Britain voted to leave the European Union and what is at stake?

 26 Jun 2016 - 1:20

By Thembisa Fakude


There are many losers in the outcome of what has become known as “Brexit” referendum.  The British people voted on the referendum on whether to stay or to leave the European Union (EU).  Amongst the loser have been the polling institutions; most predicted that those wanting to remain in the EU were going to win the vote.  The outcome of the vote was stunning and it became difficult for most pollsters to rationalize the unexpected outcomes.  Most journalists have also been way off the mark.
Although many leaders would like to underplay the significance of immigration in this referendum, the truth is it this referendum was about immigration.  It was about the weariness of possible influx of immigration into Britain.  The growing possibility of granting citizenship to immigrants by some European countries heightened the anti immigration attitude in Britain.  That was the key reason why the vote went in favour of those who voted to leave the EU. Mr. Nigel Farage the leader if the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) delivered interesting speech hours before the final counting,“let the 23 June be known as British Independence day” he said.  It is important to note that he was speaking for the 52% who voted to leave the EU.  There is a whooping 48% who view this day as the darkest in the British history.  The United Kingdom (UK) woke up extremely divided on 24 June 2016.  The difficult times ahead pose real challenges including the possible collapse of the UK as Scotland and Northern Ireland consider their political options given the new realities.  .
The Great British Pound(GBP) and the financial markets plummeted to the records lows at the news of the result of the referendum.  The GBP/USD fell from a high of 1.50 to below 1.35 in the matter of hours, the lowest level seen in decades. This will have a huge impact on the economy.  Furthermore, as summer arrives many holidaymakers will have their spending power cut significantly by the plummeting value of the GBP.  Small business will be hit the hardest by these results at least in the short term particularly those dependent on imports.  That is the reality for the short term what about the long term? British membership in the EU is like a married couple in a dysfunctional marriage who bares it out for the sake of the welfare of their children.  Britain has never been really happy in the EU.   Over the years they have demanded a special treatment to other members of the EU.  The UK refused to neither adopt the Euro nor replace its currency with the euro.  Euro is the official currency of the Eurozone, used by the member state of the European Union.  Furthermore, whereas, most members of the European Union are part of the Schengen visa regime, Britain is not part of that regime.  The movement of people both from other parts of Europe and in Britain will be affected by this decision in a long run.  That is most likely to disturb the exchange of culture and indeed an old civilisation that Europeans share.  Importantly it will certainly affect commerce between the countries of Europe and Britain.  It remains to be seen what will happens to cultural programs which have all along involved Britain as part of EU including sporting events.  There will most likely be a punitive response from Europeans against Britain.  British cultural and sporting teams might be relegated to participate only in world events rather than regional events include possible exclusion from the Euro Cup.
There have been a sizeable number of old citizens who participate and voted in this referendum.  However it is the younger generation who are most likely to be affected by this decision.  Furthermore according the polls, university graduates were the most likely people to want to remain in the EU.  Understandably this group represents the millions of British expats who work in different part of the globe and who have been benefiting from the status qou.  
The situation present a new realities and uncertainties to the British living and working abroad.  What will be more interesting in the coming months and years are the nature of bilateral agreements that Britain will negotiate henceforth.  How will the world deal with Britain and will that affect British moving forward.  

The writer is Researcher at Directorate Studies Centre, Aljazeera Network.