THE GENESIS OF ‘THE BREXIT’
The call for Britain to exit the European Union (EU) can be traced to the global economic meltdown which saw the economies of the world crumble. The global recession took a toll on every nation of the world but Britain compared to many other nations recovered in a fairly good time. Following the recession came increased terrorism and Islamisation of the world with Islamic terrorist groups holding sway in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, they were beginning to gradually infiltrate Europe. The crisis that rocked the Middle East led many to migrate massively into Europe not just for safety but for greener pastures, the slow economic recovery of some European countries led Europeans too to migrate to better economies within the region. With migration of people into a country comes the transference of ideologies, systems, lifestyle, religion, traditions and culture etc. Matters became worse in Britain when some British boys were brainwashed and left the country to fight for the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This influx of persons threatened the territorial integrity of Britain, Islam became the fastest-growing religion in the land.
Furthermore, many Britons watched people from other nations take-up jobs and prosper at their expense, this led to the call for Britain to leave the EU in order to have greater control of its borders. Not so long after the call, Prime Minister David Cameron ran for a fresh term in office and he campaigned and won on the promise that he would conduct a referendum to determine first if Scotland should remain a part of the United Kingdom (UK) and secondly, if the UK should remain part of the EU. The referendum was fixed as promised and Scotland voted to remain part of the UK (a decision greatly influenced by the fact that the UK was part of the EU) while the UK majority voted to leave the EU. The British referendum that led to the UK exiting the European Union is what is known as the British Exit – ‘Brexit’. Over all, it is important to note that the main political undertone underlying the Brexit is ‘Migration’.
WHY THE ‘REMAIN’ CAMPAIGN FAILED
Late Sensitization: The British people did not know on time even up till the voting day the meaning or implications of leaving the European Union (EU). Many people voted out of emotion and ignorance because sensitization was poor and very late. Before people go to any poll, the first campaign drive should be that they register to vote; this is one of the factors that aided the Obama campaign in the first term. When encouraging people to register, the party involved is indirectly selling the message that they are serious and are the right way to go. A friend of mine in a conversation told me a colleague of hers in her workplace voted to leave the EU because “she did not know what else to vote for” i.e. voted for no just reason. Because people did not have the knowledge nor understanding, they enjoyed the hype of the season and voted for whatever choice came to their mind at the polls. Many voters did not consider the facts of the issue and the implications of their decision. Early preparation is the secret of success. If citizens were first sensitized and encouraged to vote by both parties on a neutral level as a matter of social responsibility, then the people would have decided after thorough thought.
Voter Apathy: Voter apathy among young people has been a perennial challenge across continents, young people usually do not come out to vote, it is a big deal all over the world when young people exercise their civic duties; Brexit unfortunately had to be the cost for the British youths this time. One factor that made the difference in the Obama 2008 campaign was the enthusiasm among the youths, many young people volunteered and voted for the first time. Ordinarily, the younger population would always be more than the older population, how then it be that over 60% of the ‘Leave’ voters were the older generation who eventually had their way if not that the younger population did not come out en masse.
Conflict of Needs: There was a conflict of needs between the older generation and the younger generation. The older generation voted for their own interest, they were trying to secure their own future rather than the future of the younger generation. The older population who voted to leave the EU have about 15-16 years on the average to live with the consequences of Brexit while the younger ones have about 50 years on the average to bear it. One of the main campaign messages of the ‘Leave’ camp was that the UK spends GBP 350 Million a week on the EU and that such money could rather be used to beef-up the National Health Service (NHS), the figures turned out to be outrageously untrue. Now, who needs the health services more?, the older generation. The older people need the health services more, they are prone to health challenges and thus, if the only price to have better health services and live longer was to leave the EU, why not? While the older generation were thinking NHS, the younger generation were thinking of the affordable fun trips (thanks to the EU free movement policy), they were nursing the prospect of living outside UK and working in a big firm in the heart of Europe without restrictions or the opportunity of learning a foreign language or doing business abroad. Therefore, the older generation having their way means that they had overpowering interest, they wanted ‘it’ more than the younger ones, voting towards living longer was the best they could do for themselves since they had nothing to lose.
Poor Campaign Strategy: The basic principle of magnetism is that like poles repel and unlike poles attract, the same principle applies in political campaigns. To attract people, the opposite needs to be done sometimes. The ‘Leave’ campaign employed the ‘Fear-mongering’ tactic i.e. Highlighting the negative aspects of being in the EU and the repercussions of remaining. The ‘Remain’ campaign on the other hand made the error of using the same strategy by highlighting the repercussions of leaving the EU. What the ‘Remain’ campaign could have done correctly was to focus more on propagating the benefits of being in the EU such as free movement, jobs abroad, easier trade and business, foreign investments, war on terror, global standing etc. Rather, the ‘Remain’ camp propagated what sounded more like threats – “if we leave, this is what would happen” instead of “if we stay, this is what will happen”. The ‘Remain’ campaign ought to have capitalized or consolidated on the gains of being in the EU stating why the UK is better-off. They could have sold the message that even though UK is not where it hoped to be, they are not where they used to be and have made some progress. Opposite tactics would get the opposite results from an opponent. Confidence is the opposite of fear, the ‘Remain’ team may have been successful had they expressed more confidence in the EU in their campaign.
