And so it happened. In yesterday’s referendum on continued membership in the European Union majority of British public decided to leave the European Union. The Leave campaign gained 51.9% of votes, while 48.1% supported the Remain side. As a result, UK will be the first country in the history of the EU to leave the pact. What consequences it will have for Great Britain? But first of all, what it will mean for the rest of Europe and will EU survive that?
What started as relatively calm evening, ensured additionally by bookies which up until the end of the voting offered betting suggesting that a remain verdict was a 90% certainty, soon turned into the probably the most troublesome night for the UK since WWII with consequences going far and wide beyond its borders and probably our times.
As the results were coming in from English and Welsh constituencies it quickly let us realise that Britain decided to leave the European Union after more than 40 years of membership within the Community. Across the whole UK with a turnout of 72% (the highest since 1992) 16,141,241 votes were issued in favour of the continuing EU membership but overwhelming 17 410 742 voters decided to divorce the European Community in the moment of its biggest vulnerability since decades.
Will Great Britain remain great?
But UK’s decision was not a unanimous one. Out of four countries creating the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland clearly declared that they want to remain part of the single market and a member of EU. The vote strongly divided Great Britain. There was also significant division across generations – with younger voters supporting the EU context and older ones clearly representing their disappointment towards the EU but also the entire establishment.
Shortly after the revealing the final results, Scottish Prime Minister declared that the second independence referendum for Scotland ‘is on the table’ as Scottish people do not feel like being ignored and ‘dragged out of the EU against their will’. Sinn Fein, on the other hand, raised again the issue over the potential referendum of joining the Northern Ireland with Ireland in the face of the EU referendum outcomes. Will then one of the consequences of leaving the European Union be the break-up of the British union as the unexpected ‘side effect’? The danger of that is higher than ever and definitely difficult times are in front of the country’s leaders.
And there’s of course economy with the value of pound already falling and the stock exchanges reporting loses across the world. If situation won’t improve in the coming weeks and months, the uncertainty will swing the markets and can eventually lead the UK into the recession in next years.
UK Government in meltdown
As expected the Prime Minister – David Cameron – declared he will be leaving the Downing Street in October as he will not ‘try to be a captain that steers our country to its next destination’. In an emotional speech, with breaking voice, he admitted his defence and promised to ‘steady the ship over next few months’.
The Conservatives, even though divided strongly during the Campaign, seem to remain calm and do not hurry Cameron to leave its post. Boris Johnson said even that there is ‘no need for haste’ in announcing new elections or choosing a new leader straight away.
While Nigel Farage declared what the UK needs now is the new Brexit government which will be able to secure new trade deals with Europe and lead Great Britain towards its future success.
Insiders from Brussels are quite clear about next steps. EU’s leaders quite frankly said the UK must now face the consequences of their vote and leave the Union as soon as possible. From the earlier opinions, it also does not look that nor France neither Germany will make it extremely easy for the UK to negotiate the new terms. Especially French leaders want to ‘punish’ UK leaving the EU and send a clear message to their home-grown Eurosceptics.
No one is yet sure what future holds but definitely, the UK, as well as whole Europe, is in for some troublesome months to come which might drag into years if no good will is to be shown.
Time to say goodbye to Britain and European Union as we knew them.