Tag Archives: UK referendum on EU

An American “Brexit” revolt? Not likely

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” — H.L. Mencken

 

Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party Nigel Farage holds a placard as he launches his party's EU referendum tour bus in London, Britain May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party Nigel Farage holds a placard as he launches his party’s EU referendum tour bus in London, Britain May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
June 25, 2016

The recriminations have started already.

Neil Farage, the leader of Britain’s racist, nationalist UKIP party, and one of the main leaders in Britain’s vote on Thursday to leave the European Union, admitted Friday morning that the claim by Leave supporters that Britain’s National Health Service would be given an extra 350 million pounds a week, that normally would go to the EU, was a “mistake” and “should never have been said.”

No kidding.

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Meanwhile, the pound dropped more in one day than it has in almost 40 years, and British investments lost more than $350 billion pounds, which as one member of the European parliament from Belgium noted, was more than England had given to the EU in the last 15 years. Major banks from other European countries and the US, with  headquarters in London, are saying they will move to Germany.

Perhaps all this was best summed up by a British woman from a small town in England who had voted for the Leave side, and the morning after the vote, seeing the carnage, said “If I had only known what would happen, I would have voted to remain.”

Indeed.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the hyperventilating US media was finding umpteen different ways to say “It could happen here.” After all, we have a racist nationalist here, in Donald Trump, and a lot of angry white voters, many  poorly educated, as were the majority of Leave voters in England. Fears about immigration, border security and elites cheating us all are also here. It’s the same toxic stew, many commentators said.

This American media chorus is wrong. In typical fashion, they have overreacted to the headline of the day and, rather than taking time for thought, forged forward with guns blazing to paint a scenario in the US similar to England’s.

Yes, for sure, some of the same elements that lead to England’s Leave vote are present in America. But there are many more fundamental differences that make it very, very difficult for a similar result (ie; Donald Trump winning the presidency) to occur stateside.

Number one is that the United States is a much more diverse country, its diverse population much more a part of everyday life than are non-British immigrants in England. (Non-Hispanic whites make up about 62% of the US population. In England, whites are 85% of the population.)

One great example is America’s Muslim population. Muslims are as likely as other Americans to have a household income of over $100,000 a year. In the US, there is no one particular kind of Islam – no one version of the faith dominates. As the Economist reported in 2014, about 15% of American Muslims are married to a spouse from another faith, higher than the intermarriage rate for American Jews at a similar time in their history, and higher than present day Mormons.

Hispanics are few in England, yet play a huge role in the US. And despite his claims that he will do “great with the Hispanics” in the general election, Donald Trump is losing the Hispanic vote in historic proportions. The Hispanic vote will be a key factor in many southwestern and even some mid-western states in the fall presidential election.

(Hillary Clinton is leading Trump in Arizona [a state that went for Mitt Romney in 2012 by 9 points], and is doing very well in several other very GOP states, such as Utah and Georgia.)

Then there are women. According to the latest polls, 70% of American women have an unfavorable view of Trump. In May, polls showed a 22-point gap between Clinton and Trump. Clinton also has a big gap with men, but since women vote in significantly higher numbers then men do, this should worry him.

There are other factors at play. The Leave proponents ran a very good campaign while the Remain side was  chaotic and did not do a good job explaining why the United Kingdom needed to stay in Europe. (This may explain why so many Brits on the morning after the vote Googled, in their millions, ‘What does leaving the EU mean for England?’)

It’s a much different story in the US. Trump, as Ian Bremmer, the founder of the international political consulting firm Eurasia put it, “still has no money, no campaign infrastructure, and Republicans are still only tepidly supporting him.”

(A Republican convention delegate from Virginia announced on Friday that he is suing for the right not to have to support Trump on the first ballot because “He is unfit to be president.”)

Other differing factors include the way America votes (remember, the president is elected by the Electoral College and not by direct popular vote), the chances that Trump will continue to shoot himself in the foot, strong Democratic voices like the very popular trio of Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, and that the general election is still five months away. The American voting public can barely remember what happened last week, let alone five months in the past. (This will also give the Americans who do pay attention five whole months to watch the catastrophe for England unfold, which may many Trump supporters second thoughts.)

