Perhaps one of the biggest political events in a long time has to be the British referendum from several months ago…sometimes referred to as “Brexit”. With a simple majority, British voters decided to leave the European Union…making the UK the first nation to leave the bloc since it’s inception well over half-a-century ago. The decision to leave was met with shock across the world, with many journalists, politicians, and civilians calling the decision one fueled by racist and isolationist rhetoric…and which is dangerous for European safety and economic endeavors. Is such a thing the case?
Indeed, within hours of the decision being known, investment markets around the world crashed. Some used this to bolster their argument that the UK was in for turbulent times. However, within days, markets pretty much recovered. That doesn’t of course remove the economic questions that will be confronted with Brexit. However, considering that the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world, and holds trade and economic ties to many nations around the world, increasingly outside the EU…there is much promise.
There appears to be a narrative being pushed in some circles that those voters that were for “Leave” regretted their vote after the fact, or that rhetoric concerning racism and isolationism drove voters to make the decision they did. This narrative tries to accomplish two things: it tries to deny the legitimacy of the referendum decision, while also trying to depict “Leave” voters as being ignorant or full of hatred. However, data collected doesn’t seem to project such a narrative so far. (https://twitter.com/britainelects/status/746820394217259008). Then again, such a thing shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that doesn’t try to use anecdotal evidence to push a theory. Perhaps there are some voters that have regret voting for “Leave”, but the same thing could be the case for those that voted “Remain” (and in fact, if this poll is valid, there are more “Remain” voters that are happy with the result than “Leave” voters that are not). In the end, if one actually values democracy and the ability of a populace to have a say in the affairs of their leaders and country, such an idea is mostly irrelevant. The result is not somehow invalid because you don’t like what it turned out to be. Admit that you lost the argument and move on. In fact, continuing to complain about the result takes away from time being spent by “Remain” supporters on advocating for the things that they value in the post-Brexit environment (after all, it isn’t like the EU has a monopoly on those things). Whether the UK made the right decision or not, or how the nation turns out politically or economically, will be understood in time. One thing is certain, they’ll have more of a say in such endeavors than they did before. Contrary to conventional views, voters were driven by the lack of ability to make their own decisions policy wise due to EU bureaucracy (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/437222/brexit-about-sovereignty-not-xenophobia). That of course includes control over their own borders. However, it isn’t the case that wanting to have more control over one’s own policies and borders necessarily connects with being xenophobic or racist. There is also no indication that the UK wants to shut out activity with the rest of the world, especially since most of it’s economic activity involves other nations.
Other amusing reactions to the UK referendum result have been talks of further referendums and secession talks in other venues. Outside of the usual talk of whether other European nations decide to join the UK in heading for the exit (which is up to them of course), there is also talk of whether Scotland and Northern Ireland will decide to break from the UK. Both constituent countries voted to remain in the EU, as opposed to England and Wales which voted to leave. Some Scottish politicians are debating whether to have a referendum on the question, while those in Northern Ireland have considered whether to reunite with the rest of their island. Ultimately, I feel that is also up to both electorates. It is debatable whether secession in order to stay in the EU will be doable in the end for Scotland. Whether the EU will fast-pace (there are other nations waiting to get in) such an application is not known, although one can’t deny the possibly that disgruntled EU politicians might consider it to humiliate the UK (when it comes to public officials acting like babies, never doubt the possibility…already there has been some of that going on concerning what deal with ultimately arise between both sides). However, there are other challenges. Countries like Spain have already made clear their displeasure at such a possibility, considering that such a move might encourage separatist sentiment in their own country. If such a denial of admission were to happen, then Scotland would be on it’s own. At the end of the day that is of course for Scottish voters to take into consideration and decide for themselves. Northern Ireland wouldn’t have such an issue if it plans to reunite with Ireland in the event of a referendum. Such an outcome would also be fitting in the end, considering that Northern Ireland was leftover territory from the Irish Conquest that the British exacted upon the island. Ireland broke away in the early part of the 20th century to regain it’s independence…perhaps it is about time for the rest to return as well. Once again, up to the voters on that question.
And then there is here in America funny enough. Some Texan nationalists have pushed for Brexit as being an impetus for renewed pushes for Texas to leave the United States (Some Californians have pushed for such a concept for their own state after Donald Trump’s electoral victory last November). This comes from undercurrents regarding the state’s original existence as an independent nation before being admitted as a state to the union in the 1840s. Those against the movement argue that the Civil War, and the SCOTUS decision in Texas v. White during Reconstruction, are big reasons why the Lone Star State can’t secede. However, despite such conventional wisdom, such arguments really don’t say much about the concept of secession at all. The Civil War in the end only involved the North defeating the South. Amendments passed in response to the War Between the States only invalidated the concepts of slavery, unequal treatment under law, and suffrage for African Americans, not secession. Texas v. White involved the dealings of debt payments by the state of Texas while it was a member of the Confederacy. The SCOTUS ruled that Texas was never considered as independent from the union, and therefore still had debt obligation. The majority opinion, trying to invalidate the concept of secession, used the Preamble of the Constitution’s phrase of “in order to form a more perfect union” as the reason why such a move was illegal. However, that is really only one perception of the phrase. One could also look at the same phrase and consider that perfecting a union might also involve disgruntled parties leaving in order for the whole to function better. In truth, no part of the Constitution deals clearly with the issue of secession (though one could argue that the Declaration of Independence’s statement of potentially abolishing governments if they are destructive to the inalienable rights of citizens does involve some support for the concept, as secession is one manner of abolishing a despotic government). It is an open question. In any case, even if Texans were to be given such a referendum, it would probably be overwhelming in favor of staying in the United States. Recent data/polling doesn’t show any significant support for such a movement (http://www.dallasnews.com/news/state/headlines/20121113-some-facts-and-fiction-for-texans-who-want-state-to-secede-from-u.s..ece).
Overall, what will become of Brexit is up in the air. Considering the increasingly protectionist and undemocratic tendencies that the EU embodies (http://www.cato.org/publications/economic-development-bulletin/european-union-critical-assessment; https://fee.org/articles/european-ruling-against-apple-and-ireland-vindicates-brexit/), I support the action of leaving such a dysfunctional union. A populace should have the right to decide whether they wish to associate with others and…if such an association becomes destructive or problematic…to sever it. That is after all what the American colonists decided for themselves well over 200 years ago. It remains to be seen what will become of this, and there are many risks to traverse. Then again, that is freedom. In 5-10 years time, perhaps there will be an answer. We can only wait.