After months of speculation, the citizens of the United Kingdom voted in favor of leaving the European Union. With 100 percent of the 33.5 million votes votes now counted, the “leave” camp came out victorious, garnering 51.9 percent of the vote as opposed to the “remain” camp’s 48.1 percent. The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union has sent aftershocks throughout the world and has caused somewhat of a miniature economic and political crisis both domestically and abroad.
Shortly after the results of the referendum were announced, the British sterling pound dropped more than 10 percent in value to a low that the currency has not seen since 1985. The pound is currently 8 percent down against the US dollar and 6 percent against the Euro. The UK-oriented Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index (FTSE) nose dived from 6,344 points to 5,806 points within ten minutes of its opening today. It has since climbed back to 6,138 as of this writing. Stocks from major banking and financial institutions Barclay’s and the Royal Bank of Scotland lost 30 percent this morning, though they have since cut their losses to 20 percent. In the United States, the Dow Jones dropped over 600 points.
On mainland Europe, the vote sparked discussions about other countries having their own referendum to exit the European Union, especially among Europe’s right-wing nationalist parties. In France, where 60 percent of citizens hold a negative view of the European Union, National Front leader Marine Le Pen said that France must also have the right to choose. This sentiment was echoed by Dutch politician Geert Wilders and the Northern League of Italy while Italy’s Five-Star movement called for a referendum to put an end to Euro usage. The Danish People’s Party suggested that if the Danish parliament fails to reach an agreement with the EU, there should be “a referendum [to] decide the case”. Some see countries such as Sweden teetering on the edge of exiting the EU, and fear that the ongoing refugee crisis coupled with the UK’s exit will push them over the edge.
The United Kingdom seemed to be not-so-united itself following the so-called Brexit referendum. In the wake of the vote, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation from his position. Cameron was an ardent supporter of remaining in the European Union, but after being defeated said that “the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path”, continuing that they need “fresh leadership to take it in this direction”.
Though they voted to remain in the United Kingdom in 2014, Scottish politicians have resurrected the idea of calling for a referendum to gain Scotland’s independence after the UK’s own split from the EU. In the Brexit referendum, Scotland voted overwhelmingly in favor of remaining in the European Union (62 percent to 38 percent), yet they will still get taken out of the EU since they are not a sovereign state. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said this is “democratically unacceptable” and that she will prepare the legislation needed to get another independence vote for Scotland.
Other Western heads-of-state have displayed their dissatisfaction for the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkle called the Brexit referendum “a watershed for Europe and the European unity process,” expressing that she accepted it “with great regret”. She also advised other European leaders to remain “calm and confident” and to not make any rash decisions, such as proposing their own referendum to leave the European Union.
In the months leading up to the pivotal vote, both President Obama and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton urged Britons to vote in favor of remaining in the EU, warning that choosing to leave would discredit the international organizations that sprung up post-World War 2 which have since maintained relative peace and economic prosperity on the continent. Though the Obama administration was unquestionably upset about the turnout of last night’s vote, Obama assured the world that he would respect the decision of Britons and that their choice would not affect the two counties’ “special relationship” in the least.
Donald Trump on the other hand, applauded the UK’s kingdom to leave the European Union and proclaimed it “a great victory”. Making a visit to Scotland to expand his golf business, the Brexit vote came at a convenient time for Trump. The Donald spoke to reporters on the grounds of his Turnberry golf resort after a ribbon-cutting ceremony and basically gave himself a pat on the back for allegedly supporting and predicting the Brexit results. Trump continued rambling on incoherently for a while, going on to say that this trend will continue. “You see it all over Europe and many other cases where they want to take their borders back. They want to take their monetary [sic] back. They want to take a lot of things back. They want to have a country again. I think you are going to have this more and more. I really believe that. And it is happening in the United States.”
Though the UK’s exeunt from the stage that is the European Union is still subject to negotiation between the two parties and might not be completely settled for another two, possibly more, years, it has already created a ripple effect on the world, affecting the politics and economies of countries throughout the world. Some would even predict that this is a sign that the end of the European Union is nigh, which would create a huge impact on our globalized, interconnected society. Here in the United States, Brexit will undoubtedly play a huge role in the 2016 US election and, depending on the status of the UK’s economy within the next few months, can act to either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump’s favor.
The UK’s decision to exit the EU is a further sign of the current instability that is affecting nearly every corner of the world– from the economic crisis in Venezuela, to the increase in terrorist attacks on Western countries by radical Islamist groups, to the fact that, barring an act of God, the United States will elect either an ill-tempered loud-mouth or an untrustworthy liar to be our president for the next four years. 2016 is only halfway over and it has already been quite the tumultuous year. It has also become abundantly clear throughout the past few years that we are living in unstable times and that we are only seeing the beginning. However, it is our individual responsibility to take action before it is too late.
Our contemporary global society is plagued by a wide variety of issues: climate change, development and poverty, education, immigration, women’s rights, gun reform, economic and military conflicts are but a portion of the entire set of problems we face, many of which we don’t know exist. So in these troubling times, we must stand together regardless of partisanship and do more than simply have a shouting match with the other person. Though we may have disparaging ideas of what the world should be, we have to recognize the world for what it is and have a proactive discussion on what it is we need to do to ensure that we see prosperity for all of mankind in the following century rather than increased disparity among us.