IA's Europe correspondent, Alan Austin, analyses the fall out from the Brexit vote but reckons on the legendary stiff-upper-lipped Brits keeping calm and carrying on (if only to get up those cheese-eating Frenchie noses ... )
THIS IS how one British MP described Thursday's referendum vote to leave the European Union (EU):
"The most significant decision for Britain since the war"
Reactions across Europe and beyond suggest this is so. Stock markets plummeted and the British pound fell to its lowest level in three decades. Presidents and prime ministers called urgent cabinet meetings, then press conferences to reassure anxious citizens. The prime minister of Great Britain quit on the spot.
The decision was decisive – 51.9% to 48.1% – which is a majority well above a million votes. The voting turnout of 72.2% was higher than for any national election or referendum since 1997.
That’s still close enough, however, for recriminations about the outcome being manipulated by unfair campaign tactics, and to fuel fears the country will remain bitterly divided.
Hilarious! "Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least 500 years — to create a disunited Europe."
The big winners in Britain are those who have felt their sovereignty has been ceded to foreigners in too many critical areas since joining the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. Yes, this includes the right wing anti-immigration nutters. But others as well.
Decisions on prices, product regulations, workplace rules and migration will now be made, the majority believe, in London by elected local MPs rather than in Belgium by a council comprising députés from France, Croatia and Romania.
Those holding gold or gold shares are winners. So are speculators who sold stocks before the crash and are picking up bargains now. The big commercial cities of Europe – Paris, Zurich, Frankfurt and Brussels – will gain as London loses its status as the world’s financial capital.
The losers start with the UK party leaders, but do not end there. After six successful years as leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister, David Cameron has resigned. Having campaigned passionately for the status quo, he accepts he cannot manage the exit. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ran a half-hearted Remain campaign, so will also face an early no-confidence vote within his party.
Those holding vulnerable shares and currencies across the world are losers. The Australian Stock Exchange’s all ordinaries index lost 166 points yesterday, closing at 5,192 points, reversing a steady four-month recovery. That is below the 2013 election level.
Virtually all other EU member countries – all 27 of them – will lose in various ways. Britain is now a competitor rather than a partner in trade with Asia and the Americas. Britain’s financial and other inputs to the EU will be sorely missed.
There is talk already of retaliation against the UK by remaining EU members via tariff barriers and in other ways. We shall see.
From BBC News. Brexit: How world reacted to Britain's EU referendum.
In fact, this really was inevitable. Despite the noble aspirations of those in government, academia and business who envisaged a regional community of nations with shared geography, history, fear of Muslims and resentment towards America, the necessary bonds were never there.
English folk in their towns and cities still believe that the French are cheese-eating surrender monkeys. And the French citoyens are unlikely soon to change their idées that the English can’t dance, dress, cook, hold street parties or express leurs émotions.
It was a noble idea. Worth a shot. But les différences were just too great.
It is now likely that Scotland and Northern Ireland – which both voted strongly to remain – will leave the United Kingdom and become independent nations within the EU. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said another referendum on independence – following the 2014 one which narrowly supported continuing in the UK – is “on the table”.
Now one country has decided to leave, others debating the issue may follow. Netherlands and France have the most assertive separatist voices, but they are not the only two.
Positively, this could be the jolt that causes EU administrators to look closely at areas of dysfunction which they have ignored. These include the scandalous payments to Europe’s richest landowners of "subsidies" for not producing food. There are others.
Impact on Australia
Australia’s winners and losers include those whose share portfolio or currency holdings are affected – positively or adversely. Australian stocks in gold and some other commodities rose significantly yesterday. The Aussie dollar strengthened against the euro and the UK pound, but fell against the U.S. dollar and the yen.
Many Australian exporters to the UK lost markets 43 years ago when Britain entered the EEC. British supermarkets, for example, were obliged to buy apples from Hungary and Italy rather than Tasmania. Now, Australian exporters to Europe have two large customers to supply rather than just the one.
One challenge is that Australia does not have a free trade agreement with the EU, and hence neither with the UK. Both now need to be negotiated separately.
Implications for Australia’s looming election are few. There are advantages and disadvantages in trade and diplomacy. The fact that trade with Europe has now become more complicated may concern some voters, as trade has been the single greatest area of failure of the Abbott/Turnbull period.
But it probably won’t upset too many voters because the mainstream media has successfully concealed Australia’s disastrous trade results over the last two and a half years.
To the extent that global economic conditions are now less stable, the case for a return to Labor – which handled the global financial crisis better than any other government in the world – is strengthened. But, again, this reality has been successfully denied.
For the British, if this is the most decisive event since the war, they will respond the same way — keep calm, keep smiling and carry on.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
Keep up! Subscribe to IA for just $5.