If your weekend was anything like ours, you spent Friday trying to comprehend what just happened in the Brexit referendum, listening to news of sliding indices and a depreciating pound and Euro. (In full confession, we also rushed online to MrPorter.com and Luisaviaroma.com to shop. The slight benefits of a global shakedown.) I had a friend who boarded a plane to Paris to shop, because the Birkin dipped nearly 15% in price due to the currency exchange, excluding VAT.
The pound sunk to a 31-year low, and the FTSE continues to dip
The weekend was probably filled with drinking with English friends who desperately needed to drown their sorrows because they had in fact voted for ‘Leave’ in protest and now their worst fears were being realised. (You’ll be surprised how many of them there are, and these are educated, white-collar persons, mind you.)
Oh God what have we done?
Now that the hangover has settled, the United Kingdom is starting to realise just what that public mandate means. Whoever takes over the Conservatives will have to decide if they will activate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and thus follow the populist’s demand, or ignore the public recommendation and risk being kicked out at the next election.
Brexit was presented as a chance for the UK to break free of the restrictions of the EU, a fight for independence and freedom and Churchillian. Run by the head of UKIP. It’s not that. This is a triumph for isolationists. The market has already seen the effects of the initial announcement. Economists have yet to calculate the cost of leaving the EU, and those who voted to leave will spend the next two years complaining that nothing is being done. We’re already heading stories on the Internet about racist reactions on the ground.
An ideal future: Tomorrowland
The Argument for Globalisation
Watch any film or read any book set in the future, and those with a utopian sort of setting all feature world governments or inter-world ones. Those that are dystopian more often than not feature feudal states and isolated economies centered around that so-called same argument for freedom and independence but in truth is an egoistic unwillingness to compromise. Not that writers, movie producers and directors are likely winners of the Nobel Prize for Economics, but even they understood the basic guideline here: only when we are a world society and economy and everyone enjoys and appreciates the same rights and regulations, laws and benefits can we possibly have some sort of optimistic future.
Economists, experts and foreign governments all pointed out to Britain that going from the bargaining power of the world’s third largest bloc of people (China and India’s reproductive powers are too much for Europe to handle, sorry) to that of the UK alone would seriously jeopardise its ability to negotiate friendlier trade agreements. And Michael Gove, who’s Lord Chancellor, said during his campaign to leave, that “people in this country have had enough of experts”. This, from a man who was former Secretary of State for Education, in a country that hosts two of the oldest universities in the world?
The UK is an incredible country, but if the next prime minister does decide to trigger article 50, the amount of money the UK will have to spend severing its ties with the bloc and reforming new agreements with other nations around the world will be stupendous. In addition, Germany has also pointed out that for the country to access the common market, there would be a per capita price to pay, which both affliated countries Switzerland and Norway give to the European Union. That price estimate, as it turns out, will be the same as the sum Britain currently provides to the EU. They will have to abide by the same regulations as they have had in order to move goods into the single market, from labelling guidelines to standards.
Great Britain, meet Little Britain
A key focus of the Leave campaign was the issue of immigration and therefore employment. Boris Johnson wants to implement a points system to regulate immigration and to limit both skilled and unskilled workers to the country. Already, we’re hearing and seeing racism on the rise in the country, with people telling those of different accents or colour to “go back to their country”, hate mail and more. Mind you, that doesn’t mean they aren’t British-born, or have a citizenship or permanent resident status. It just means they are non-white. The vote has given legitimacy to those who believe they have a right to vocalise their hatred for those of different racial backgrounds.
But Johnson’s argument on immigration is fallacious. There’s a reason why British companies employ eastern European staff, because they are cheaper and that means the services these companies offer can be more competitive in pricing. Push up labour costs and everything else goes up, with the British consumer paying higher prices in the end. Many of these workers are doing work that British people aren’t interested in pursuing, which means at the end of the day, you aren’t increasing employment, but simply creating work shortages.
This really ought to serve as a word of warning to Singaporeans who are prone to the same sort of small-mindedness, the sort that you read on Facebook comments and news sites that spew crude language at those perceived to be foreign and taking away the jobs of locals. We can’t afford to isolate ourselves in this day and age, and xenophobia has no place in our society. Imagine having to manage Singaporean domestic helpers and labourers. The sheer number of sick days you’ll see will make you wish for a generous dose of foreign labour.
Not only that, plenty of European companies base themselves in the UK, especially London, because of its multi-culturalism, language convenience as well as its freedom of access to the financial markets of Europe. A number of banks have already pointed out that they will have to relocate services out of London when Brexit is triggered. It deteriorates the UK’s tax base, its lead in the finance industry today and puts more British jobs at risk.
Also leaving: prime minister David Cameron, who’s announced his resignation
All these matters not, however. The Leavers embraced the use of the reptilian complex that’s buried in the deepest of our triune brain – aggression, territoriality, dominance – to activate the public to vote to get out. Now they’ll have to apply the higher functions of the brain to make it work. But they’ve triggered other effects in the process: another Scottish referendum, a Labour party revolt. Most importantly, it means the English will one day have to use the non-EU residents line at the airport just like the rest of us, and at least for the rest of this year, they can no longer laugh at Americans who voted for Trump in the primary. Because with Leave, they demonstrated that inside a good half of the UK hides a secret Trump as well.