In a close vote (52%-48%), the citizens of Great Britain have decided to leave the European Union. This is a devastating blow to the EU which was formally established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 as a politico-economic union. Britain will execute its departure over the next two years.
Scotland, Northern Ireland and the city of London appear to have supported “remain.” Smaller cities and working class areas were strongly “leave.” The working class has always been wary of the EU with respect to immigration and jobs.
The arguments of “remain” versus “leave” have raged for many months. The “remain” side predicts a major economic downturn and uncertainty for 3 million jobs linked to the EU. They cited a loss of “clout” and that banks will leave and national defense would be weakened.
As we mentioned before President Obama threatened the UK during a visit in April, saying that it would be “at the back of the queue” for future trade agreements with the US if it left the EU. His words were received harshly, but as the UK’s biggest investor he feels that America should have a voice in the decision (I suspect Obama’s obnoxiousness pushed more voters toward the “leave” side, the Brits don’t scare easily).
The “leave” side cited control over immigration, and loss of culture and sovereignty as the EU becomes more integrated. They say too many laws have been passed down from Brussels and upheld by the European Court of Justice. Resentment has built up over perceived heavy handedness control from powers the Brits did not elect.
Immigration control was no doubt the most powerful factor in the vote to depart. Germany has allowed almost half million Syrian refugees into its country. This flow has enabled the entry of a flood of radical Islamists into Europe, which at present has open borders with Britain and allows free travel. Within the EU, Great Britain is at the mercy of the irresponsible immigration policies of Germany as well as the weak border enforcement of Greece, Italy and Eastern Europe.
Speculation is that David Cameron, the current prime minister, may be forced to step down in comimg months since he was strongly in favor of remaining with the EU. Some argue he no longer has the mandate of the people with this defeat.
Polls from yesterday indicated a lead by the “remain” side, which has spurred investments in the British pound, and the European stock markets, both of which were up. Financially this could be a wild ride for a few weeks, but the “leave” proponents believe London will have no issue with remaining a major finanical center.
Some speculate this could be the beginning of the end for the European Union. Polls have shown Denmark could be swayed by a British exit, and others might follow provided the consequences are not too severe.