The UK referendum on EU membership was always going to be a tenuous and divisive affair whose impact would echo well beyond these shores.
European and world leaders woke up to a new reality on Friday as the exit camp won the day against polling projections. Fluctuations in the Pound were as wild as predictions ahead of the final vote. It was a tight race that threatens to intensify the deepening divisions within the UK.
51.9% may have voted for an exit but the 48.1% that wanted to remain can hardly be ignored. Nor can the stark regional variations to the vote. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted resoundingly to remain clouding the long-term future of the UK.
Scotland will almost certainly hold a new independence referendum and Northern Ireland may well face sociopolitical uncertainty with calls for a referendum to unite both parts of Ireland.
The exit vote is a test of the strength of the union. Will the allegiance to the union overpower the desire to be part of the EU?
UK exit means stepping in to the unknown and thus global markets were always braced for turmoil in case of an exit. It will take many years for the dust to settle and for the full economic and political effects to be known.
However, exit of the EU does not mean that the UK is no longer influential on the European or global stage. The UK had a prominent economic and strategic role long before the EU was established and in spite of scaremongering, the EU powers are not about to alienate the UK and sacrifice the trade links that are vital for each side.
At the same time, UK will continue to have a strong voice in geopolitical and security matters. In other words, the end of a formal union does not mean the end of long-standing alliances with many of these member states, even if the UK always had somewhat of a Eurosceptic view and a strong desire for sovereignty.
UK trade ties with US and other major economies will not suddenly evaporate even if the terms of such agreements will naturally have to be reviewed and renegotiated.
As questions are asked of the future of the UK, there is equal spotlight on the future of the EU. Is a UK exit a one-off fire that will quickly disappear, or does the exit mark intrinsic problems with the very fabric of the EU that must be addressed before it leads its wider unravelling?
A period of self-reflection is needed as much for the EU as the UK. Nationalist and disenchanted voices in France, Germany and beyond are already calling for referendums of their own. This is a test for the future of the EU as much as the UK.
First Published: Kurdish Globe
Other Publication Sources: Various Misc