All this is not to say that Democrats have it in the bag. The general fall American election will still be close. Fear is a strong motivating factor, and Trump is great at making people feel afraid. Another terrorist incident, or if Hillary Clinton were to be charged in the controversy over her private email server while secretary of state, and many other things, could change everything.

The point remains, however, that comparing the results and causes of the Brexit vote with America’s situation may give talking heads on cable news something to chatter about, but Brexit and the fall U.S. election are entirely different.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

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Related stories on F&O:

‘Explosive shock’ as Britain votes to leave EU, Cameron quits, by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton  Report

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Britain has voted to leave the European Union, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity.

Brexit Factbox: Who, where, when why – and what next, by Alastair MacDonald, Report

In England’s Mean and Truculent Land, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O International Affairs columnist

Britain’s departure from the EU will be a journey across new territory full of terrors and treacherous terrain. Among the many stupidities in Cameron’s management of the referendum was allowing a simple majority for victory.

~~~

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

 ~~~

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Brexit Factbox: Who, where, when why – and what next

Nigel Farage (front), the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) reacts with supporters, following the result of the EU referendum, outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Nigel Farage (front), the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) reacts with supporters, following the result of the EU referendum, outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By Alastair Macdonald 
June 24, 2016

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britons voted in a referendum on Thursday to leave the European Union. Following are answers to key questions on what will happen next in Britain’s relations with the bloc:

1. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Vote Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson speaks at the group's headquarters in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

Vote Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson speaks at the group’s headquarters in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

The EU is in shock and entering uncharted territory. No member state has ever left and Article 50 of the EU treaty, which sets out how a state can exit the bloc, offers little detail. Although it provides a sketchy legal framework for a two-year period of withdrawal (see below), many believe it will take longer to establish a new trading relationship between Britain and the EU and some fear the process will become bitter, disrupting the economy and European affairs across the board.

Cameron has said he will resign by October and leave it to his successor as leader of the Conservative party to notify the Union that Britain is leaving by invoking Article 50. That will set that two-year clock ticking and the EU itself cannot, officials believe, trigger the process itself. Some in the EU want the process to start more quickly, even as soon as Cameron briefs EU leaders at a summit on Tuesday, and are concerned about suggestions from Brexit campaigners that they might prefer to open new negotiations before triggering Article 50. Cameron’s potential successor Boris Johnson said he saw no reason to start the process and that nothing need change in the short term.

A deal Cameron struck with EU leaders in February to curb immigration, protect London finance interests from the euro zone and opt out of “ever closer union” has been killed by the referendum result and EU leaders have ruled out new talks on a different form of British EU membership – “Leave means leave”.

Many want a quick, two-year divorce while negotiating terms for a future, arms-length relationship may take much longer. However, Germany in particular is keen to see as orderly a transition as possible to a new relationship. That might involve Article 50 negotiations, which the treaty says should “take account” of the new EU-UK relationship, being extended beyond two years to allow time for a broader deal. Such an extension requires the consent of all 28 member states, and reaching that unanimity could be problematic. Nonetheless, EU lawyers and politicians are renowned for their ingenuity. One EU official said that a divorce treaty requiring only a majority vote might be agreed within two years but to take effect only once a second treaty establishing a new relationship was finally concluded.

There are a number of options open to Britain, including to maintain its access to EU markets in the manner of Switzerland and Norway — although EU leaders have said the price for that could be allowing free EU migration and accepting other EU rules that British voters have just rejected in the referendum.

If no treaty is agreed, EU law simply ceases to apply to Britain two years after it gives formal notice it is leaving.

Until a departure treaty is signed – which requires assent from Britain and a majority of the remaining 27 states weighted by population – Britain remains, in principle, a full member of the EU but will be excluded from discussions affecting its exit terms. In practice, many expect British ministers and lawmakers to be rapidly frozen out of much of the Union’s affairs.

Some Brexit campaigners have also said Britain should act more quickly, for example to stop funding the EU budget or curb immigration from EU states. That could provoke EU reprisals.

“The Article 50 process is a divorce: who gets the house, who gets the kids, who gets the bank accounts,” a senior EU official said, referring to priorities such as settling the EU budget and the status of Britons living in other EU states and of EU citizens in Britain – several million people in total.

Failing to stick to Article 50 would be “messy divorce territory”, the official told Reuters: “It is spouses, instead of working through lawyers, throwing dishes at each other.”

