Following Brexit, the United Kingdom is now in crisis …
It has taken but a few days for political turmoil to erupt within the UK following the referendum decision to leave the European Union. Formal arrangements to quit under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty have not yet begun but the political and financial implications of the vote are already being felt. The Prime Minister has effectively abdicated from any responsibility to move things forward by stating that the procedure should be undertaken by his successor, who won’t be in place until early September 2016. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who had vehemently stated that an emergency budget would be needed in the event of a vote to leave, has also backtracked and is leaving any decision to a potential new Chancellor.
On the other side of the political fence, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is facing a mass revolt within his ranks. Unprecedented numbers have resigned their shadow cabinet posts in protest at the way Corbyn conducted his campaign to remain in the EU. It is claimed that insufficient party supporters were rallied and that he took a soft approach to EU membership, emphasising the need for change rather than the existing accrued benefits. Now the deputy leader of the party is calling for his resignation.
Once a new leader of the Conservative Party is elected, the country will, once again, be led by an unelected Prime Minister. This could easily lead to an impromptu general election later in the year, undoubtedly resulting in yet more political instability and uncertainty. To say the least, the referendum has opened a huge can of worms!
With regards to the referendum result, only 71.8% of the eligible voting population cast their vote. This means that Brexit with 52% of the vote actually only have the support of 37.34% of the people which is hardly a resounding mandate to leave. The largest demographic of the population supporting the leave campaign were over fifty years of age and many will have twenty years or less to endure the aftermath. At the opposite end of the demographic spectrum, the younger generation had a high majority vote to remain in the EU, seeing it as their future but that direction has now been paved by their elders.
The financial markets have tumbled with billions of pounds wiped off the value of blue chip companies. The pound sterling has lost value against leading currencies such as the US dollar and the Euro and trading in the shares of two leading banks was suspended on 27 June following heavy losses on the London Stock Exchange. Some companies are already announcing reductions in staff and the possible relocation of operations to other European countries. So much for the Brexit claim that the UK can stand alone. It is blatantly obvious why so many people are blatantly angry at the referendum result. After all, why should an aging population effectively decide the future of their country?
Whilst the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing, much of what has happened since last Thursday’s devastating result was predicted by the former deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, when addressing his Liberal Democrats Party Conference in October 2014 …
“What are we fighting against? Imagine again what it will be like in 2020, but this time with the Conservatives in government on their own. Britain, diminished and divided after a botched attempt to renegotiate our relationship with Europe and a vote to withdraw from the European Union. Companies pulling out of the UK, left, right and centre, the markets losing confidence, hiking up our borrowing costs and halting the recovery in its tracks. Workers fearing for their jobs, not just because the companies they work for are plunged into uncertainty but because their bosses can fire them at will, no questions asked. The young and the working poor hit time and time again as George Osborne takes his axe to the welfare budget with no regard for the impact on people’s lives. Schools run in the interests of profit for shareholders rather than the life chances of their pupils. A Home Oofice state snooping on your emails and social media. Opportunity reserved for a few at the top and everyone else told to make do with what they’ve got. A Tory party leadership in hock to their right wing, desperately running after and pandering to UKIP’s ugly nationalism. A Prime Minister trapped between being a poor man’s Margaret Thatcher and a rich man’s Nigel Farage. “Compassionate Conservatism” just a sound bite from a bygone age.”
It is eerie that so much of this has come true and long before the year 2020. About the only thing Nick Clegg didn’t foresee was the unexpected resignation of David Cameron and the likelihood that Osborne won’t be Chancellor for much longer! He was right about overseas investors taking fright, money flowing out of the country, the credit rating being slashed, and that the Brexit team have no plans as to how to resolve any of the issues on which they campaigned.
Some people are calling for calm and reconciliation amidst the warring factions but with political turmoil at the helm, this is unlikely to happen any time soon. What we do need is respect for other people’s views but reconciliation will only happen when everyone is seen as equal and can enter into free dialogue about their fears, hopes and aspirations. At the moment, British society appears more divided than I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime. Racism is sadly resurrecting itself and there is the ever-increasing danger of right wing extremism dominating our political map. I’m one of very many people who hope that the referendum result will be annulled and that the voices of many who voted Leave, and now regret that decision, will be heard. Whatever happens in the near future, there is little doubt that United Kingdom society is dangerously fragmented and on the precipice of a very high mountain so one can only pray for a peaceful solution.