Despite the fact that I voted Leave, my expectation was for a Remain victory around 55/45% so to wake up this morning to a 52/48% win for leaving the EU is quite astounding but none the less, quite delightful too. Full marks to David Cameron announcing his intention to step down in the Autumn, as I wrote before today, win or lose that was an inevitability because of the way he ran the campaign, a win for Remain wouldn’t have changed that.
It is too early in the immediate aftermath to make very many predictions about the immediate way ahead, the dust needs to settle a bit and it will only be during next week that one can come up with realistic prognostications but here some thoughts.
The Predictable Inevitabilities
In all truth and whilst part of the Lisbon Treaty, just how the Clause 50 exit process will work is a complete unknown because it has never been tested and probably, was never expected to ever be used anyway. There appear to be two main camps as far as the approach to the UK withdrawing is concerned, a Dove and a Hawk approach. The Dove approach is to maintain both good relations and trade, cooperate fully to reach a mutually acceptable deal as quickly as possible.
The Hawk approach starts with the assumption that any country that wants to leave the EU is a “deserter” and therefore must be punished. It also includes the fear that showing any decency or ‘concessions’ towards the UK might be interpreted by other EU members as ‘being rewarded’ and therefore encourage them to jump ship also. This approach is summed up by the need to demonstrate that there is a high price to be paid for leaving the EU, not perhaps a sign of great self confidence on the part of the EU and what it stands for.
Also and whether she wanted it or not, as Scotland voted 60/40 for staying within the EU, the SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had to put forward the distinct possibility of there perhaps being a second referendum on Scottish Independence as ‘the circumstances have changed from 2014 !’ I would personally wish her well with that one, a case where rhetoric and the practicalities of a country with over 90% of its exports going to the UK, the need to create its own currency and the cost of welfare coming from current tax revenues… If independence was questionable when oil was at over $100 a barrel, I don’t know what you would call it now but again, we shall see.
A number of MPs I saw interviewed on TV this morning and even though they supported Remain, all said similar things along the lines of “The public have spoken, we must now make it work” which is important as right across the Commons it is likely that 75% of MPs favoured Remain by default, well it was the Establishment view.
Although it may take a little time to sink in, this result will be a positive thing both for the EU if it tries to do meaningful reform to itself and also for UK/EU relations. Far better to have the UK as a close helpful friend outside of it than the UK being a reluctant member inside it as has been the case hitherto.
There will obviously be financial turmoil over the next few weeks as the markets adjust to a new reality but eventually things should settle down. Eventually, we should see a growing dividend in terms of that elusive “self belief” factor and in time, a new cultural and creative renaissance to match in with a new economy which in turn brings me to our next steps. We may leave the EU but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore what happens there and we can still provide ideas and leadership to help them overcome all too obvious problems by our example.
The Immediate Need
For me, the two most obvious and lethal problems that the EU faces are the existence of the Euro and youth unemployment, we can do nothing about the former but the second problem is common to all Western and non western economies, we all share in that and it is a by product of the global economy. In reality it is a symptom of a hollowing out of economic activity at the ‘lower, less well educated’ end of society where well paid manual jobs have fallen victim to other more automated processes. But it is also a failure in large part by business and political leaders to understand that for large swathes of the population, the quasi academic design of the education system, just doesn’t work for many pupils, a radically new approach is required.
In a sense, the apparent demographic of the people who voted Remain, urban dwellers and better educated than those of us who voted Leave, reflects less a greater intellectual insight into the benefits of the EU and more a willingness to follow the establishment line rather than question it. Along with that will come an acceptance of the way things are currently done such as a career path that starts as an example, with A Levels, University, Medical School, Doctor and similarly with other professions such as Legal and so on, where candidates come from a similar gene/class pool with an ‘expectation’ of the way the world is. Although they certainly do not intend it, their default attitude is rather “Let them eat cake” but they need to understand that their profession or occupation is about to change radically the same as any factory worker displaced by the introduction of new automation technology.
The main problem is that currently technology can destroy jobs faster than new ones can be created, in time this will even out but it does mean that traditional career structures and middle class expectations will change radically and the smart money is on who can spot those changes and deploy to meet those challenges quickest. This era of change will also impact on business structures and ownership of intellectual property which in some cases, will need to be devolved down to the people who work in the enterprise, whilst they work in the enterprise, the days of the over paid CEO may well pass into business folklore.
Whilst for the 48% who voted for Remain they will feel a lot of disappointment today, I believe that not for xenophobic reasons, this Leave result will prove to be a good decision if only because we are getting ahead of the game in terms of having to refocus and reconstruct our economy and civic society over the next couple of years. As someone who didn’t expect this result, I would have accepted a Remain victory because and as I have written previously, I do not think the EU as we know it today, will exist in 5 years time anyway. In addition, not being in the Euro we were already on the ‘outside’ so it is us making a decision today rather than one being thrust upon us in 5 years time.