A nation’s destiny was decided by a 3% vote differential on June 23rd – really??
The first time the British held a referendum on joining the European Union, was in 1975 and it received an approval by 67% of the vote – a solid yes!
A 2/3rd majority is often considered mandatory for key votes in democratic Houses across the globe. One would think a vote of this kind would have mandated the same. But it came across as a hurried exercise with each party’s leadership interested in their own future than the future of the nation as a whole.
It started as a 3-way clash of opinion about the EU along party lines –
- the UKIP led by Nigel Farage, which aggressively campaigned against the EU
- the Conservative Party itself which suffered from serious infighting over the topic of EU membership
- the Labor Party under Jeremy Corbyn – they supported an EU membership, but could not come together on a common platform to campaign with the Conservative PM Cameron
But as the vote drew closer, it evolved into a personal clash between 3 personalities:
- David Cameron, the British PM – who supported “Remain”
- Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Leader – who also supported remain, but refused to share the campaign platform with rival David Cameron. A clear case of self before Party or Country
- Boris Johnson – ex-Mayor of London and part of the Conservative Party – termed David Cameron’s biggest betrayal. He campaigned extensively for Brexit.
In the case of David Cameron – he opened the Brexit can of worms to reduce infighting within the Conservative party, so he could be the unanimous nominee for the PM’s job. He promised that if elected, he would hold an in-or-out referendum on continued British membership in the bloc. It was a bold assertion, but had not been thought through at all.
Here both Cameron and the British voter are at fault. Cameron, for floating an idea without thinking through the ramifications and the implementation details. And the voter for not pressing Cameron on the details.
Jeremy Corbyn is the biggest case of self before anything else. As a leader, he did not represent his party line of thinking to the populace sincerely enough. He would have witnessed an increase in his own stature as a leader, had he crossed party lines for the sake of the country. Here, the Labour Party is at a fault for not correcting this issue in time. Now, when it’s too late, senior party leaders like Lord Falconer have started to resign – too little, too late!
Boris Johnson is another case of self before the country. As recently as January, Johnson indicated his “preference” was to stay in the EU, and he wrote two versions of the article that declared which side he would be backing in the referendum when he declared his hand in February. Many now see his decision to campaign for “leave” as a case of blatant opportunism to propel himself into a leadership status. Like Cameron, his campaign too was slogan based – “Independence Day for Britain” instead of any specifics. He brushed aside any questions for specifics in preference for catchphrases and slogans.
Once again, the fault lies in the voter for just riding along and not pressing Boris Johnson for specifics. It is possible though that a lackluster “Remain” campaign contributed to Boris Johnson’s victory. He led an extremely energetic and lively campaign – he made the voters listen to him.
Now that the vote is over, what really lies ahead for the UK? And who’s going to lead the UK through the separation process that could span 2 years?
The biggest test of the quality of the decision will be the state of the economy. The UK economy was poised to be Europe’s largest economy by 2030, surpassing Germany – it had witnessed a higher rate of growth than the EU. The economy will be hit in the short-term, but will it regain its momentum in the long-term? Many – especially Scotland, Gibraltar and North Ireland are skeptical and are pressing hard for exiting the UK itself. And to add to that, banks are starting to leave London in favor of Paris, Dublin and Frankfurt – so London will no longer be the financial hub of Europe. These two events are enough to put the economy of the new “Little England” in reverse gear.
Boris Johnson was the Mayor of London during the 2012 Summer Olympics – so he has execution experience. But the issues he faces now, are on a completely different scale altogether. Can he deliver? The political circles in UK do not believe so. He is often referred to as “Donald Trump with a Thesaurus.”– that does say a lot
So, is it possible that as ground reality hits, the UK politicians look at reversing the vote? There is already word that the vote could be reversed in the Parliament or through other options
One issue does stand out – local economies are still coming to terms with the global economy – there is more uncertainty and more migrations and that is worrying the workers and residents in the traditional economies. This is giving rise to the Boris Johnsons and Donald Trumps and divisive politics. The voting pattern by age, is testament to this. The younger age group is more assimilated into the global economy than the older generation and hence less skeptical
Lawmakers across the globe need to take a deeper look at the global economy and try to manage it better through legislation – legislation that promotes growth with minimal disruptions locally. There is no silver bullet, but lawmakers need to acknowledge this issue and come together to discuss options and solutions.