Observations of an Expat: Brexit Repercussions

June 24, 2016 OPINION/NEWS


Tom Arms

It looks like Marx was right. The world revolution will start in Britain. It started on Thursday.

It is different from what the bearded philosopher envisaged. The revolution is post-industrial. It is democratic rather than violent and it is a reversion to populist nationalism rather than internationalist.

But it is crystal clear that a majority of the British have risen up against an entrenched establishment. They feel that they are misled and unrepresented by unelected foreign bureaucrats shackled to a metropolitan-based elite that is exploiting them for their own selfish ends.

They feel this so strongly that they are prepared to destroy the value of their currency, drive away foreign business, threaten the sacred cow that is their National Health Service, destroy valuable trading relationships, lay the foundations for the break up of the United Kingdom and undermine the stability of Europe and that of the world financial system.

The serious threat of all the above has taken a back seat to the issues of sovereignty and the immigration fears of the xenophobes.

The Brexiteers have successfully but wrongly argued that the economic and political facts of life do not apply to the world’s fifth largest economy. They have fooled a majority of Britons that they better off working alone and that the financial stability of Britain is not under any threat.

They are living in la la land and have dragged Britain and Europe into it after them. The world doesn’t work that way, and it hasn’t for decades. Ever-increasing globalization has created an unprecedented surge in prosperity, but it has also ushered in jarring changes. The rough edges of those changes can only be overcome with more aggressive cooperation and engagement, not less.

The sovereignty and culture which British voters rightly hold dear is at risk unless it is underpinned by a sound and realistic financial system which recognises Britain’s role in the global trading system.

Contagion and financial instability are now almost certain to rear their heads elsewhere. The conditions that exist in Britain are mirrored throughout the Western world and beyond. Complex layers of divisions between ages, classes and geographic areas are becoming increasingly pronounced and finding a voice across the globe.

In Britain there was a clear and marked divide between the young and old. The young overwhelmingly saw their future in a united, cosmopolitan and interdependent Europe. They embraced the future and cultural change. But the oldies’ rose-spectacled nostalgia for the past and fear of cultural pollution won the day.

There were more divisions. Prosperous London voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. The impoverished former industrial heartlands of Wales, the North and Midlands voted to leave. Scotland will now almost certainly breakaway from the United Kingdom as the Scots refuse to be dragged out of the European Union by the rest of the United Kingdom.

The British working class abandoned their traditional vehicle the Labour Party to support the Eurosceptic, anti-immigration message of the right-wing UK Independence Party. The middle classes voted to protect their comfortable lifestyles.

These same divisions exist in the two other pillars of the European Community—France and Germany. Both of those countries face elections within the next 12 months. They are even more acutely mirrored in several new member states in Eastern Europe. There is real possibility that the European Community will collapse– one of the stated aims of leading Brexiteers.

The quintessential anti-EU voter finds solidarity with a Trump supporter. Both have reason to feel victimized by a global economy that has left them behind. Both have concluded that the culprits are out-of-control immigration and an unresponsive government far away, in Washington or Brussels. Both have concluded that the answer is disengagement, solving problems alone at home rather than preventing them through cooperation abroad.

The solution is a politics and a foreign policy that acknowledges the potency of national identity while aiming to lead the world rather than leave it aside. Xenophobia will eventually fade if genuine policy reforms provide new opportunities to the victims of globalization. The world needs leaders who listen and act upon the legitimate fears of their citizens. Who explain that solutions to complex problems come from standing together with other nations rather than standing alone and seeking simplistic populist solutions.







Tom Arms broadcasts on world affairs for a number of US radio stations including WTKF at http://www.wtkf107.com/. His Weekly Viewpoints discussion programme can be heard at 1830 EST on Wednesdays and his LookAhead at the next week’s main events on Fridays at 1800.


LookAhead Radio World Report for week commencing 27th June:






Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

Tom is also available as a Public Speaker and can be contacted on Twitter and Linkedin


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