An array of laws and EU entitlements will cease to apply to British business and citizens, creating what Brexit campaigners say will be opportunities for more growth and more selective immigration but which Cameron has said will do long-term damage to the economy and Britain’s global influence.

New trade barriers would hurt both sides’ economies. But many EU leaders fear that a political “domino effect” of other countries voting to quit the bloc would cost more long-term.

2. WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

EU leaders and the heads of EU institutions in Brussels have delivered statements that broadly stress a mantra of Three Rs: Regret – at losing nearly a fifth of the EU economy and more of its military and global clout; Respect – for the will of the British people; and Resolve – to keep the other 27 together. They also reminded Britain that it remains a full member for the time being, with all the rights and obligations that entails.

Foreign ministers are meeting all day in Luxembourg.

Foreign ministers of the bloc’s six founders, Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux trio, meet in Berlin on Saturday. EU “sherpa” advisers to the leaders meet in Brussels at 2:30 p.m. (1230 GMT) on Sunday, when a Spanish general election will also affect EU business. On Monday, EU summit chair Donald Tusk and French President Francois Hollande will meet in Paris and then travel to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who leads the EU’s executive Commission which will negotiate the details of a deal with Britain, plans a meeting of its college of 28 national commissioners for Monday.

Britain’s commissioner, close Cameron ally Jonathan Hill, faces being stripped of his sensitive portfolio overseeing banks and financial services. He may choose to resign. That would allow a new British premier to appoint someone else to the Commission, albeit for a limited period until Britain leaves.

EU leaders meet in Brussels for a 24-hour summit starting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. EU officials expect Cameron to report on the vote and what Britain will do next, then go home that evening. Tusk will then chair a meeting of the remaining 27, a format that will become familiar in the coming years of divorce talks.

Leaders may agree to meet again in July.

3. WHAT IS ARTICLE 50?

This 261-word section of the Lisbon Treaty has the following key phrases:

– A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention … The Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union.

– It shall be concluded … by the Council, acting by a qualified majority.

– The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification … unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

– The member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions … or in decisions concerning it.

4. WHERE DOES THE EU GO FROM HERE?

The Union needs quickly to fill a 7-billion-euro hole in its 145-billion-euro annual budget, which is currently fixed out to 2020, as it loses Britain’s contributions while saving on what Britons receive from EU accounts.

The EU will also want to clarify as quickly as possible the status of firms and individuals currently using their EU rights to trade, work and live on either side of a new UK-EU frontier.

Britain is expected to give up its six-month presidency of EU ministerial councils, due to start in July next year. Its place may be filled by Estonia or, possibly, Malta or Croatia.

EU leaders may push for a quick show of unity on holding the bloc together in the face of eurosceptics inspired by the result in Britain — including National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who leads polls for next April’s French presidential election. But there is little prospect of major new projects.

Divisions between Berlin and Paris on managing the euro zone probably rule out a big move on that front before both hold elections in 2017. A major EU security and foreign policy review is already on the summit agenda as is a new push to tighten control on irregular immigration from Africa.

Many leaders caution against alienating voters by moving too fast on integration, which they say has alienated voters. Summit chair Tusk wants to launch a formal process of reflection on where the Union has failed to connect with people.

5. SO WHAT CHANGES?

In principle, nothing changes immediately. Britons remain EU citizens and business continues as before. In practice, many believe trade, investment and political decisions will quickly anticipate British departure from the bloc. The EU could also face a Britain breaking apart as europhile Scots plan another push for independence and seek to join the EU on their own.

There is a “Brussels consensus” that Britain must be made an example of for leaving to discourage others and will face a chilly future, cast out to perhaps talk its way back later into some kind of trade access in return for concessions such as free migration from inside the bloc and contributions to the EU budget – things which Brexit voters want to end but which the likes of Norway and Switzerland have accepted in varying forms.

However, cautious diplomats do not rule out surprise turns.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(editing by Mark John, Janet McBride)

Related stories on F&O:

‘Explosive shock’ as Britain votes to leave EU, Cameron quits, by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton  Report

 Britain has voted to leave the European Union, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity.

