We watched in awe, last Friday morning, the moment Britain tied a noose around its neck in front of its family, and called it freedom. It was, indeed, the raving of a teenage boy desperate for attention, not so different in attitude from the Occupy London protests of 2011-2012.
Cameron’s irresponsible political play has cost the UK its geopolitical capital over Europe, and has chopped down yet another leg from the EU. Indeed, with Spain in trouble, only Germany and France can hold together the most successful outcome of an integration process in the world, a project which can hardly be sustained without Europe’s stiff upper lip.
While the counting was ongoing, with about 180 results to declare, the Sterling had already dropped 6%. At 135 results left, it was down 11%. Britain’s pride and glory was already being overthrown by what can only be described as the result of hate, prejudice, misinformation and nationalism.
To leave an integrated bloc is not the same as to never have entered it. What’s in store for the nation that holds the most beautiful political system in the world? Let me tell you.
The first major political event will be Cameron’s resignation. It is unlikely the UKIP or the new Conservative Party will be able to form a government, since the Remain forces and the outraged will probably gather around the Labour Party, but what is certain is that the Tories will be forced out of Downing Street in no time. Perhaps “forced out” is an apologetic way of expressing it, since this monster was of their own making.
A Labour government in Britain, the latter in the process of secluding itself from its neighbours, will have to face a Conservative Party quickly reforming around its more extreme branch, and a UKIP morally empowered by that which is the greatest victory and the ultimate achievement of its political programme. On account of this, Corbyn -presumably- or whoever takes his place after him being hugely discredited, will hold total support from his party to do everything to stay in power. A recipe for populism.
At this point, politically, it will be irrelevant whether the UK stayed or left the EU, Corbyn having been a Eurosceptic himself for many years until recently. He, or any Labour Prime Minister, will push for left-er policies, focusing on pleasing his constituency while attempting to undermine the new UKIP-Tory de facto coalition in Parliament. Populist measures, probably echoed by former siblings such as Spain (with a close election this same week), will increase public spending enormously.
At the same time, British economy is already gasping for air. The pound has kept on falling. Investment has moved to Ireland and Germany while it can, if not to farther targets like Canada, Australia and the USA. The labour force is divided: foreign professionals, most likely with European origins, are being decimated by restructuring and reduction of most firms; low-income workers, probably immigrants, however, are beginning to fear the term of their visas, or have already left a sinking economy to the mainland. While still a more attractive destination than most, Britain is no longer on the shortlist of work able non-European immigrants. The cost of labour, thus, begins to rise as heads are being cut and people willing to perform low-income jobs are leaving; taxes have been rising so as to maintain the populist spending bloated by increasing unemployment, and companies are being drowned in costs… but they see shores, shores as close as on the other side of the Channel, or as far as across the ocean; other markets are suddenly looking like a Fritz girl during Oktoberfest.
Poetic justice dictates, on the other hand, that a lot of people are reconsidering their vote in the last Scottish independence referendum. The EU would no longer punish the separatists, it would do well to welcome them. This is unlikely to happen until the full extent of the damages are realised, since the separatists most likely voted Leave, but new strategies for independence are suddenly opened, waiting for their right time and their right leader. No surprise if Northern Ireland is the first to grab a hold of them. In any event, what we used to know as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will become the Kingdom of England within the next 10 years, with all the medieval ring attached to the title.
The worst aftermath is happening socially. Nationalism has received a glowing golden star to openly discriminate. Immigration being the fuel of the campaign, a victory immediately translates to “we do not need you here, we do not want you here”. Muslims are getting the worse of it, but they are not alone: PIGS’ nationals are a target as well, not to mention African and Latin American immigrants.
But do not make the mistake of doubting for a minute that Britain will not come out jaunty of this rebirth. Oh, it will. Whether as Britain or as England, it will recover, and it will recover fully. Its sphere of influence is not properly diminished, but rather relocated, for UK’s strength relies on its many allies apart from its neighbours. My concern is Europe, because I do not see it recovering so fast or easily from this deluge. Its last hope is to radically change the impering ideology of regulation and protectionism, which means sacrificing some of its comparative advantages for some free market. This also means that, even on the best case scenario, the losing party is Europe. Policies on non-European immigration will need to be reshaped, and tightened; the refugee crisis will heighten as the EU resets its priorities just so it can survive.
Outside the never before so much an island, things are changing too. Marine Le Pen is ecstatic, so is the future conservative government in France. Strasbourg reeks of Euroscepticism, and so do countries with more nationalist tendencies. Netherlands is surely suffering a wave of discrimination. PIGS will remain PIGS, except for those clever enough to receive what Britain has thrown away so readily. The word “referendum” is being whispered all across Europe, louder in some places, and a nightmare begins to take shape: the disembowelment of the EU. Nevertheless, while some hopeful members are beginning to reconsider their application, Turkey is still very much in love with the EU; but the worse thing is that, without its pretty British bride, Europe is seeing Turkey with a new set of eyes, as a heartbroken boyfriend seeks a rebound.
But wait a minute! Oh, right, the economy is still drowning. Before any of this happens, stock exchanges heavily dependent on London will plummet. In the final months of the Great Recession, a heavy blow is received from abroad. The USA is suffering the consequences as well. But, surely, who trades with the USA except everybody? Trumpgate receives some points in his campaign, promising an even bleaker future for the colonies.
In the meantime, China is laughing its guts out. Asian markets have already fallen in the maelstrom, but China cannot care less: if it does not have the means to surpass the storm, it will acquire them soon enough. The War in Crimea can be immediately called as won by the Russians; heavily demoralised by the insurmountable weakness displayed by the EU during this turning point, the Ukrainian pro-Europe movement quickly begins to disappear as snow in spring. Hence, Russia also comes out stronger than ever.
Scared or terrified are not close to being the right words. Europe has been the most conflictive and internally destructive region in history; we do not see this because we did not live it, and we are fed up with wars in the Middle East and coups in Africa, but Europe is a continent which, until barely 70 years ago, had always been at war.
The EU is the most amazing dream ever achieved by politicians. Merely its symbols transpire peace and unity, and the mere allegiance to those symbols is enough to keep the continent together, and merits every sacrifice. People who dread and hate each other, living and rapidly prospering under one flag, is an outstanding and never exalted enough achievement of mankind. To see it defeated so utterly by a nationalist sentiment is a nihilistic reinforcement of a gaunt humanity.
June 24, 2016.
Europe is dead. Long live Europe!