Life after ‘Brexit’ will not be tea and crumpets
Let me preface this by saying that London is probably my favorite city in the world. Not just London. Bath. Stratford-upon-Avon. The Cotswolds. The many places I haven’t yet been to but have only read about in scores of British mysteries, Jane Austen, tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur. Spy stories, from Ian Fleming to John le Carré. Harry Potter. The Chronicles of Narnia. British history, from Magna Carta to all of the kings to the Glorious Revolution to the suffering of the Brits during WWI and WWII, even up to little George and Charlotte. British films and film stars. The Beatles. Even the damn Great British Baking Show.
Yes, I’m a full-fledged Anglophile. Which is why I can’t understand why the majority of voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, in essence, why they did something that will make their great country less than it is now.
The British pound took a nosedive and the market crashed, which was expected. The market will recover — it always does, eventually, perhaps not for several years — but there will be a worldwide loss in monetary value, not just in the City of London but in financial markets everywhere. If you receive a pension, that overall fund that pays your pension is worth less than it was before the “Brexit” vote, because somewhere in that family of funds is an investment that goes through the London financial center. World stocks saw a loss of about $2 trillion in one day.
But let’s forget about money and trade. Did the Brits honestly realize what they were doing? A Washington Post headline read, “The British are frantically Googling what the EU is, hours after voting to leave it.” Many BBC reporters interviewed people the day after the vote all over England, and much of the reaction boiled down to, “Sure, that’s how I voted, but I didn’t really think it would happen.” You don’t get a do-over, people.
Proponents of the “Leave” campaign tapped into anti-immigrant sentiment to gain support. They made promises to “take back control of our borders.” (Hmm … that sounds familiar.) There are proposals for a point system for future immigrants, such as is done in Australia. But the needed negotiations on future immigration rules with the remaining 27 EU countries will be complicated, messy, and rancorous. Besides, immigration is a two-way street — there are many UK citizens living in EU countries. What will happen to them? What will happen to foreign workers currently in the UK? “In reality the rights of EU citizens living in the UK are not guaranteed,” says a story in The Guardian.
Of course the European Union, with its many regulations, its European Central Bank, its European Parliament, and its European Commission, is overly complicated. People object to taxes and fees paid to an entity they don’t see and don’t understand. But they don’t realize all of the benefits they’ll be losing.
Most funding for medical and science research in the UK comes from the EU, and UK scientists got a lot more back than the country puts in. That shortfall will not be made up by the British government. Once the “divorce” is final, British companies no longer will be able to sell products to EU countries as easily, depending on the final trade deals (and where’s the incentive for the EU, much less the United States, to give favorable terms to the UK?). Products imported from other countries will cost more. Companies and investors will move money out of Britain, meaning there could very well be a recession.
Another thing: The United Kingdom is not likely to remain so united anymore. Already, Scotland is proposing another independence vote. In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein is now clamoring to join the rest of Ireland. Which leaves England and Wales. We could be looking at a new map — and a new flag.
A simple one-question vote — “Leave” or “Remain” — makes for quick voting and vote counting, even when it’s done by hand. Those celebrating the successful Brexit were Europe’s far-right politicians and GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump. That should tell us all we need to know. It’s too bad that too many Brits didn’t realize what they were voting for.
Maybe Americans should do a little extra homework before we cast our votes in November.