In England’s Mean and Truculent Land, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O International Affairs columnist

Britain’s departure from the EU will be a journey across new territory full of terrors and treacherous terrain. Among the many stupidities in Cameron’s management of the referendum was allowing a simple majority for victory.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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‘Explosive shock’ as Britain votes to leave EU, Cameron quits

Dawn breaks behind the Houses of Parliament and the statue of Winston Churchill in Westminster, London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Dawn breaks behind the Houses of Parliament and the statue of Winston Churchill in Westminster, London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

By Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton 
June 24, 2016

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has voted to leave the European Union, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity.

Global financial markets plunged on Friday as results from a referendum defied bookmakers’ odds to show a 52-48 percent victory for the campaign to leave a bloc Britain joined more than 40 years ago.

Vote leave supporters stand outside Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

Related, analysis: In England’s Mean and Truculent Land by Jonathan Manthorpe. Above: Vote leave supporters stand outside Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

The pound fell as much as 10 percent against the dollar to touch levels last seen in 1985, on fears the decision could hit investment in the world’s fifth-largest economy, threaten London’s role as a global financial capital and usher in months of political uncertainty. The euro slid 3 percent.

World stocks saw more than $2 trillion (£1.46 trillion) wiped off their value. Big banks took a battering, with Lloyds, Barclays and RBS falling as much as 30 percent.

The FTSE stock index recovered much of its early losses by the end of the day after the world’s main central banks offered financial backstops.

The United Kingdom itself could now break apart, with the leader of Scotland – where nearly two-thirds of voters wanted to stay in the EU – saying a new referendum on independence from the rest of Britain was “highly likely”.

An emotional Cameron, who led the “Remain” campaign to defeat, losing the gamble he took when he promised the referendum in 2013, said he would leave office by October.

“The British people have made the very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction,” he said in a televised address outside his residence.

“I do not think it would be right for me to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination,” he added, choking back tears before walking back through 10 Downing Street’s black door with his arm around his wife Samantha.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron walks out of 10 Downing Street with his wife Samantha as he prepares to speak after Britain voted to leave the European Union, in London, Britain June 24, 2016.    REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron walks out of 10 Downing Street with his wife Samantha as he prepares to speak after Britain voted to leave the European Union, in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

INVENTING ANOTHER EUROPE

Ballots are sorted after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in Islington, London, Britain, June 23, 2016.        REUTERS/Neil Hall

Ballots are sorted after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in Islington, London, Britain, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Quitting the world’s biggest trading bloc could cost Britain access to the trade barrier-free single market and means it must seek new trade accords with countries around the world. A poll of economists by Reuters predicted Britain was likelier than not to fall into recession within a year.

The EU, which rose out of the ashes of two world wars fascist and communist totalitarianism to unite a continent of prosperous democracies, faces economic and political damage without Britain, which has the EU’s biggest financial centre, a U.N. Security Council veto, a powerful army and nuclear weapons.

“It’s an explosive shock. At stake is the break up pure and simple of the union,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. “Now is the time to invent another Europe.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who invited the French and Italian leaders to Berlin to discuss future steps, called it a watershed for European unification.

Her foreign minister, who will with France present other EU founding members with a plan for a flexible EU on Saturday, called it a sad day for Britain and Europe.

The result emboldened eurosceptics in other member states, with French National Front leader Marine Le Pen and Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders demanding their countries also hold referendums. Le Pen changed her Twitter profile picture to a Union Jack and declared “Victory for freedom!”

The vote will trigger at least two years of divorce proceedings with the EU, the first exit by any member state. Cameron, in office since 2010, said it would be up to his successor to formally start the exit process.

His Conservative Party rival Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who became the most recognisable face of the Leave camp, is now widely tipped to seek his job.

“We can find our voice in the world again, a voice that is commensurate with the fifth-biggest economy on Earth,” he told reporters at Leave campaign headquarters.

MPs from the Labour Party also launched a no-confidence motion to topple their leader, leftist Jeremy Corbyn, accused by opponents in the party of campaigning tepidly for its Remain stance.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), reacts at a Leave.eu party after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in London, Britain, June 24, 2016.  REUTERS/Toby Melville

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), reacts at a Leave.eu party after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in London, Britain, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

“INDEPENDENCE DAY”

Vote Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson speaks at the group's headquarters in London, Britain June 24, 2016.       REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

Vote Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson speaks at the group’s headquarters in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

There was euphoria among Britain’s eurosceptic forces, claiming a victory over the political establishment, big business and foreign leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama who had urged Britain to stay in.

