The political scientist and theorist Francis Fukuyama in a 1989 essay once wrote that with the triumph of Western Liberal values – the precursor of neo-liberalism at the end of the cold war – that that would signal an end to history itself.
Well on the 23rd of June, 2016, millions of British voters thought otherwise and it now appears that history is back with a bang.
As I outlined to the House of Assembly nearly two weeks ago, on the issue of a living wage for Bermuda, the 2008-2009 financial crash signified that the patient in question; that being the over three decade long neoliberal dominated global economy which was facilitated firstly by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan,was indeed on life support. In effect, it had suffered a massive coma.
With the decision to exit the European Union by largely English voters as opposed to those of Scotland, who voted strongly to “Remain”; I think that now we can safely assert that with respect to the patient’s life support system, the plug has been finally pulled, notwithstanding the quixotic attempt on the part of millions who now claim buyers remorse and are demanding a do over vote – in essence, a second referendum as their economy takes a wholly expected and significant hit.
Apparently, the cosmopolitan bankers, insurers, bond traders and Millennials in London are determined to not go screaming into that good night, as represented by the decision to “Brexit” the EU.
Certainly, David Cameron – who will now go down as having made the biggest political miscalculation or blunder in recent political history, right up there with Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia – stated this week in the Commons that the vote was final and the result must be respected.
And Cameron’s fellow EU leaders at a recent post summit dinner in Brussels, sparing no effort to mock him, and to indulge in a bit of schadenfreude or delight in the misery of others, leaked to the press that the dinner in question was “Cameron’s last supper”. Although to be fair – what has occurred – has resulted in a proverbial hex upon both their houses.
And while the animus of the “Leave” campaigners was directed toward the much maligned EU; that body itself served as a proxy in my view for the global economy of which the EU and its institutions – one could argue – supremely, and symbolically epitomized.
As to the implications for Bermuda of the vote, taken some 3,000 miles away, at the very least we will need clarification as to how this decision will impact those Bermudians who have either obtained UK citizenship or will in the future and thus all the rights and privileges associated with European Union citizenship.
All signs at this point seem to indicate that that right is likely to be revoked if ties are severed.
Even more disturbingly, racial and ethnic hostility is on the rise in the UK in ways not seen in decades, as the so called “Little Englanders” have in their minds taken their country back not only from immigrant Poles and other Europeans but also it seems from people of colour – some of whom have lived in the UK for two or three generations. With at least two thousand or so black Bermudian migrants now living in Great Britain, it is something that we must watch with some concern.
As to the impact of our off shore sector, the question as to whether or how this will affect Bermuda’s risk management and/or global insurance sector which just achieved Solvency II equivalence with the EU, has to be weighed – and pardon the pun – the short to mid term risks assessed.
On the positive side, there is a view that Bermuda due to its safe haven status could be the beneficiary of London-based companies, particularly from the Lloyd’s market, deciding to domicile in Bermuda in order to maintain their relatively unfettered regulatory access to the EU marketplace. This potentially would be an attractive option precisely because Bermuda with its long coveted “Solvency II” status now secured, means that Bermuda based global re-insurance and related service providers are on the same regulatory footing as their EU based counterparts and/or competitors.
Third, this decision in my view will have major constitutional implications with respect to the over three century long union known as the United Kingdom, particularly as it relates to Scotland which voted solidly in favour of “Remain” and potentially even ourselves.
In addition, we should not lose sight of the fact that this decision on another level signifies a coming of age or re-emergence of a uniquely “English” identity. On the other hand, this outcome will result in an ongoing diminution or a fracturing of what we have known as the “British” identity which was the dominant, overarching national identity of a combined United Kingdom for centuries or at least in the modern era. Without Scotland – who are surely looking in all likelihood to secede from the union now – there is no Great Britain and certainly in real terms no United Kingdom, although Wales and Northern Ireland would beg to differ.
But all of the above hinges on whether the political and business elites are prepared to honour the expressed will of the people who voted in the majority to leave; or, will they seek to do a deal with the EU that allows them back in Europe though the back door – “Remain” in all but name.
The British elites may be deluding themselves if they think that the EU will cave in on the issue of open borders and the free movement of labour. To do so would essentially remove one of the key rationales for the Union in the first place. But even if they did the millions and millions of voters who voted on that premise will not take the betrayal lying down.
Lastly, I would keep an eye on developments in the United States as some of the same issues revolving around globalization and its so called discontents are evident there as well.
The great irony is that the UK has found its own analogue to presumptive Republican Presidential candidate Boris Johnson right down to his Trump like hair. Boris, a Conservative MP in the House of Commons, who also at times wears his racial and ethnic bigotry as easily as Trump, was one of a small number of Tory MPs seen as a potential successor to replace David Cameron as Prime Minister. However, the leader of the Conservative “Leave” campaign, now indicates that he will not stand for the leadership of his party.
Both political parties whose leadership elites for the most part backed the “Remain” campaign including, of course, the Labour Party, led by the now besieged Opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, are in complete disarray.
We can only hope that America will not make the same mistake in this regard as the UK appears to have done and give in to its own atavistic, ethno-nationalist and racist passions in November.
One thing is clear with respect to those who supported an exit from the UK which they will realize very soon – if not already – and this is that they will not be able to have their Brexit cake and eat it too.
We, on this side of the Atlantic should take note.
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