When the results of the Brexit referendum were announced, I have to be honest: I was dumbfounded. With so many forces urging for the creation of single market areas around the world, surely the establishment would not allow Great Britain to leave the union. On top of that, The City (as in London’s financial district) plays too important a role in the financial world for that to happen. I admit, my assessment was completely and utterly wrong … or was it? Let’s have a look at what actually happened and venture a guess about what will happen next.
The British political world played high stakes poker, really. From my point of view, David Cameron wanted a near-miss referendum result to be used as leverage to re-negotiate Britain’s terms with the European Union. His small tremor triggered an avalanche, which he obviously spotted in the weeks leading up to the ballot box.
Populists like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage started riding the wave and were able to shape it into the anti-establishment, anti-immigration, Europe-is-the-source-of-all-evil project fear.
The British public ate it like pie, and backed by Cameron’s initial unspoken it will never happen attitude, they cast their votes as a way to voice protest, oblivious of the real-world consequences.
Farage, Johnson and the Brexiteers really started doing everything but throwing their kitchen sinks at it and got a narrow win.
What will happen next remains uncertain, but let me venture a guess.
Cameron’s successor will start negotiating the Brexit with the EU. As soon as the terms are on the table, there will be a second referendum (or even general elections, followed by another referendum). Mandated by the result, Britain will start another round of negotiations and there will be some kind of reform in the EU, but nothing too fundamental. Both sides will be able to announce a victory and Britain will stay in the Union.
Once again, I could be way off … but in this case, don’t two wrongs make a right?