“See EU Later!” – front page headline in The Sun.
“No one was hurt. But still a revolution that will lead to profound change.” (BBC Assistant Political Editor, Norman Smith).
The most important election this year has already taken place. No, I haven’t forgotten the one in November that has still to take place here in the United States. Nor am I overlooking the election in Australia next week.
The referendum in the United Kingdom on membership of the European Union was a once in a lifetime vote that will actually lead to significant change, something that normally doesn’t follow a general election.
The British people voted yesterday to leave the European Union. Or, rather, 52% of those who voted, opted to “Leave;” 48% voted to “Remain.” Even that does not reveal the whole story – London and Scotland voted to “Remain.” The English voted overwhelmingly to leave. London, a city which, at best, is only 50% ethnic English, voted to remain.
The pace of change that is taking place right now is staggering. Britain is OUT; so is David Cameron, who resigned this morning; it’s only a year since he led the Conservative Party to a surprise win in the last election. It’s less than two years since the Union with Scotland was secured in the Scottish referendum. Scotland voted yesterday to stay in the EU. The First Minister of Scotland is now insisting that Scots be given another opportunity to vote on leaving the UK. What a change in just a few months!
Even the Leader of the Opposition Labor Party may choose to resign – while he supported continued membership of the EU, the party’s supporters did not.
London’s first Muslim Mayor is even talking of the capital city somehow maintaining a special relationship with Europe.
The prospect of the United Kingdom breaking up is a serious one. Only England (outside of London) and Wales voted to “Leave.” Even Gibraltar, the first British territory to vote, voted overwhelmingly to “Remain” – the Spanish Prime Minister, seizing an opportunity, is now calling for joint British and Spanish control of the peninsula.
Meanwhile, there is turmoil on the international financial markets, which will likely continue until some sort of an agreement is reached between the UK and EU, reassuring markets.
It’s a big mess all round!
- Changes could come to the EU. Other nations may withdraw, forcing change on those that remain. Financially, the European Union received a lot of money from the UK. This spigot will be cut off. To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, the EU has finally run out of other peoples’ money!
- The future of the European Union itself is also uncertain. One thing is absolutely clear – the bureaucrats who control the Union are out of touch with the common people. Demands from the people of other countries for their own referendum will increase. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, is calling for a quick resolution of uncertainty, hoping to stop any contagion. Anti-Establishment revolutions, even non-violent ones, have a habit of spreading from one country to another – 1989 is a recent example; 1918 and 1848 are two others.
- Scotland is more likely to leave the United Kingdom, taking England and Wales back to the seventeenth century. Northern Ireland’s future is also uncertain.
- Germany will emerge from this as a more powerful force in Europe. This was one concern some British people had. Ironically, by voting to leave, they will have helped strengthen Germany as the dominant power in Europe. As the EU progresses, fulfilling its goal of an “ever closer union”, it will inevitably mean a greater role for Berlin.
- The referendum was an anti-Establishment vote. For 43 years the British people have lived under the growing authority of the bureaucratic socialist super-state that is the EU, having to comply with thousands of dictates they did not want. Some people have done very well out of the EU. Prominent Brits have jumped aboard the European gravy train and done very well out of it, with high salaries and an even higher expense account. There has been little or no accountability.
- The vote was a vote against globalization. The driving force in western thinking, since World War II, has been globalization. Multiculturalism, free trade deals, massive numbers of immigrants, have all profoundly changed the western world; yesterday’s vote was the first big sign that the people are hitting back. Half the people (actually a little over half) feel that they are missing out and don’t like the way things are going. That’s true in other countries as well as the UK.
- Migration was a major issue. People don’t like the sheer numbers of Syrians, Iraqis, Poles, Bulgarians, Rumanians, Pakistanis, etc that now live in Britain. The new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, a Muslim whose family migrated from Pakistan, sensing this significant change in national thinking, campaigned against a Brexit and now wants London to continue an association with Europe.
In this context, it’s interesting to note the prophet Daniel’s observation about the interracial condition of the ancient Roman Empire and of its modern-day successor founded by the Treaty of Rome:
“42 And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. 43 As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.” (Daniel 2:42-43). Whereas America was a melting pot, the European Union was a union of 28 different nations and cultures, each with its own languages and customs. Mixing was never going to be as successful as in the United States.
- Yesterday’s vote could start a populist movement – even the US may follow in November. Presidential candidate Donald Trump, on a private visit to Scotland, said this morning that Brexit is a good thing: “the British have gotten their country back.” Brexiters have a lot in common with Trump, who may capture the mood of Americans in the same way. Hillary Clinton supported the “Remain’ campaign but was out of touch with the people. (There was no reason for her to get involved in the first place.) President Obama warned on a recent visit to the UK that if the country left the EU it would go to the “back of the queue” (a British term) to wait for a new trade deal with the US. Trump today said that will not happen if he becomes president, that the UK has been a close ally of the US for decades and deserves better than that.
Note the following comment on Twitter from Michael Moore, leftist documentary filmmaker who lives in Flint, Michigan: “Hail Trumptannia! Fear wins out in UK. Britain votes to “build a ‘wall’” by leaving EU. Hatred of immigrants, xenophobia, nationalism reign. Fellow Americans – we’re up next!” This is a typical comment from the not-so-intellectual elite, who insult the voters when they lose! Expect more of the same from the EU as well as the US.
- However, financial concerns are justified. The pound dropped 10% in hours, even before the final tally was realized (trading continued in the Far East due to the time difference) and stock markets are in freefall. But this was to be expected. It should soon calm down. The Emperor Napoleon once dismissed the English as “a nation of shopkeepers”, a quote from Adam Smith in “The Wealth of Nations.” But this will only help Britain – Germany sells 20% of its cars to the UK, they will not want to lose that market.
- The vote for Brexit will have an international effect as well as a domestic one. Relations between the EU and Russia may change. The Mayor of Moscow today said that without Britain, the EU will be less likely to continue economic sanctions on the country.
Today we are witnessing a seismic shift in world history. We don’t see those every day. What we are seeing is England waking up to the consequences of globalism. Others will follow. But, the world has changed in the last 43 years. Whereas the UK was a constant in the pre-EU world, it no longer is. The EU offers Scotland and Ireland a viable alternative. The Brexit could mean the end of the United Kingdom. British historian Paul Johnson wrote in his 1972 book “The Offshore Islanders,” written between Britain’s application to join Europe and its actual membership, that disunity has always been fatal to the offshore islanders (the British). The country has not been this divided in centuries and will likely see further division ahead.
Europe has already meant the end of David Cameron, who joins his two Conservative predecessors, John Major and Margaret Thatcher, in being brought down by divisions over Europe. Whoever replaces him as prime minister will have to try and unite the party and the country at a very difficult time in history.
At the same time, there is going to be a lot of lingering bad feelings, in both British major parties and between the UK and the rest of Europe. Mr. Juncker has just announced an emergency meeting of the other 27 leaders of the EU, to take place on Wednesday. We will soon see what the EU has in mind for a Europe without the UK.