scaremongering, pulling out of the EU is one thing and pulling out of the European continent is another.
The UK has always had a firm and influential place in Europe and this will not change. UK’s long-standing strategic ties with major powers and key global economies is not about to dissipate either as a result of the vote. Existing the EU does not mean that countries such as France or Germany will stop trading with the UK or will not work with UK in key geopolitical and security matters. Nor will it mean an end to the free movement of people.
Putting stringent borders between UK and EU will benefit no side. It just means that the terms of engagement will be different and no party is bound by any common law except mutual interests.
The web of years of EU legislation will naturally take time to untangle and the period of uncertainty is hard to quantify.
But the UK’s decision to leave the EU has as wide ramifications for the EU as it does for the UK. EU leaders have a battle on their hand to ensure that the UK leaving is a solitary fire that they can quickly extinguish. But anti-EU voices are already growing in France, Germany and Denmark. Discontented nationalists are already pushing for referendums of their own.
Now the arduous task of exit negotiations with the EU will begin. As much as the EU will still rely on trade and political ties with UK, they will hardly roll the red carpet for an easy exit either.
The EU will not want to alienate the UK as it will backfire and harm their own interests but it will equally want to make a show of the exit as a warning to all member states. Either way, the EU will never be the same again and is in desperate need to reform and face a tough period of self-reflection.
First Published: Kurdistan 24
Other Publication Sources: Various Misc