Opinion and reaction on the vote that shook Europe needed after shock wake-up call
Presumably in common with a lot of people, I went to bed on Thursday night last happy enough in the knowledge that the ‘remain’ campaign would be victorious in the UK Referendum. When I got up early on Friday to discover that the ‘leave’ campaign won the day, I have to say I was shocked.
I am absolutely certain that no one, even those closest to the situation, has a clue as to the implications of this massive decision by the people of the UK. There are so many angles to this that it will take many years to unravel.
Firstly, this is a wake-up call for the EU. The amount of rules and regulations and bureaucracy that has been emanating from Brussels in recent years have made life much tougher for EU citizens in almost every single area of economic activity. This is alienating more and more people every week of the year. The EU institutions have become far removed from the ordinary people, and unless that can be changed, the European project will be under threat. An interesting stat emerged on Monday which was that there are 10,000 EU officials in Brussels earning more than David Cameron is earning. Just think about that!
The problem for the EU now is that if the UK gets a good deal from their exit negotiations, then other countries will want to leave too. Yet if the EU come down heavy on the UK, it is possible that the Irish economy might suffer too. The EU up to now were dealing with David Cameron, who wanted his country to remain in the union, but the EU will now have to deal with someone like Boris Johnson who is anti-Europe and who they might not be able to do business with as easily – and they might not want to deal with him either.
The implications for Ireland? Again, it is impossible to predict what will happen. It would not be in our interest if the EU plays hardball with the UK. The fact that the UK are such an important trading partner of Ireland’s will mean that we need to be pro-active in terms of bi-lateral agreements with regard to trade, etc. I also think that our politicians must be very strong in their negotiations with the EU. Remember that the EU saddled this country with 42% of the entire bank debts of the EU, despite the fact that our economy is 0.7% of the union. It’s payback time now and the Irish Government are in a very strong position to demand a generous package from the EU in return for being the only remaining English speaking country in the EU. That fact alone could be a positive into the future in terms of jobs and inward investment.
The implications for the UK are huge. The Conservative Party will have to elect a new leader and there is almost certainly going to be a General Election within the next 12 months. The Labour Party are in disarray and Jeremy Corbyn will probably not survive as leader. Scotland is sure to demand a new independence referendum while the situation in Northern Ireland is now unclear following the vote.
Finally, the result of this referendum, which will be felt for many generations to come, is an indicator of the volatility of politics throughout the world. In the UK, despite the fact that three-quarters of all elected MPs in Westminster were backing a ‘remain’ vote, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage and company carried the day. In France, Marine Le Pen’s ultra-right wing party looks likely to get into power very soon. There are similar right wing parties ready to take power in Austria and in Hungary.
Here at home, the two main parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, have seen their power almost disappear over the past ten years. Then, in the USA, it is possible that the people there will elect Donald Trump as their next President. We have never seen a time like it in politics and a common thread is the major disconnect between the ordinary people and the politicians and those in Government and major institutions. It is something that the politicians will have to address, and quickly, or this volatility that we have seen will continue to grow.
The Brexit vote is probably the biggest political decision taken in our generation and the fall-out will continue for many decades to come. Here in Ireland we need strong political leadership now more than ever before. I hope it’s forthcoming.