“Let June 23 go down in our history as our independence day,” said Nigel Farage, leader of the eurosceptic UK Independence Party, describing the EU as “doomed” and “dying”.

The shock hits a European bloc already reeling from a euro zone debt crisis, unprecedented mass migration and confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. Support for anti-immigrant and anti-EU parties has surged across the continent.

U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose own rise has been fuelled by similar anger at the political establishment, called the vote a “great thing”. Britons “took back control of their country”, he said in Scotland where he was opening a golf resort. He criticised Obama for telling Britons how to vote, and drew a comparison with his own campaign.

Obama said he had spoken with Cameron and that the United States’ relationship with Britain would endure.

“While the UK’s relationship with the EU will change, one thing that will not change is the special relationship that exists between our two nations,” he said in a speech.

Britain has always been ambivalent about its relations with the rest of post-war Europe. A firm supporter of free trade, tearing down internal economic barriers and expanding the EU to take in ex-communist eastern states, it opted out of joining the euro single currency and the Schengen border-free zone.

Cameron’s ruling Conservatives in particular have harboured a vocal anti-EU wing for generations, and it was partly to silence such figures that he called the referendum.

The 11th hour decision of Johnson – Cameron’s schoolmate from the same elite Eton private boarding school – to come down on the side of Leave gave the exit campaign a credible voice.

World leaders including Obama, Merkel, Chinese President Xi Jinping, NATO and Commonwealth governments had all urged a Remain vote, saying Britain would be more influential in the EU.

A woman holds a sign in Westminster, in central London, Britain June 24, 2016.     REUTERS/Phil Noble

A woman holds a sign in Westminster, in central London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Phil Noble

DARKEST HOUR

A taxi driver holds a Union flag, as he celebrates following the result of the EU referendum, in central London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

A taxi driver holds a Union flag, as he celebrates following the result of the EU referendum, in central London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The four-month campaign was among the most divisive ever waged in Britain, with accusations of lying and scare-mongering on both sides and rows over immigration which critics said at times unleashed overt racism.

At the darkest hour, a pro-EU member of parliament was stabbed and shot to death in the street. The suspect later told a court his name was “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.

The campaign revealed deep splits in British society, with the pro-Brexit side drawing support from voters who felt left behind by globalisation and blamed EU immigration for low wages. Older voters backed Brexit; the young mainly wanted to stay in. London and Scotland supported the EU, but swathes of England that have not shared in the capital’s prosperity voted to leave.

Support for Remain among Scots prompted Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to declare it “democratically unacceptable” for Scotland to be dragged out of the EU, two years after voting to stay part of the United Kingdom. “I think an independence referendum is now highly likely,” she said.

The financial turmoil comes at a time when interest rates around the world are already at or near zero. The shock could prevent the U.S. Federal Reserve from raising interest rates as planned this year or even provoke a new round of emergency policy easing from central banks.

Left unclear is the relationship Britain can negotiate with the EU. EU officials have said UK-based banks and financial firms could lose automatic access to sell services in Europe.

Huge questions also face the millions of British expatriates who live freely elsewhere in the bloc as well as millions of EU citizens who live and work in Britain.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by William James, Kylie MacLellan, Sarah Young, Alistair Smout, Costas Pitas, Andy Bruce and David Milliken in London, and Steve Holland in Turnberry, Scotland; Writing by Mark John and Pravin Char; Editing by Peter Graff and Anna Willard)

Related on F&O:

 

Brexit Factbox: Who, where, when why – and what next, by Alastair MacDonald, Report

In England’s Mean and Truculent Land, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O International Affairs columnist

Britain’s departure from the EU will be a journey across new territory full of terrors and treacherous terrain. Among the many stupidities in Cameron’s management of the referendum was allowing a simple majority for victory.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Also tagged , , , , |

In England’s Mean and Truculent Land

Vote leave supporters stand outside Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union.     REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

Vote leave supporters stand outside Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
June 24, 2016

When I was born in 1944 my parents lived a few hundred yards from where George Vancouver grew up in Kings Lynn, on England’s North Sea coast where the thrills of the horizon and the world beckon.

In moments of inexcusable hubris, I sometimes fantasize that Vancouver and I, two Norfolk boys raised a few streets apart, neatly bracket the story of the British Empire.

