Brexit backers can’t have their cake and eat it too
The political scientist and theorist Francis Fukuyama in a 1989 essay once wrote that with the triumph of Western liberal values — the precursor to neoliberalism at the end of the Cold War — that that would signal an end to history itself.
Well, on June 23, 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 2008-09 financial crash signified that the patient in question — the more than three-decade-long neoliberal-dominated global economy, which was facilitated first 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, 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 — a second referendum.
Apparently, the cosmopolitan bankers, insurers and bond traders 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 while the animus of the “Leave” campaigners was directed towards the much maligned EU; that body itself served as a proxy for the global economy of which the EU and its institutions, one could argue, supremely and symbolically epitomised.
As to the implications for Bermuda of this vote, taken some 3,000 miles away, at the very least we will need clarification as to how this decision will affect 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.
Although all signs at this point seem to indicate that right is likely to be revoked.
Perhaps even more problematically, 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 midterm risks assessed.
On the positive side, there is a view that Bermuda because of its safe haven status could be the beneficiary of London-based companies deciding to domicile in Bermuda to maintain their relatively unfettered regulatory access to the EU marketplace. This potentially would be an attractive option, precisely because Bermuda has only recently achieved coveted “Solvency II” status, which places Bermudian-based global reinsurance and related service providers 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 more than 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 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 in all likelihood will result in a continuing diminution or 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, which is surely looking in all likelihood to succeed 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.
Finally, I would keep an eye on developments in the United States, as some of the same issues revolving around globalisation 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.
Johnson, a Conservative MP in the House of Commons who also at times wears his racial and ethnic bigotry as easily as Trump, is one of a small number of Tory MPs seen as a potential successor to replace Cameron as Prime Minister.
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 and ethno-nationalist passions in November.
One thing is clear with respect to those who supported an exit from the UK, which they will realise 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.