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Brexit may mark sunset years for the once dominant Britain

BILLOW KERROW
By Billow Kerrow | June 26th 2016

Times have changed, very much. There was a time when the sun never set on the British empire. The British had sailed adventurously across oceans of the world to conquer new territories, find new markets and new worlds. This week, it was the opposite. The British voted to roll back their influence across Europe, back into their little country, in a referendum that has divided the country. The Brexits dubbed June 23, ‘independence day’ and exclaimed ‘no more bloody EU telling us how big our vacuum cleaners can be’!

The younger generation was quick to express their shock over the Brexit vote in trending twitter messages, fearful of its consequences in future. Londoners, who largely voted to remain in Europe, aggressively twitted for its independence from UK, to be a city-state like Singapore. London is a major international commodity and financial market and the Brexit will severely impact on its economic might. Some Scotland and Northern Ireland leaders too have started calling for a referendum to quit the union. If a European Union is not a smart thing for the British, why should the Scotts not go their own way too?

And across Europe, the consequence of this vote was being felt. The Eurosceptic political groups in France, Holland and other countries, are ecstatic, and are likely to push for a similar fate. After all, the underlying issue of immigration is already a hot topic in these countries. The Brexit vote was like an earthquake and is likely to enhance mistrust in Europe that will have far-reaching political and economic consequences. The integration burden has always being borne by the larger economies such as Germany, UK and France while the smaller economies benefit from the bailouts, jobs mobility and the economic safety net that the EU offered.

Not everyone is unhappy though. Russia’s Putin is certainly elated by the prospect of a crumbling Western outfit that has strangled his country’s economy in recent years. A fallout from the union in the long run will give Russia an opportunity to expand its influence across the continent.

The US Republic presidential candidate Donald Trump thinks what the British did was a ‘great thing’. He believes they have taken their country back, and is urging his own countrymen to do the same in November by voting him in. Trump wants to disengage from Europe too and wants the US to close its borders. His supporters in the US hailed the vote, some saying ‘globalism is dead’.

The global perspective is that the Brexit vote is not good for the world. The US is worried about the future of its NATO allies should the same thought pattern extends to security spheres. Britain is likely to sink into a recession in the short term due to uncertainties on the impact of the disengagement from Europe. Already, its currency has plummeted to its lowest level in several decades.

But what is driving the ‘Trump phenomenon’ of political and economic introversion? In this age of globalisation, how does the West expect to build walls around its borders while its multinationals flood the world with their products? How can it address the questions of global security that impact on their countries by focusing on immigration issues? Both economic and security issues call for greater integration and cooperation at regional and global levels.

We live in an interdependent world. Economic recession in the US in 2008 affected many countries in the world. A security meltdown in Syria released an avalanche of immigrants across Europe. As things fall apart in Europe, East Africa needs to critically examine its integration fault lines to prevent possible crumbling should the UK Brexit flu catch on.

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