The difference is that he was one of the heroes of the beginning while I, even in my most illustrious moments, am only a chronicler of the end. By some lights, my life has been a long last dance.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron walks out of 10 Downing Street with his wife Samantha as he prepares to speak after Britain voted to leave the European Union, in London, Britain June 24, 2016.    REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron walks out of 10 Downing Street with his wife Samantha as he prepares to speak after Britain voted to leave the European Union, in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

In my early years after the Second World War Britain’s Empire was still almost intact. And even though my school days were buffeted by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s 1960 “winds of change” speech to the South African parliament, some of my classmates went off to be the last generation of British district officers in West Africa and elsewhere. The era of imperial decline was unstoppable, and quite rightly so. After over 50 years as a journalist – 40 of them as a foreign correspondent – I have lost count of the number of times and places where I have seen the union jack rung down at midnight.

The shrinking and diminishing of Britain stopped, however, when it joined what was then the European Economic Community in 1973.

The early years were tough as the British economy adjusted to the new realities and Margaret Thatcher’s political revolution in the 1980s changed Britain’s view of itself and the world. But membership of what is now the European Union (EU) has been good for Britain, and the booming, modernized British economy has been good for the EU.

So what happened on Thursday, when British voters opted by 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave the EU, is perplexing. It looks like a short-sighted and self-destructive act of mindless petulance.

The English urban blue collar, Labour Party supporters and rural Conservatives who powered this drive to leave the EU appear to have been driven by a sense of frustrated powerlessness. The opportunity to kick the establishment classes in the shins – if not higher – was too tempting to miss. The majority is lashing out in blind rage, not a considered valuation of the future of the country.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron called the referendum at a time when it appeared – briefly – that his party might lose support to the right-wing and charmless United Kingdom Independence Party. His prime purpose, though, was to silence noisy and rebellious Tories on his own backbenches and among his cabinet ministers.

But Cameron and the monumentally underwhelming Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn both clearly felt that the benefits of EU membership are so self-evident that serious campaigning for the “Remain” ticket was unnecessary. Cameron made only half-hearted attempts earlier this year to negotiate a new deal with Brussels aimed at securing British sovereignty over issues like immigration. He came away with nothing substantial. This was just the kind of thoughtless lack of attention to public opinion that so irritates many voters.

Both Cameron and Corbyn will pay for their disdain with their jobs. Cameron announced on Friday morning he will step down by the time of the Tory party annual conference in October. Corbyn too is toast, though he may not realize it yet.

Among the many stupidities in Cameron’s management of the referendum was allowing a simple majority for victory. The “Leave” vote of 52 per cent is decisive, but it is also divisive. Nearly half the population wants to stay in Europe. Lines have been drawn for turmoil in British politics for years to come. On a matter of this importance to the future and stability of the country a two-thirds majority for change would have made much more sense.

The majority of voters dismissed the economic arguments for Britain remaining in the EU as irrelevant to their concerns. What bugs the majority is the perception that the country is being flooded by immigrants, over whose entry the British people have no control. Brussels is blamed for foisting this cultural erosion on Britain and constantly sucking more and more sovereign powers from the Westminster parliament. And to add injury to insult, Britain, the EU’s second largest economy, contributes massively to Brussels’ coffers for the privilege of being abused.

None of these beliefs stands up to much scrutiny. They are the same kind of mythologies that energize Donald Trump’s supporters in the United States.

They may be myths, but they have changed the world. Britain’s departure from the EU will be a journey across new territory full of terrors and treacherous terrain.

To start with, there is now huge political uncertainty in Britain.

Vote Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson speaks at the group's headquarters in London, Britain June 24, 2016.       REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

Vote Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson speaks at the group’s headquarters in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

The most likely person to succeed Cameron as Tory party leader and Prime Minister is Boris Johnson, the engaging but thoroughly untrustworthy former Mayor of London. Johnson made himself leader of the “Leave” campaign, though a widely held view by those who have watched him from up close is that he is driven by political ambition rather than Eurosceptic philosophy.

The indications so far are that Johnson will seek what is known as an “EU-lite” relationship with Europe. Two non-EU members, Norway and Switzerland have this kind of free market relationship with the EU. However, these deals require Norway and Switzerland to confirm to most EU rules, including the free movement of people which so infuriates the majority of British voters. Switzerland and Norway are also required to pay Brussels large amounts of money to finance the relationship. But neither country sends members to the European Parliament or has officials in the Brussels bureaucracy. The result is that Switzerland and Norway have to comply with the EU’s diktats without having any voice or influence in their creation.