Late Heavy Push: The heavy push from the ‘Remain’ camp came very late, it came barely 48-72 hours before the polls. People would not have had the time to think through their points, the message would not have been able to resonate or sink-in, it was too late for people to think through or change their minds. The big voices would have spoken early enough, it always works; John Major, Gordon Brown, Sadiq Khan etc spoke rather late. Recently, President Barack Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton for president even before being officially nominated, that is the biggest endorsement any candidate in the race can have, the sitting President has made it clear who he would like to handover to and who he feels America should vote for, Americans can now begin to prepare their mind who to support early enough.
The Obama (Side) Effect: Quite alright, the UK and USA are best of friends, probably the greatest allies the world has ever seen. Though President Obama’s trip was made in good faith, it was counter-productive. President Obama seemed not to understand the nature of the people he was dealing with. The British people are traditionally a conservative people who mind their ‘business’ and dislike interference. Suffice it is that one of the facts in issue about being part of the EU is the belief that the EU dictates to Downing Street, the fact that the EU interferes in exclusively internal issues. President Obama coming from miles away literally to tell the British what to do could not have resonated well with the British people. Therefore, some persons may have voted to leave the EU simply to prove a point that no one can dictate in British affairs, Obama’s visit may have strengthened the resolve of some ‘leavers’. President Obama could have still remained in the US, made a statement as a persuasive opinion and he would have still achieved the aims he intended by traveling. Traveling in person was a bit too much and it is quite embarrassing that the voice of the world’s power was scorned by her best friend.
Over-confidence: The ‘Remain’ team leaders were over-confident, it seemed common sense not to leave the EU. Over-confidence was partially why Prime Minister David Cameron offered a referendum to the British people in the first place, over-confidence may have led to the late heavy push, a little over-confidence definitely stemmed from the outcome of the Scottish referendum. Many leaders never believed that the UK would ever want to exit the EU. Ordinarily, the co-existence of a people is made non-negotiable because if given any chance, there must be division. There must be agitations in any society, there will always be a sub-group in any group and a sub-group within every other sub-group. Biafra has been agitating for independence from Nigeria same as Saharawi Republic from Morocco but what has kept the countries together is the fact that the issue of co-existence has been made non-negotiable, not by law but it is implied. Prime Minister Cameron took a big risk which showed weakness and it has turned out costly, but history may be fair to him for giving the people a voice if Brexit turns out beneficial.
Racism and Xenophobia: According to human rights law expert, Ruth Costigan, the UK is a perennially racist country yet tolerant being one of the most diverse countries in the world and with sizeable number of mixed-race persons. Over the years, people have migrated to the UK and have made a living there. However, there are still residues of racism and now xenophobia which affected the outcome of the EU referendum. There are two (2) reasons: First, the older generation are still very traditional and conservative and secondly, the younger working lots have watched other Europeans troop into Britain and becoming more prosperous than they are. The belief that the core Europeans are taking British jobs is not entirely true, they get employed by British job-owners either because they have the requisite skills or because they are willing to work for lesser pay. If the Brits are willing to acquire the requisite skills or can work for a little less than the minimum wage, they would get the jobs too. As a matter of fact, many believe the core Europeans are more hardworking, contented, friendly, willing-to-learn and make great co-workers. The Britons forgot that just as the core Europeans migrated into the UK to work, they have equal chances to move too and make a living abroad. The European migrants earn less, pay more taxes, have restricted access to social services and benefits and yet are happier. Many believed and expected that once they vote ‘leave’, the migrants would back their belongings and actually leave, it does not work that way, the streets will not be “British only” anytime soon because many immigrants have become permanent residents, many have inter-married and given birth in the UK. No matter the shades of colour or race some Brits do not want to see, these set of people have equal and legal rights to stay in the UK indefinitely. Furthermore, the Point Based System policy the UK intends to model from Australia guarantees skillful foreigners to take-up British jobs and also stay in the country.
