This editorial was first published in the The MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Massachusetts), a fellow GateHouse Media publication. Guest editorials don't necessarily reflect the Daily Messenger's opinions.
Although it is located several thousand miles “across the pond,” and despite the fact that its prominence on the world stage has gone from the undisputed leading character to a supporting role, there is no question that what happens in the United Kingdom in general - and England in particular - has significant impact on the rest of the world. Couple that with the fact that the British government is seeking to exit one of the world’s largest and strongest trading groups — and that there is an increasingly likelihood that the departure will be haphazard at best — and you begin to understand why what happens in London definitely does not stay in London.
On June 23, 2016, voters in the United Kingdom decided by a narrow margin — 51.9 percent in favor to 48.1 percent against — to leave the European Union, one of the largest trading blocs in the world and is largely credited for having maintained peace in the seven decades since warfare ravaged the region.
The vote was not, however, universal throughout the UK, with England and Wales endorsing the departure, and Scotland and Northern Ireland rejecting it. The actual terms as to how the divorce proceedings would play out was left to future negotiations, negotiations which now, more than two-and-a-half years later, seem to remain contentious at best.
All of this came to a head last week when British Prime Minister Theresa May presented what she called the best possible deal for UK’s departure, and promptly suffered what many have called the most devastating loss in history for a ruling British party; her plan for an orderly withdrawal from the European Union was soundly trounced in a Parliamentary vote by an almost two-to-one margin.
Perhaps the greatest irony of May’s failed plan for a so-called soft exit from the EU lies in how much it unified lawmakers from across the political spectrum, with hardline pro-Brexit parliamentarians rejecting the proposal for its lack of better terms for the United Kingdom, and anti-Brexit leaders casting nay votes with the hope that it might force a second referendum on the issue, a prospect that has gathered steam in the ensuing days.
After all, a no-deal withdrawal from the EU could throw the UK’s trading arrangements, among other diplomatic matters, into complete chaos.
For their part, most of the EU’s ministers have expressed their disappointment with the UK’s departure, and have largely taken a hardline stance in terms of negotiations. After all, it is widely accepted that much of the fire behind the pro-Brexit vote was stoked by anti-immigration sentiment and a nationalistic fervor on par with that seen in the United States in the past few years; a misguided notion of making Britain great again, if you will.
It remains to be seen what the EU might accept in light of May’s inability to get a measure passed. Most world economists understand that a disorderly break up could result in a devastating upheaval for the region, and that the still-tenuous, post-2008 financial crisis recovery could find itself tested in a manner that it has not faced in the 11 years since the global economy seemed to teeter on the brink of collapse.
Such economic waves would likely land on our own financial shores, although like so much else connected with Brexit, it is difficult to anticipate just how turbulent these repercussions could be. For despite being led by an administration that claims to put America first above all else, there is no argument that we live in an intricately and inextricably connected world. Something to consider as we gaze eastward across the pond.