This is the first of our series of four articles we're dedicating to the consequences of Brexit. Brexit will impact philanthropy, the European integration process, and the lives of hundreds of millions of people. This is why we decided to publish these articles on Kinder World.
It has been three years since the Brexit referendum, and yet now we seem to be no closer to a definitive end to the whole affair. The Halloween deadline for a likely no-deal withdrawal will only be yet another step in a long and messy divorce entailing lengthy and arduous World Trade Organisation arbitration, to say nothing of the wide-reaching societal and economic impacts of such an outcome.
Brexiteers cheer on the process of ‘taking back control’, in a country in which only 0.25% of the population (Conservative Party members) had any control in choosing its new Prime Minister. Furthermore, Boris Johnson’s time as PM is likely to be characterized as a struggle to pull Britain out of the EU with no deal, against the wishes of the parliament whose sovereignty he is apparently freeing from Brussels.
Somehow, this complete farce is held together by the tired mantra that this is somehow the ‘will of the people’. In reality, the UK is now in a power vacuum, lacking a clear direction and perhaps more divided than any time in modern history. Above all else, Brexit exemplifies irony and tragedy. Its irony is in how it divides (and could likely break up) the country it is supposed to empower, but its ultimate tragedy is how it distracts from the crises that will come to define the 21st century. It was an ill-informed and directionless referendum that got us into this mess, perhaps it is only a hopefully more informed referendum that can get us out of it.
Where are we with Brexit?
In the aftermath of the European parliamentary election, both supporters of Brexit and pro-second referendum/Remainers claimed victory of sorts. The new Brexit Party emerged to become the single largest party in the European Parliament, taking roughly a third of the UK vote. Proponents of ‘no-deal Brexit’ have new wind in their sails and point to electoral success as a clear mandate for a rapid exit from the EU.
However, this oversimplifies the fact the pro-remain vote was not directed at one party, but several. The combined tally of explicitly pro-remain parties (the Lib Dems, Greens, Change UK, the SNP, and Plaid Cymru) amounts to 40% of the vote share. Furthermore, it can be reasonably assumed that at least part of the Labour vote share is pro-remain, or at least pro-referendum.
That being said, turnout for this election remained unsurprisingly low, and so any claim to truly represent the current ‘will of the people’ in either respect is skating on thin ice. Indeed, proponents of remain argue that more people (6 million) signed the online petition to revoke article 50 than voted for the Brexit party. While it is disingenuous to compare an online poll with a parliamentary election, it nonetheless illustrates the ongoing divide. Perhaps the only thing it reflects with any certainty is a growing disillusionment with the two largest parties; as 75% of the vote went to neither Labour nor Conservatives.
History will tell who the real winners and losers are, but while Brexit continues to remain unresolved in principle, its disastrous impact on Britain’s international standing is irrefutable. Brexit has become the elephant in the room in all the UK’s international dealings, and undermines its position as a soft-power on the world stage.
The financial impact of Brexit so far, causing losses of 40 billion pounds to the economy every year, simply dwarfs the actual cost of membership (about 9 billion pounds). The best Brexit scenario, like the so-called ‘Norway plus’ option, would essentially entail submitting to some regulation with no say in its making.
The worst and increasingly more likely outcome is to crash out with no deal; with the associated shortage of food, fuel and medicine and chaos at the border. While there are of course valid critiques of the European Union, there is far more that could be done to reform it from within than suffer the consequences of an ignominious withdrawal.
About the author: Samuel John recently graduated with an MSc in international development studies. Formerly a research intern with Kinder, he is now working as an English teacher in Japan; and continues to write the occasional article for Kinder World
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