Ramifications of Brexit beyond Britain
By their Brexit vote, the people have administered a punch on the chin of the British establishment, leaving it rattled and dazed. Britons have now joined electoral insurgencies elsewhere in Europe and beyond, against two-party democracies being hijacked by crony capitalism and austerity policies. “Global revolt against capitalism,” is the paraphrase of expressions used repeatedly by columnists, leaders of political parties and sundry pundits, on the high-profile coverage of the referendum results, anchored by David Dimbleby on BBC-1.
Driving me from Euston station to my hotel, the driver of London’s iconic black cab had announced the results hours before counting began. “There has been a relentless campaign by big international corporations to REMAIN in the EU, but the people are not being bullied; they’re making up their own mind.” Trust the cabbie, threatened by competition from Uber and other minicabs, to get to the heart of the matter.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, threatened to break the back of the “EXITERS” with a punitive, pro-austerity budget which, according to him, would become necessary if the REMAIN lost. The great hedge fund genius and global finance manipulator, George Soros, alarmed financial markets by his hyperbole: Black Friday he threatened across page one banner headlines. The World Bank, IMF, Federal Reserve, Bank of England, anxious economists - all came out with menacing messages. The Day of Judgement was nigh. Threats were issued from every global pedestal of power, but the important point is this: the people remained unimpressed. They voted according to their own lights. There is a lesson here for establishments everywhere. Their writ has diminished.
Tony Blair’s notorious spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, with new lines etched on his face as results poured in, blurted out in a rare moment of truth: there should not have been a referendum. In other words, the people should have been kept out. It is precisely this arrogant anti-people stance of establishments that is causing voters everywhere, to puncture holes in systems that suffocate them.
In the din of the ferocious campaign, only some newspapers had the time to take note of the insurgent Five Star Movement in Italy having wrested the Mayorships of Rome and Turin from a dwindling establishment. The continent and democracies elsewhere are being tugged in different directions. While the global ramifications of Britain’s Exit are chewed and digested, a more straightforward outcome is emerging in sharp silhouette in Spain. On Sunday, the Left-leaning Podemos is likely to be in a position to form a coalition government.
“Welcome Immigrants” was the giant size placard, adorning the Leftist Mayor’s office in downtown Madrid. Young Podemos leaders are optimistic for Sunday’s vote on exactly this kind of platform. This is vastly at a variance from the vocabulary used in the referendum debate.
The British campaign was marked by two distinct threats. The prime Exiters, Boris Johnson, Conservative, Nigel Farage UK Independence Party, painted lurid pictures of migrants flooding Britain in the event of continued union with EU. The REMAIN camp threatened economic doom in the alternative. Neither had the sensitivity to realise that the people had had enough of experts and politicians. Further complications will emerge as people and establishments interpret the outcome according to their respective visions.
That David Cameron, the Right Wing Prime Minister, and Jeremy Corbyn Labour’s radical Socialist leader, stood on the same platform was puzzling enough for the common man. Sooner or later, the leaders will define their differences. Corbyn fears England dominated by Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, with shrunken space for working class politics. Scotland’s Left-leaning Scottish National Party is fiercely for remaining in the EU, edging out labour. Against this backdrop, Corbyn’s vision to mobilise working classes across Europe remains thwarted. Already Corbyn is facing a mini-revolt within the Labour party for being slow off the block in supporting REMAIN.
The support Cameron received from President Obama and the US establishment has a huge strategic subtext. A Europe minus Britain will be more prone to seeking accommodation with Russia. Will EU now consolidate itself in the growing concert of a multipolar world? Or will it begin to splinter?
Already Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France is waylaying President Francois Hollande from the Right in French elections next spring. German elections in October 2017 will be riveting in the context of some real migration from the theatres in the Middle East destroyed by the US, UK and French-led military actions which have resulted in the greatest human migration since World War II. Much before the riveting polls in France and Germany, November elections in the US must engage the attention of punters. If establishments are in such bad odour everywhere, will the darling of the US ruling elite, Hillary Clinton, be exempt from people’s wrath? Donald Trump thumbed his nose at her by turning up to inaugurate his exclusive golf course in Scotland, almost indifferent to the troubling results that were to follow.
(Saeed Naqvi is a senior commentator on political and diplomatic affairs. Views expressed are strictly personal.)