"May you live in interesting times" is an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse, probably meaning that our time is more fraught with insecurity than ever. Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) or Brexit will be the starting point for what can be safely predicted as interesting times!
The political turmoil was predictable after the people of Britain voted in a historic referendum on June 23. There were jubilant celebrations among Eurosceptics, but Brexit sent shockwaves through the global economy. After the result, the pound fell to its lowest level since 1985 and David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister on June 24.
Now, the rest of the EU is pushing Britain to leave immediately, but it seems as if it can’t force the pace. After all, the country has to get someone to succeed Cameron, at which point it could embark on its two-year political divorce from the EU. And there will be numerous issues other than economic and political to sort out, like what will happen to Britain’s expats living in European countries such as Spain, and European footballers playing in the UK.
Perhaps the biggest concern could be what will happen to immigration when Britain leaves the EU? Eurosceptics have maintained that Brexit will allow Britain to take back control of its borders in order to curb immigration and increase security. Britain will no longer have to accept ‘free movement of people’ from Europe, which Brexiteers say puts pressure on public services such as the NHS and schools.
But the Remain campaign believes that Brexit will hit the British economy, which relies on the free movement of EU migrant workers such as health professionals. Some Europhiles have also said that Brexit will compromise the UK’s ability to fight cross-border crime and terrorism.
What is also feared is an exit domino effect in a number of countries – referendums, and eventually a quite small EU or no EU. It could also lead to a re-think throughout the EU and a real effort to do things differently – but unlikely given the EU is already in crisis and lacks visionaries among the bureaucracy that runs it.
What does all this signify? Democracy works – and it doesn’t. The referendum instrument is an utterly democratic method – as Switzerland continues to prove to the world. But then, is it wise that such an important decision be made with such a small majority? Wouldn’t it have been reasonable to demand, say, a two-third majority for Leave? How can over 48 per cent who wanted to Remain be ignored? But, anyhow, nobody trusts politicians nowadays and perhaps the effects will be smaller than most fear today.
Be sure that Brexit will be remembered as a turning point. And be sure that, while we do not know what will happen after Brexit, it’s not a message of good things to come for the already crumbling, vision-losing world. Arrogant corporate and other elites continuously enriching themselves against all common social sense and ignoring the legitimate needs and concerns of ordinary people won’t do any good.