Brexit, Stage Right

Brexit, Stage Right

Leader of UKIP and Vote Leave campaign Nigel Farage speaks to the assembled media.

SourceMary Turner/Getty

Why you should care

Because this could be déjà vù all over again. 

Keeping calm and carrying on? Not quite. Brexiters have won the day, with a vote split 51.9 percent for to 48.1 percent. The Prime Minister has resigned, the pound has plummeted and nationalists are championing change — even as they’re now counseling a slow break.

Gobsmacked: Prime Minister David Cameron, who promised the referendum to save his own political hide, has called the movers — he’ll be leaving 10 Downing Street. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson is champing at the bit for the job, but having championed Brexit to raise his profile could be a liability (he was greeted this morning by pro-EU hecklers). Chancellor George Osborne, traditionally next in line for the premiership, is promising to do what he can to make Brexit work. There will be a tussle.

Other faces to watch: Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader who became the face of the Leave movement, has scant chance of becoming PM — but you’ll be seeing a lot more of him. On the left, there’s Jeremy Corbyn, who has thus far been a rather uninspired party leader. Oh, and get used to Nicola Sturgeon, chief of the Scotland National Party, who will likely lead Scotland out of the U.K.

A conscious de-coupling? It will take time, at least: Whoever takes the helm has two years to find a constitutional route out of the EU once Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is triggered. The next leader must also begin negotiations for new trade deals – and there’s no reason for the EU to play nice – while trying to unite a country that’s clearly divided over European relations, trade and immigration. Foreigners living in Britain will be left wondering for months, if not years, whether they’re welcome to stay; expats living in Europe will be doing the same.

Déja vù all over again: You’ll recall that a European Union was meant, in part, to ward off the threat of another world war. (Read about one of the dreamers behind a federated Europe here.) But now the federation seems to be falling apart — just as populism takes off around the world.

Don’t call it Europskepticism, argues Ian Bremmer: It’s Eurohostility. Where else might nationalism and populism emerge? Find out here.


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