The referendum for Brexit has just concluded. ‘Leave’ won by 1.3 million votes (1.9%). It amazes me to think that because of 1.3 million people, the economic and political landscape is going to change. What is even more amazing, or shocking, is that right after the Brits woke up, some of them begun to regret their choice of votes. Some voters didn’t even know what they were voting for. And this is the power of democracy. The blind leading the blind.
Since articles are popping out all over the place, I would like to share my two cents too. What are the impacts and lessons (mostly political) learnt from Brexit?
The Power of the Old
They played a part. A huge part. The older generation wanted to leave so much more than the younger generation. This shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, only the old knows the “good ol’ days” of UK, wishing for the ‘sovereignty’ of the UK. And who is to pay for the price? The younger generation. The age-old conflict of instant gratification against delayed gratification seems to come into play here, with the older generation not thinking too much on the future implications upon the young.
And it is a growing trend that the world is facing an increasingly ageing population. A report by the Population Division showed that
- “Population ageing is unprecedented, without parallel in human history—and the twenty-first century will witness even more rapid ageing than did the century just past.
- Population ageing is pervasive, a global phenomenon affecting every man, woman and child—but countries are at very different stages of the process, and the pace of change differs greatly. Countries that started the process later will have less time to adjust.
- Population ageing is enduring: we will not return to the young populations that our ancestors knew.
- Population ageing has profound implications for many facets of human life.”
In future elections/referendums all over the world, it appears even more important to think about the demographics of the nation and how to meet the needs of the various generations. However, it is without a doubt that there would be a conflict of interests between different generations. Political parties have to pay more attention towards the grey population, and hopefully, the older generation would spare a thought for the greater future and vote wisely.
Parallels of the Past
In 1789, the French Revolution broke out, carrying the slogan of “Liberty, equality and fraternity.” This set off a wave of nationalism in Europe, leading to a series of nationalistic movements across Europe, resulting in the establishment of Italy and Germany.
Today, we have the slogan of “Take Back Control”. Nationalistic movements are looking at UK as an “example to follow“. Right after Brexit, right-nationalist leaders in Europe started tweeting congratulatory messages.
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) June 24, 2016
What to look out for would be USA’s Presidential Election in the November. Would we see another victory for the nationalistic movement? If we do, it could be very well possible for the next wave of nationalism.
Globalisation, Immigration, Class Conflict
Immigration is ever increasingly more relevant in this age of globalisation. In Singapore, this has been quite a contentious issue too. Trump has been using this topic to great effect in his rallies. In Brexit, we finally see a ‘victory’ for anti-immigration. Some even dubbed it as the reversal of globalisation.
We can see the voting trends here too. The working class are more affected by immigration issues, with the classic argument of having more immigrants pushing down the wages of the locals. We see poorer regions and regions with fewer graduates voting ‘out’. Perhaps this referendum was the working class’ cry of angst towards the educated and the wealthier.
The war for and against immigration goes on, with the respective classes backing their own side.
“Subtleties of logic do not motivate the human will…the most powerful springs of actions in men lie in his emotions.” – Clausewitz
Both campaigns used fear-mongering to harness their votes. The ‘Leave’ campaign’s slogan of “‘Take back control’ captured all of Leave’s key argument” (Echo), while the ‘Remain’ campaign used the fear of an economic downturn. Berinato has a solid article analysing the two campaigns.
Let us remind ourselves the power of emotions and irrationality, the dangers of the crowd, and the ones who used it to great impact. The need to be rational and stay informed is ever more important lest we succumb to impulses.
Emotions are still running high, many articles are just pouring in, and it could all be a misrepresentation. And nobody truly knows.
What Happens Now?
This event has been shrouded with fear and uncertainty since this is the first time a major player voted out of the EU. No one seems to have the whole picture too. The markets did not help at all, all showing negative returns after the results. The development of events is rather interesting, to say the least.
Nigel Farage immediately denies his claim on pumping more money into NHS and another MP believed “a post-EU settlement should not result in reduced immigration” (Independent). Well done politicians, well done.
It is quite possible that nothing much is going to change for now (read Richard Muller’s answer here) since all the negotiations would take about two years. It is also interesting to see how the petition for another referendum turns out. Negotiations would be tough since the EU has to set UK as an example and deter other nations from leaving. But for now, let’s take it one step at a time and see how the EU and UK respond. Let us hope that this would just be a freak event, that this wave of pessimism will tone down, and not a sign of things to come in the future.