We have woken up today to our social media feeds filled, our news broadcasts stern, our minds concerned, our currency at a 31 year low, our country divided, our Prime Minister resigned, and our opposition party irrelevant following the outcome of the EU Referendum vote yesterday. The Britain that existed up until 23rd June exists no longer and worryingly no one can predict what will take its place.
For those who ran and the majority of the electorate who voted for the leave campaign, this is a cause for celebration. For them today is the beginning of Britain. Today Britain can finally be proud and completely self-governed, unshackled from Brussels.
For roughly 48% of the electorate who voted to remain and for much of the watching population of the world the impending changes are causes for concern and disappointment rather than celebration and excitement.
Firstly, there is now a question over the shape of the United Kingdom moving forward. Like London, Scotland voted to remain. Whilst separating London from the rest of the UK isn’t an option, there will be an instant demand for Scotland to finally assure its independence and subsequently join the EU. Following 2014’s initial Scottish referendum, the SNP said it was something like this that could warrant a second referendum.
The implications are expected to be profound for Northern Ireland too. The peace that was hard-fought for between the north and the south could again be questioned with the return of the ‘hard-border’. Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness and member of Sinn Féin has said this morning that the result of the referendum means, “British government has forfeited any mandate to represent the economic or political interests of the people.” Such statements suggests Sinn Féin will utilise Brexit to intensify its demand for there to be a poll on a united Ireland.
Therefore, the first legacy of the 23rd results could well be the imminent end of the United Kingdom as we know it.
Of course the divisions are not confined to the countries of the United Kingdom. Every general election we see the division between city and town, but this referendum truly has exposed England’s disunion. The major cities including London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Bristol stood apart from the remainder of the England and Wales in voting with an overwhelming majority to remain. The results have revealed an ever more apparent class divide; people who felt they have something to lose from Brexit and those who did not.
Many of the latter were concentrated in what used to be considered Labour heartlands; working-class areas who opposed the Conservative reigns gone by. However, they defied the party’s urge to remain and voted out. This has therefore, forged a deep crack in English politics and leaves many areas of the UK open to be won over. Many will argue the concentrated areas of support for Leave were solely people wanting to oppose Cameron’s government and not necessarily based on the facts of the Brexit debate. Both the Conservative’s and Labour’s future prospects will rely on how well they navigate around the crack and retain their seemingly erstwhile guaranteed nucleuses.
The smug UKIP leader, Nigel Farage appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain this morning but was confronted by Susana Reid about Leave’s NHS budget claims:
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) June 24, 2016
Whilst the map of the UK shows how and where the votes were cast, YouGov data revealed how the specific generations voted. 18-24 and 25-49 both had a Remain majority, whilst 50-64 and 65+ both voted to leave. This paints an interesting, poignant picture that essentially shows the millennial voice was not heard; the voice that arguably will be greatest affected in the future by the decision (positively or negatively).
The economy of post-Brexit Britain will be extremely different too. As soon as the results began to filter through last night, the markets reacted and the pound plunged, confirming predictions made by experts and Remain supporters who were accused of scaremongering by the Leave advocates during the campaign. This therefore, leads many to believe their prophesised lurch into recession again were also not exaggerated.
For generations, the UK has been regarded by the rest of the world as a prosperous place to invest in. We had a solid tie to the US and could be seen as the English-speaking gateway to the trade agreements imposed by the EU. Physically the geography will remain the same, but psychologically, it will not. It will no longer make sense to place a headquarters in London, or place a factory in the north of England when you could place it in Germany or France instead. Why travel to visit the UK now you are forced to deal with visas and tariffs when you could go to Rome or Madrid without the hassle.
The main risk is Britain becomes a Swiss-esque, irrelevant, offshore country within the geographical continent of Europe. Of course many will argue the initial shift will be felt by only London, an area of the country that little empathy is felt for by the rest due to its relative affluence and opportunity. However, inevitably the outside view of Britain will penetrate through the country and affect wider scale industries and not just finance and London-dwelling ones.
It’s difficult to predict the outcome and what form ‘Britain’ will take once the dust has settled. Similarly, the Brexit victory in the UK may also inspire Eurosceptics in other EU member countries, and ultimately could force a domino effect. What we do know is however, everything will take time to fully affect things – and who knows, perhaps somehow the worst will be avoided. But we should not be under any illusions, Britain that existed until 23rd June 2016 is no more; this is a new uncertain Britain, with a lot of question marks surrounding it.
Comment below with your opinion on the EU Referendum result.