Today, the people of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland went to the polls to vote for a historic referendum on whether to “Remain” in or “Leave” the European Union – the so-called “Brexit.” We won’t know the results of the vote until sometime tonight or maybe even tomorrow if the vote is as close as is projected.
Over the last month or so, the polls have shifted back and forth. Earlier polls suggested that the Leave crowd had a small advantage. Then last week, momentum seemed to shift to the Remain crowd. Yet this week, the Leave movement seemed to creep back into a narrow lead. Bottom line: It’s too close to call.
The battle lines have been clearly drawn for some time. The Leave crowd is largely represented by working-class Brits who want to scuttle the onerous regulations, taxes and other requirements imposed by the European Union.
The Remain crowd is dominated by British Establishment types such as high-ranking politicians (including Prime Minister David Cameron), most Brits who work for the government, bankers and other financial moguls. They do not want to risk their cushy jobs and elite status.
The European Union, obviously, does not want to see Great Britain leave for a variety of reasons. Britain is the second largest member of the EU. Plus, if Britain leaves, it is feared that several other EU members might follow suit – most notably, Italy, France, Spain and maybe others.
The EU – and the euro currency – could literally disappear before long if that happens.
Given that the stakes in this referendum to Leave or Remain in the EU are enormous, large campaigns in support and opposition have sprung up in Britain and surrounding countries. The outcome will be important, whichever way it goes.
If the decision today is to Remain, most analysts agree that the market response will be fairly minimal, at least in the short-run. If that is the decision, global stock markets would probably get a bounce over the next few days, and the British pound should also rally at least temporarily.
If the decision is to Leave, no one is entirely sure what will happen next. Based on market responses over the last few weeks, most expect that global stock markets will react negatively and the British pound would get clobbered initially if Leave prevails.
Many in the Remain camp predict that a decision to Leave will spark a new global financial crisis, chaos in Britain’s economy and a spike in market volatility around the world. Yet the Remain crowd has offered no definitive explanations as to why chaos would erupt. Still at this point, we can’t rule anything out.
Likewise, the Leave movement has offered few definitive arguments for its position either. Its main thrust seems to be that the European Union is an overbearing international institution run by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, and Britain should not be a part of it right now.
The Leave crowd also argues that the EU’s tragically inept response to the global financial crisis, its mismanagement of the refugee/immigration crisis and its other lesser sins justify the decision to divorce the EU.
At the end of the day, many if not most working class Brits feel it is time for a change from the status quo – for better or worse. They are inspired to vote for Leave. Most in the so-called Establishment want things to remain the same and will vote to Remain. We’ll know the outcome sometime tonight or tomorrow, depending on how close the vote is.
The point is, the Leave movement in Great Britain is part of a global anti-Establishment movement that has brought us the likes of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Such controversial figures would not have risen to such political prowess were rank-and-file voters not so riled up.
The question is whether this is a good thing or a bad thing? I think it’s a good thing. But why? Because this is only the third national referendum in Britain’s long history where the people, not the bureaucrats, will decide on a critically important issue like this.
Voter turnout for today’s referendum is expected to be massive; a record 46.5 million Brits are reportedly registered to vote today; and some politicos are predicting up to 80% participation. Good for them!