It seems highly unlikely that British voters will think that still having to obey the EU’s rules without having any say in their writing is any advance on what they have now.

All this will play out over the next four years. The process for Britain’s departure will be set in motion when the London government invokes Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. This envisages a two-year period when London will negotiate with the European Commission, the European Parliament and the remaining 27 EU members the terms of Britain’s departure and its future relationship with the EU. That timetable is not fixed and it will probably extend into three years or so. But the new Conservative government will probably want to get the deal done before the next British election due in May, 2020.

By that time there may not be a Britain as we know it now. Among the several social and political divisions revealed in the results of the referendum vote is a clear divide between England and Scotland. The Scots voted 62 per cent to stay in the EU with only 38 per cent opting to quit.

Leave supporters cheer results at a Leave.eu party after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in London, Britain, June 23, 2016.  REUTERS/Toby Melville

Leave supporters cheer results at a Leave.eu party after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in London, Britain, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

In 2014 a referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom was defeated only narrowly. The leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, who is also First Minister of the regional government, said on Friday that a new independence referendum is now “highly likely.” Given the Scots’ attachment to the EU, it is almost certain they would opt to leave the United Kingdom, which they joined in 1603.

Similar reassessments will go on in Northern Ireland. With Britain out of the EU, Northern Ireland’s border with the Irish Republic will close. The free movement of people and goods across the border is an important element in the peace arrangements that brought an end to the 30-year-long terrorist war between Irish Nationalists and Ulster Unionists. The closing of the border again will prompt the people of Northern Ireland, including the unionists, to re-evaluate where their long-term interests lie.

By the time Britain departs the EU it might consist only of England and Wales, though it is by no means certain that the Welsh are dedicated partners in the Brexit adventure.

The country that finally leaves the EU could well be only an English recalcitrant rump of Britain.

However unappetizing, the Brexit example is seen by many as a danger to the entire EU project. Euroscepticism is flourishing in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. There will undoubtedly be pressure in all three countries for their own referenda on quitting the EU.

In other countries central to the EU project and the continued integration of the member states, such as Germany, France and Italy, there are unlikely to be demands for departure votes. But in all three of those countries, as well as in other EU member states such as Hungary and Poland, right wing parties are winning growing support. This is largely a result of the EU’s shambolic response to the flood of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, but it is challenging the assumption, by the high priests of the EU, that ever faster and deeper integration is the only way forward.

Britain is the EU’s second largest economy, after Germany, and its departure is going to rattle the economic underpinnings of Europe until a new relationship is worked out. Brexit will also force the EU architects to re-examine what they are building, and to whose benefit. The EU needs to tackle its democratic deficit that allows nonsense like the creation of the unsustainable euro common currency and other efforts to force members into a political union for which they are neither ready nor willing.

Britain under several prime ministers of all political stripes has been quarrelling with Brussels almost from the moment the country joined the EU. It is a grim commentary on the culture of the EU that Britain has to stamp its foot and storm out of the room to get attention. If that is the outcome of Brexit, then something positive may yet come out of what looks at the moment like a debacle.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact — including for syndication/republishing of Jonathan Manthorpe’s columns –message: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Related on F&O:

Small Stampede for the Brexit, by Jonathan Manthorpe, June 11, 2016

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Sadiq Khan: British dream reality for London’s first Muslim mayor, by Parveen Akhtar

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Trumpery – the political disease that is convulsing the United States and which is characterized by  incompetence, boastfulness and danger – appears to be mutating into a world-wide epidemic. Like America’s Donald Trump, London’s Boris Johnson and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines are riding a wave of public disgust for traditional politicians.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

The Boris Show heads for prime time, by Jonathan Manthorpe

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London who unashamedly lusts to be Tory Prime Minister of Britain, clearly relishes his role as a source of public entertainment. In his nearly two decades in the public eye, Johnson has made buffoonery a high political art form. And public delight at his verbal indiscretions, temperamental inability to parrot contemporary political correctness, willingness to make a fool of himself, and genial, basset-hound features have aligned into considerable political backing.

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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