Brexit: Consequences of the UK leaving the EU

By @chelean on
A Brexit supporter holds a Union Flag at a Vote Leave rally in London, Britain, June 4, 2016. Reuters/Neil Hall

Following the United Kingdom’s vote on leaving the European Union in June, there had been growing fear that other EU member countries would follow the lead. While the noise has somehow reduced, the uncertainty of UK’s future with its neighbouring countries is still a growing concern.

The BBC has sounded the alarm in June that anti-EU political parties from four other nations —  France, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark — have begun to lobby for their own referendums, which will put the same test to their constituents: “Should we stay in the EU or leave?” Italy’s 5-star Movement and France’s National Front have both charged that the EU is decaying and no longer serving their countries’ needs. Two-thirds of Netherlands’ voters dismissed the EU’s proposal for closer political and economic relations with Ukraine. Denmark also has issues with certain reforms that the EU is proposing, and its more conservative leaders are advocating separation should these issues not be resolved.

Denmark’s departure can be another game-changer; if it holds a referendum, there is a strong chance that Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries, with whom it shares a long history of collaboration and support, will follow suit.

Meanwhile, pro-EU parties and politicians in the region are trying to contain the damage, brace their people for any adverse impact, and prevent their own version of Brexit in spreading among their respective countries. According to the Financial Times, French president Francois Hollande was adamant that the consequences of any exit should not be swept under the rug, if only to serve as a warning to any other EU member contemplating their own withdrawal.

Other leading EU members like Germany are re-evaluating their positions on contentious issues like border control, security and foreign policy to woo the remaining members into staying. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already said that her country now bears a larger responsibility to see to it that the EU succeeds in light of Britain’s departure; the triumvirate of UK, France and Germany historically have been the lynchpin that had held the EU together.

The issue of each country’s eventual decision to stay or go becomes more complicated once one takes a look at the underlying cultural and historical underpinnings that have created the EU, and which have motivated the member states to join a long time ago. These underpinnings might also be experiencing their own inner change that can influence the decision of the electorate should a national referendum be held.

As Pavel Seifter observed in The Guardian, “Europe is different things to different people and different nations. For continental Europeans, it is at once a geographical, historical and cultural home — which it has never been to Britain — and at the same time a political and economic project they have been involved in together — some more, some less, some longer, some more recently.”

Underneath the hair-trigger modern issues that face each voter — economic recession, terrorism, and the influx of immigrants from war-torn areas, for example — are very sensitive and yet no less powerful emotions that are rooted in history, culture, and tradition. Seifter pointed out that Brexit was agonising because other countries saw the aforementioned “Big Three” as the unofficial leaders of the EU for the longest time. The EU was born decades ago to create a prosperous new continent that would ease travel and trade while instilling among their peoples a distinct regional pride; together, the nations could also ward off acts of aggression from threats.

However, the demands of the times might have caused a loosening of the bolts that held the EU together, continued Seifter. “Solidarity and community” may no longer be valued as before. When Italy asked for help about the wave of immigrants flooding its borders, the Eastern European members practically washed their hands off the affair. At the same time, Netherlands passed the burden on the potential Ukraine treaty to the Eastern Europeans.

The situation is volatile, and Seifter has called for sobriety. He urges each citizen of each EU member-state: “It feels as if we are facing a crisis of governance. At a popular level, the bad mood is turning into anger, and anger is looking for targets. The latest target in Europe is Europe itself and its establishment, the union.”

Not surprisingly, observers, industry leaders, political figures and all others who have a stake in what’s happening in Europe watch, read or click on the news regularly. This time, perhaps to make sense of Brexit and its consequences, they do not confine themselves anymore to a mere enumeration of facts and figures. Analysis, context, and multi-perspective discussions are becoming popular again.

“Events today happen in the blink of an eye, and all of us must be informed, regardless of which part of the world we are staying or working. Globalisation has made indifference and distance impossible and inadvisable,” said Dominique Einhorn, founder of M6 Limited, which created the business and finance news app Born2Invest. Since its inception, thousands of company executives, entrepreneurs, investors and decision-makers click on the app every day to update themselves on global trends and economic developments that can impact their enterprises and livelihood.

Einhorn added, “We curate the news from reputable international news agencies as soon as they happen. While making the bite-sized information accessible and readable, our writers do go to the heart of each story to give our readers the essence of this particular event, and how it may possibly influence them. Our home-grown journalists, based in major locations around the world, also put in the local spin and give the stories further relevance. Our kind of news is not simply information that you just read. It engages you, makes you think, and guides your decision.”

Pragmatic, well-thought-out and solid thinking is needed in times like these of global and economic volatility. The world can only watch and wait as events unfold in Europe. With the unexpected new norm following Brexit, a more dispassionate and critical attitude — grounded on the facts and the recognition of the consequences of each decision — just might be the compass that can help navigate everyone to safer, calmer waters.