After June 23's historic Brexit referendum, in which Britons voted by a margin of about one million votes to leave the European Union, Philip Stephens, the chief political commentator of the Financial Times of London, said that the vote "changed everything." -- Stephens said it was hard to overestimate its significance: "Economic and foreign policies crafted over nearly half a century overturned in the course of a single night. -- A political establishment shattered by an insurgency against the élites. -- The nations of the United Kingdom divided; and England split between its metropolitan cities and post-industrial provinces. -- A vote against globalization. -- A decision that weakens Europe and the West. -- Political earthquake is an understatement." -- In a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, two European academics called the vote a "catastrophe" in which "British voters willfully walked off a cliff." -- They said that the American voters will have an opportunity to "make the same mistake by voting for a Trump presidency come November."
U.K.'s E.U. Referendum
BREXIT: A VOTE THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING
By Philip Stephens
** A vote against the E.U. could also turn out to become a vote against the United Kingdom **
Financial Times (London)
June 24, 2016
Where to start? This was a vote that changed everything. Economic and foreign policies crafted over nearly half a century overturned in the course of a single night. A political establishment shattered by an insurgency against the elites. The nations of the United Kingdom divided; and England split between its metropolitan cities and post-industrial provinces. A vote against globalization. A decision that weakens Europe and the west. Political earthquake is an understatement.
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A vote against the E.U. could well turn out also to be a vote against the United Kingdom. The Brexiters were English nationalists. Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted to remain. . . .
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Across advanced democracies politics has been soured by resentment against wealthy élites. Look across Europe, or across the Atlantic to Donald Trump’s Republican presidential campaign, and you see the same seething discontent about globalization, migration, and cuts in welfare. The postwar political order, dominated as it has been by parties of the center-right and center-left, is under unprecedented strain. Rising populism of the extreme left and right has begun to sound echoes of the 1930s.
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In the short term, the economic shock and the turbulence on financial markets will be most likely matched by political paralysis. The people have voted to leave the E.U., but there is no agreement about what might replace membership. Whoever among the Outers replaces Mr. Cameron in Downing Street -- and the favorite Boris Johnson would be absolutely the worst choice -- he or she will struggle to build a consensus.
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For much of the past seventy years Britain has sought, in the words of one former foreign secretary, to punch above its weight in global affairs. Now it plans to withdraw into itself. Yet going it alone ignores at once the international nature of Britain’s interests and the stark geopolitical realities. How long before the regret sets in?
THE ISOLATIONIST CATASTROPHE OF 'BREXIT'
By Brian Klaas and Marcel Dirsus
Los Angeles Times
June 23, 2016
Thursday British voters willfully walked off a cliff when they decided to leave the European Union. The “Brexit” victory is a defeat for Britain, Europe and the global economy.
Tens of millions of Britons voted for isolation -- to go it alone -- rather than for cooperation. The European Union just lost a sixth of its economy, roughly akin to Florida and California seceding from the United States. The impact on the British economy could be catastrophic. Europe’s unified stance against a reemerging and aggressive Russia will be splintered.
Moreover, the vote doesn’t mean that debates over Britain’s relationship with Europe, or its place in the wider world, are suddenly resolved. It does mean that politicians -- and not just those on the banks of the Thames in Westminster -- need to wake up. On both sides of the Atlantic, governments and politics are not working.
We find ourselves in a moment of global fear. The democratic identities of Britain and the United States are under threat -- not from immigrants or even changing values, but from nationalists and xenophobes exploiting citizens' darkest worries with populist projects, including Donald Trump’s campaign for the U.S. presidency and Brexit. To many voters, the world is a scary place. Terrorists seem to lurk everywhere. Uncertainty surrounds us. Change is rapid and some aren't keeping up. Unsurprisingly, politicians of many stripes are capitalizing on our fears to rally voters against trade, immigration, and international cooperation.
The costs will be substantial. Economists, business leaders, and scholars almost universally agree that Britain's retreat from the E.U. is a self-inflicted economic blunder. Recessions are contagious, and given London’s place as a global financial hub, Brexit will give Britain a particularly virulent cough. The pound’s value will likely tumble. The British treasury estimates that the nation’s households each stand to lose an average of £4,300, or about $7,000. And yet, tens of millions of voters were willing to take that hit.
The quintessential anti-E.U. voter, an aging unemployed white working-class citizen in northern England, might feel a certain solidarity with a similar Trump voter in rural America. Both have reason to feel victimized by a global economy that has left them behind. Both have concluded that the culprits are out-of-control immigration and an unresponsive government far away, in Washington or Brussels. And both have decided the answer is disengagement, solving problems alone at home rather than preventing them through cooperation abroad.
This is the glaring contradiction in the muscular nationalism of right-wing populism, blended with isolationism, that seeks to withdraw from international unions: It cannot shape a better world by shutting the world out. The same people who cheer when Trump laments the decline of American leadership want to ignore key global issues and put “America First.” The people who voted for Brexit, attempting to create a border between Britain and challenges such as the refugee crisis, seem to think Britain can solve such problems without consulting Germany or France or, worst of all to them, Brussels.
The world doesn’t work that way, and it hasn’t for decades. Ever-increasing globalization has created an unprecedented surge in prosperity, but it has also ushered in jarring changes. The rough edges of those changes can only be overcome with more aggressive cooperation and engagement, not less. Whether it’s the risks of terrorism, the tragic flow of refugees, or economic shocks, Britain cannot solve problems alone and neither can the United States.
The solution, then, is a politics and a foreign policy that acknowledge the potency and importance of national identity while aiming to lead the world rather than leave it aside. Xenophobia will eventually fade if genuine policy reforms provide new opportunities to the victims of globalization. We need leaders on both sides of the Atlantic who heed the legitimate fears of their citizens and at the same time explain that solutions will come from standing together with other nations rather than standing alone.
Brexit voters and Trump supporters sporting “Make America Great Again” hats believe they have lost too much for too long. Their complaint is understandable. But turning inward will only make their problems worse and the world more dangerous. Britain narrowly succumbed to isolationist populism Thursday. Let’s hope Americans don’t make the same mistake by voting for a Trump presidency come November.
--Brian Klaas is a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics and Marcel Dirsus is a lecturer in politics at the University of Kiel in Germany.