Lessons from Brexit
The world was in for a shock on Friday last when Britain voted to exit from the European Union after 45 years. The Brexit as popular known is one of the most unexpected turn of events in recent history and is expected to trigger previously unforeseen ramifications all around the world. Markets across the world plunged along with it the Pound. Experts are still analysing how the Eurosceptics had increased in such numbers in the UK the past few years. Though the UK Parliament can still decide on whether to leave the EU, the referendum is the indicator of things going wrong in the UK , the EU and around the world.
The Conservative party under David Cameroon actually had one of the most successful elections in 2015 winning with a clear majority. But it later became his biggest problem with the members of his own party asking for a referendum and finally he was toppled from within. The opposition, the Labour Party had its own share of internal bickering and they are accused of not doing enough for the Remain camp and the leader of the opposition intentionally staying away from the Remain campaigns.
However the outcome narrows down to the policies of the Labour Party government under Tony Blair era that Britons slowly became more and more outraged and had also somehow turned some to be xenophobic. One of the core principles of the EU is the freedom of movement and so moving within the borders of the member states is free. When more countries from the Eastern and central Europe joined, many of the existing EU countries had opted for temporary limits on the freedom of movement. The Blair government did not do so with the assumption that immigration from the other states would be low. In reality the immigration surpassed the numbers expected by a huge margin.
The EU, which actually started as a financial union slowly started to take the form of a political union with its ever increasing interference on the policies of the member states that led many Britons to become antagonistic. The immigration laws that treat citizen of its member states as one’s own directly affected the job scenario as well as the welfare model in Britain. With its less restrictive labour laws, more and more less-skilled immigrants from member states were turning up in Britain working and availing welfare schemes. It surely irked the working class, and as the result shows areas with high working class voted to leave. Moreover with so many refugees coming into Europe in recent times, it again created a very negative picture.
At the run-up to the polls, the strategy of the ‘Remain’ campaign stressing a lot on the negatives of leaving did not help. After a certain point of tolerance to an issue, negative campaigns instead emboldens the opponents, and the decision to focus more on the dangers of leaving the EU failed. It failed to inform the ordinary citizen of the importance and the advantages of the EU. It also indicates the disconnect that the common people with the politicians and politics, a global phenomenon. Around the globe, voters are becoming less and less informed and voting in democratic systems are done on racial, communal, and emotional lines. The greatest fear is that in such a scenario, if referendum democracy will be sidelined by the world.