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Mr. Bhushan Singh
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The Empire Strikes Back
The Great Empire
Britain: a country that once ruled the world- a vast empire built by bringing other nations into submission sometimes forcibly- other times surreptitiously, recently decided that it had enough of being under the control of the European Union.
In fact, in 2013 there was an article in the Wall Street Journal describing the EU as the weakest link in the global economy. It was mercilessly described by many as a dysfunctional economic wasteland with the economies of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain in a mess. The European Union was being pronounced a failed experiment.
The original intent of the EU was to forge close political and economic ties between European countries after World War II to prevent the recurrence by the promise of mutual cooperation to the benefit of all.
It was meant to establish a European citizenship and all the benefits afforded by citizenship such as freedom, security and justice. It was a body to assert and promote European interest, political, social and economic in the world. Very noble ideals indeed. But what happened in the interim?
The EU: Unemployment Rate Concern?
While the graph shows the Euro Area unemployment rate, everyone was or pretended to be happy for the time. But the recipe changed and the after taste was not to the liking of 52% of the Brits. Britain started to complain about its sovereignty. The immigration policies of the EU were not to the liking of the British.
But there is another very emotional issue that perhaps takes precedence over the economic and regulatory policies. That is the immigration policy. In 2015 Britain absorbed 330,000 people- is a significant number. This issue and these numbers have become an important issue in the political arena further exacerbating any tensions that may have quietly existed before.
The Leave campaign was arguing for a greater amount of control of immigration. The current system in their view was not in the interest of Britain. Perhaps they are right- it is difficult for any nation to not have control over its borders especially in such a diverse union. They cited the points based systems used by Canada and Australia, who interestingly both have the British Monarch as their Head of State. It was felt that immigrants were enjoying benefits which they have not contributed towards. Since the Brexit vote there has been an upsurge in reports of racial incidents.
Market, Pounds and Strategy
In the wake of the Brexit vote, the markets have taken a severe hit; the pound has gone to historic lows and have been downgraded by the international ratings agencies.
British Prime Minister David Cameron called the referendum to get a decisive mandate to implement his One Nation agenda. In hindsight many have said that it could have been done differently- perhaps something more than just a simple majority vote could have been used for a decision with such far reaching consequences. The choice of the British must be respected however.
The vote, however, does reflect a divided society- a difference of opinion between the liberals and the working class. The British Empire has struck back at the EU for the liberal policies implemented which 52% the British did not see as progressive.
It is obvious to see the pain of the Brexit decision on the face of British Prime Minister David Cameron. He is obviously trying to get past the emotions and allow logic to take control. He has stated that Britain would not be rushed, while the others in the EU are demanding a quick exit. It is also obvious to see that the Brexit vote was taken without having a strategy to implement the Leave campaign.
The Empire may have struck out against the EU but the leaders of the EU are not about to roll over. It might be difficult for the British to negotiate all the agreements that they want in their favour without demonstrating commitment to the EU. The British Prime Minister said that he will not call a second referendum and I agree with him. At the moment the trust in the British commitment to the EU has been shaken and it may take more than just a second referendum to restore that confidence.
What is required is a great deal of leadership, diplomacy and tact to be demonstrated on both sides of the argument. The world markets are reacting to the lack of a coherent strategy. It would take a great captain to pilot the ship bearing the Union Jack.
The EU has already been fractured and even the purpose and relevance of the EU is being questioned. Britain once a world leader would have to demonstrate that it can navigate the path taken. There will certainly be major hurdles to cross, it may not be business as usual. May the force be with them.
Mr. Singh has worked in both the public and private sectors and has served as a consultant in both a technical and professional capacity locally and abroad.