HOW ‘BREXIT’ IS IRELAND’S GREATEST GAIN
Like it is popularly said, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom-fighter”. In any political organization or disorganization between two or more parties, there must be gainers and losers. I believe the biggest gainer from the British Exit is the Republic of Ireland. Ireland share territorial, traditional and historical ties with Britain. Investors in Europe prefer to operate from London because of convenience, strong currency, language, diversity, flexibility amongst other factors. Ireland is part of the EU and has good trade relations with Britain, the next best deal is for investors to enjoy the best of both worlds by relocating to neighbouring Ireland. Ireland compared to the UK needs more skilled workers and are “desperate” for foreign investments, they are open to the world for business. Proximity to the UK would not make relocation of companies difficult. For tourists and international students, Ireland’s attraction is not just the beauty and education but the English language too. Foreigners who desire to speak better English language can live, work and learn in Ireland as an alternative to the UK. Ireland is the last English-speaking bloc within the EU with similar systems and infrastructures as the UK, the country serves as a viable alternative to the UK. There is a record-high demand for the Irish passport and Ireland would be willing to welcome the world.
THE FUTURE OF GREAT BRITAIN
Following the World War II, the Marshall Plan was launched to facilitate the reconstruction of Europe. Ever since then, Europe has been on the rise becoming an exclusive continent in the world. One thing the ‘Remain’ campaign failed to point out is the fact that since the formation of the European Union, Europe as a continent has become more prosperous than any other time in the world’s history. Therefore, the EU arrangement is not a failed project, the quality of life of Europeans is arguably higher than the rest of the world; pulling out of the EU meant pulling out of the common wealth. The UK has some slight advantages economically over some countries in hinterland Europe but upon Brexit, the most of Europe would become richer than UK if serious economic decisions are not made, the UK needs to make critical contingency plans and must be committed to seeing them through. The Peoples of European Union the UK wants to see emigrate would in a space of 20 years be better-off in many respects, a typical case study is between Nigeria and South Africa. During the apartheid, Nigeria was better than South Africa in many areas, South Africans would come to Nigeria to study and work, Nigeria gave South Africa aids and technical support but today, South Africa has better infrastructures, stronger currency, became Africa’s largest economy and South Africans generally live a better life. Another case study is between Nigeria and neighbouring Ghana; Ghana gained independence 3 years before Nigeria but during their era of serious economic woes, many Ghanaians trooped into Nigeria to work, the massive influx led to the popular ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ agitation, the Ghanaians returned to their country, developed it, and today, Accra is better-organized than Lagos and Ghanaians have a higher life-expectancy than Nigeria. If the UK is thus not careful, the rest of Europe would surpass them, newer countries in the EU have testified to the goodness of the EU arrangement and have seen meaningful changes in their country.
A major disadvantage of the Brexit is that for a lot of things, the UK will now be at the “mercy” of the EU, a lot of things would be on EU’s terms e.g. trade relations and counter-terrorism. What was a matter of obligation is now a matter of discretion, it all depends of the generousity of the EU following negotiations. It is likely there would be a decrease in tuition fees to allow more British to be able to afford and acquire the necessary skills to take-up British jobs, international students may also pay less and Britain may want to headhunt or “trap” foreign talents to grow their economy. The UK needs to diversify the economy, if jobs are not being created, unemployment may rise. About 90% of UK’s export is in the financial services, it is generally an efficient service-driven economy. Scotland has oil but the EU referendum has divided Britain. Scotland is considering a fresh referendum and if Scotland leaves Britain, UK economy would most-certainly be affected. The British government must do all it can to make the country have a more-attractive outlook to the world, this means bigger incentives and more liberal economic reforms to attract foreign investors to remain or participate.
Furthermore, because the UK is no longer part of the EU and would now have to follow the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade regulations, the UK would import more and spend more on importation; goods would in turn become more expensive. Because trade is lot more complex now, some companies are very likely to pull-out partially or permanently from the economy and that comes with loss of jobs. For companies who choose to remain in the UK, they would cut costs, wages may be cut down and some workers may be retrenched so as to break even on all indexes; the point is, whichever way, jobs would be lost. The UK served as a vantage point to gain access into the European economy, nevertheless, some companies would make the UK a mere hub while main operation is moved to a different European capital. If the finances of the UK are not well-managed, the UK would plunge into recession with lower credit ratings, the Bank of England must thus have sufficient capital to support British businesses. To maintain capital to run the economy, there would be tax increases and spending cuts, austerity measures would be taken and that means “crunch” for British citizens and lower quality of life. The UK would definitely see a decline in tourism over time, this is not only because of the new racism and xenophobic inclinations nor the cold anger globally towards Britain because of their decision but because the free movement policy under the EU arrangement would have elapsed due to ademption. The British passport is currently the strongest in the world but following Brexit, there would be a lower demand for it and the passport would rank lower ordinarily if British citizens would now require a visa to travel to some countries. Lastly, Britain being part of the EU added some flavor to her global perception and standing, following Brexit, Britain may lose her voice and some respect globally, Britain may no longer be seen as an opinion leader in the region or on global issues in the coming years.
In conclusion, the future of Britain looks bleak for now, yet there may be light at the end of the tunnel, it all depends on how post-Brexit Britain is managed, the world will be watching.
– Written by Bolu’ Michael-Biyi