BRexit—the vote is tomorrow. Most people in the United States aren’t aware of it, and even more may not care about it. Yet it may be the reason that the stock market is going nowhere and could guide financial markets for the world—including those in the U.S.–as they head down. I pretty much ignored the whole situation until I watched The John Oliver Show last Sunday. Because comedians such as Oliver and Samantha Bee on Full Frontal probably give more information than anyone other than Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, I started searching for more information.
BRexit is short for “Britain Exit,” the question of whether Great Britain will leave the European Union. All British eligible voters can help make this decision, and voting will be done by 2:00 PST tomorrow. Up to 80 percent of the people may vote, and the polls are too close to guess the outcome. As a Britisher, Oliver urged the people of the UK to maintain its EU relationship, but his program won’t be televised in the UK until after the vote. He’s in accord with most experts in saying that the EU can be awful but the ensuing instability would be disastrous if the UK tried to go it on its own.
Many British citizens are suffering from the same opinions as Donald Trump followers—dissatisfaction and distrust of all establishment including the political parties and the media. The “leave” people are also highly conservative, opposed to immigrants, labor, and environmental protection. They think that austerity will save them although it never has in the past. Like Trump, the pro-BRexit people reject any positions of experts—economists, scientists, military commanders, business leaders, etc. It’s the portion of the population who might think that an auto mechanic is a good choice to take out their appendix.
No other country has ever left the EU although Greece considered doing that. If this first-of-its-kind vote succeeds, Britain would spend at least two years to negotiate its departure from the remaining 27 countries which will not give Britain its current privileged access to member countries’ customers or financial markets. More years will be consumed while the UK works to find and negotiate trade deals for other export markets at a time of spreading deflation and rising protectionism throughout the globe. Adding the politics of disengaging British business regulations from those of the EU, and the process might last at least a decade.
Another problem with leaving the EU is the common fisheries policy and agriculture. “Leave” people complain about the fishing quotas set by EU to manage fish stocks and protect marine environments. Voting to leave, however, does not mean that the UK won’t have to deal with the EU. With the separation, the UK couldn’t change EU policy but would still be subject to its restrictions. The UK also receives a larger fishing area than it controls; renegotiating fishing territories gives no guarantee of a better deal for the UK.
EU membership provides some protection against unregulated global markets, and losing that will sacrifice the UK social safety nets in desperate searches for new trade and investment deals to compensate for the loss of markets on the continent. The UK is composed of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Scotland is pro-EU and may decide to issue a new vote on separating from the UK in order to join the EU. Welsh ministers have also indicated their desire to remain in the EU.
A decision to separate from the EU could be disastrous for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, an area of bitter bloodshed since the 1920s. Ireland would still be a part of the EU, and Northern Ireland would be forced out. The resulting dividing line between the two countries could eradicate the uneasy 18-year-long peace that belonging to the EU has assisted since 1998. Customs checks that disappeared in 1993 when EU membership caused free movement of goods and services could return. Cross-border trade in manufactured products on the island was worth an estimated 3 billion euros in 2014.
At this time, Protestants in Northern Ireland want to stay with the UK, and the Catholic minority wants to join Ireland. The UK leaving the EU could end up in an armed conflict between these two factions regarding whether Ireland subsumes Northern Ireland. If both Irelands, Scotland, and Wales stay with the EU, the United Kingdom would revert to being just England–and the only part of the island that isn’t part of the European Union.
Those who want to leave the EU also support the new Deregulation Act, slipped through Parliament last year with little debate and less information to the public. According to the new law, all regulators must now “have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth.” Any laws dealing with endangered species, speed limits, children’s health, wheelchair ramps, etc. must successfully show how they contribute to the GDP before being passed. As a result, Britain is becoming a place that launders money for drug cartels and terrorists who can keep their money there beyond police and tax inspectors. The “get-rich-quick” philosophy leads to problems that are then blamed on immigrants. Without votes, the prime minister made deals with the EU commission.
The current government has rejected science regarding insecticides, slashed renewable energy, and fights wildlife protection, but it can be worse. The EU has restricted UK policies to some extent. Without the EU, the UK would have carte blanche to destroy the environment. Leaving the EU would dismantle human rights protections, lead to a smaller labor and talent pool with tightening of borders for migrants, and lead to environmentally hazardous activities. The “Leave” backers also want to privatize and dismantle the National Health Service, leaving the country with uninsured people.
The face of the “Leave” campaign is former Mayor of London Boris Johnson (above left) who both behaves and looks like Donald Trump. If the UK leaves the EU, Johnson could become a leader in the right-of-center Conservative Party and perhaps even prime minister. Johnson even sounds like Trump, for example saying that this “part-Kenyan” had an “ancestral dislike of the British empire.” Although he’s fairly sure that leaving the EU would not cause problems, he said he would apologize publicly if Brexit caused a recession. [Above: Boris Johnson was invited to take part in a tug of war with the armed forces to launch Poppy Day.]
Clashes between the two sides in BRexit were largely verbal, but pro-EU Jo Cox of the Labor Party was shot and stabbed last Thursday. In the United States, killings with guns are an everyday matter, but this event shocked people on both sides of British politics. The tragedy was the first killing of a sitting British MP since the death of Ian Gow in 1990. The man charged with her murder said, “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” He had bought a manual on how to build homemade guns and explosives from the National Alliance, a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group.
Brogan Morris wrote a comparison between the upcoming elections in the US and the UK, between Johnson and Trump. He holds the media largely responsible for allowing these no-nothing hate-mongers to build their popularity. Imagine a world in which Trump is president of the most affluent country in the world and Trump 2—Boris Johnson—is prime minister of one of this nation’s closest allies.
Once again, I highly recommend watching the segment from The John Oliver Show about the negative affect of UK leaving the EU.