Brexit could be reversed

2016-06-29 15:13

On 23 June, UK voters decided to leave the European Union (EU) in the much touted Brexit referendum. The fall-out was immediate and severe, both politically and economically. Buyers’ remorse prevails with UK voters having the worst electoral hangover in recent history. Unlike most elections, there are very few people who are celebrating and an increasing number who are ruing their decision. The question now is, whether there is any way to reverse this increasingly unpopular decision? I believe so. The actual exit from the EU will only commence once the UK invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty of 2009. If there is sufficient public pressure, enough political will and a clear mandate for the UK to stay in the EU, this may never happen. It may be embarrassing for the UK and its leaders, but it may well be the best thing for its citizens (especially the young), the EU and the wider World.

Following the Brexit vote, the British Pound declined by over 10% to the dollar and hit a 30-year low over the past week. By last Tuesday, global equity markets had lost more than $3 trillion following the vote (although there has been some recovery since). On the morning of the vote result, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced his resignation and the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn has been under immense pressure from within his own ranks. He will likely not survive.

It is no wonder that the fall-out was so extreme. Britain’s proposed departure from the EU has created huge uncertainty and is expected to be very negative for the economy. In addition, there are concerns over what this means for the stability of the EU (already parties in other countries have called for similar votes), what this means for the stability of the UK (Scotland is asking for another referendum on independence and in Northern Ireland there are talks of uniting with Ireland) and what this means for relations with foreigners in the UK (with a number of reported racist incidents following the vote).

Support for the Leave camp of Brexit emanated across different UK political parties and regions. The main party that wholeheartedly supported it was UKIP under Nigel Farage. The Conservative Party was split with the Prime Minister, David Cameron supporting the Remain side whilst Boris Johnson (previous mayor of London) supported the Leave campaign. The Labour Party purportedly supported the Remain side, but many believe that its leader, Jeremy Corbyn was ambivalent and did not provide strong enough support for this side. As a result, many labour MPs and supporters voted Leave. Three areas that overwhelmingly supported Remain were Northern Ireland, Scotland and the City of London. Another grouping that supported Remain were the young people in the country with polls showing that only 19% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 supported a Brexit.

A strong theme that has emerged post the results is that the Leave vote for many people (and even supporters) was a protest vote and not necessarily the outcome that they desired. An online petition to rerun the Brexit referendum has already attracted more than 4 million signatures. The question now is whether there is any way for these protest voters who now regret their decision to be given another opportunity to vote? I believe that this is possible.

As it stands, no political leader is willing to contemplate another referendum. David Cameron has said that another vote is “not remotely on the cards” and Boris Johnson has said that there will be no general election if he wins the Conservative Party Leadership. However, at the same time, Cameron is not willing to invoke Article 50 yet, which is a prerequisite for negotiations towards an exit to commence.

Many UK leaders may be hoping for informal negotiations with the EU to commence to provide more clarity prior to invoking Article 50. The EU, however, are adamant that no discussions will occur until Article 50 is invoked. They are playing hardball and are unwilling to make this process any easier for the UK. They want immediate action so that they can move forward without uncertainty overhanging the future of the EU. This line from EU leaders could put additional pressure on UK politicians during a period of uncertainty.

Within the next three months, we will see a new leader of the Conservative Party and likely a new leader of the official opposition, the Labour Party. It is highly likely that these developments will put increasing pressure on leaders to hold a general election so that a fresh mandate can be obtained from the electorate. Even if Boris Johnson wins the Conservative Party race, he may not be able to stop the increasing pressure for a general election. If Theresa May (the other main candidate) wins, a general election would be very likely, in my opinion. She was a strong supporter of the Remain campaign.

If a general election is called, there is little doubt that the campaigns would focus aggressively on the UK in the EU question. The elections may turn into another Brexit referendum by proxy. If I am correct and the recent uncertainty and remorse from Leave voters shifts support convincingly to the Remain camp, the winners of the general election may well have a fresh mandate to not invoke Article 50.

This would inevitably lead to another Brexit referendum, which the Remain side would likely win. Article 50 would then never be invoked and the UK would remain in the EU. Although this would be embarrassing for UK leaders, it would be good for their citizens, the EU and the wider World. It may also lead to further negotiations that could improve the way that the EU functions and how the UK operates within it. The post-Brexit hangover can then finally subside.

I was a strong supporter of the Remain side. I believe that the EU is a very important institution to help drive a peaceful future in Europe and the World; that a weakening of the EU would be negative for race relations and the immigrant question; that the EU is positive for the global economy and markets; and that the EU is an important force for good when it comes to the sharing of progressive ideas. I recognise that there are shortcomings, but I believe it is better to address them as a unit than for countries to go their separate ways. As a result, I would be overjoyed if the UK reverses its Brexit decision. Fingers crossed.

Were you shocked by the Brexit decision? Were you surprised by the pressure it put on currencies and the markets? Do you think it is a good idea and why? Do you think there is a chance that it could be reversed? Would that make you happy or angry? I would love to see your opinion. Comments are welcome on my website.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

#Brexit #UK #EU

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

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