So the voters of the United Kingdom have chosen to leave the European Union.
Well, that's not entirely true.
The results of the referendum are not legally binding. The decision for the UK to leave the EU can only be made in the UK parliament. The majority of MPs are in favour of staying with the EU, but whether they will have the guts to stand up and vote so in the eventual debate is, of course, a different matter.
As for the referendum itself, it demonstrates just how divided the UK itself is.
The UK is an old union of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
The English voted 53.4% to 46.6% to leave the EU. Hardly overwhelming.
Northern Ireland voted 55.8% against 44.2% to remain in the EU.
Scotland voted 62% to 38% to remain, a huge win.
Wales voted 52.5% to 47.5% to leave (an even smaller win than in England).
So two countries voted to leave and two countries voted to remain. The countries that voted to remain did so in a far more convincing manner than those that voted to leave.
Hardly a United Kingdom!
(Incidentally, I am of Welsh origin and am deeply ashamed that Wales voted to leave the EU.)
Assuming that the UK parliament ratifies the decision to leave, what might the consequences be?
Well, the break-up of the UK seems highly likely, with Scotland the first to go. If Northern Ireland has any sense, it will also leave the UK and allow Ireland once again to become a single island nation.
Wales, of course, followed England. Hardly surprising, given the high level of unemployment there (and the high number of English who live in Wales): the No campaigners put the blame for high unemployment on the EU and particularly its immigration policy. People like to believe easy solutions and look no further to find the real truth. I wonder how the people of Wales and the rest of the UK will feel when unemployment increases as a result of less sales to the EU and less investment from the EU.
The people cast their No votes based on a lack of information and misinformation. The result is a demonstration of why one should not allow ordinary people to decide such vital issues : they simply do not have the knowledge to make a decision based on facts, so instead they make an emotional decision based on fiction. They look at short-term issues that seem important, such as immigration, and ignore the long-term, truly important issues, such as investment, development, long-term employment… These are the things that will play huge roles in the lives of the now young people of the UK as they grow older. Basically, their future has been destroyed.
More worrying than the self-inflicted problems of the UK, however, are the possible knock-on effects in the rest of Europe. Extremist right-wing factions will be spurred on by the unfortunate result to further their own causes, perhaps to demand referenda in their own countries, with the possible break-up of the EU.
As nationalistic tendencies grow in these countries, so, too, will grow the likelihood of conflict. The EU (and its predecessors) have kept Europe at peace for seventy years; prior to that achievement, Europe suffered almost constant conflict in some part of its boundaries. In the first half of the previous century alone, two World Wars were ignited in Europe, during which millions of people were killed and otherwise suffered. Nationalism of the type displayed in the UK and in other countries of the EU is likely to lead to similar conflicts should the EU break up. Furthermore, Russia will feel less reticent to atttempt to take back its former territories and will therefore likely set its sights on the Baltic states, the Ukraine, and elsewhere, in the face of a weak and divided Europe. Clearly a recipe for a Third World War.
The EU has made mistakes, of course. Any organisation attempting to achieve what the EU has achieved is bound to make mistakes. But this does not mean that its members must bleat and moan: they must learn to work better together, to learn from what is wrong in order to create a better right. The achievements of the EU should be applauded: peace, a single currency, freedom of movement of people and goods, the world's largest trading bloc…