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Brexit was a triumph of politics over economics

By X N Iraki | June 26th 2016

The world looks surprised, even shocked that United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave European Union (EU) after enjoining it in 1973. My take is that no one should be surprised. Leave campaigners successfully hinged on history and fear.

History has always been on UK side, starting from 1066AD, when Norman the Nomad invaded Britain. This nation values her independence. The leave campaigners cleverly dubbed the referendum day as the Independence Day which rhymed with the British psyche and history.

Observers argue the visit by President Obama to shore up support for remain in EU vote could have been interpreted as an affront to UK sovereignty Britons take pride in resisting foreign invasion since 1066AD. They are mute on the fact that Romans ruled them for almost 400 years before that. The argument that EU was a backdoor to ruling Britain was welcome. One Briton was even overheard in an interview saying that Germans have tried to control UK twice, in WWI and WWII.

Euroscepticism, as fear of EU is called is not new and the referendum just confirmed it. Why did UK join EU in 1973 and not earlier? And why did UK keep her pound when the rest of EU used euro? Why did UK not join Schengen visa? It seems to be that UK was never fully committed to the EU. David Cameroon should have known that in staking his political future in a referendum, so soon as after another on Scotland.

Immigration was another scare

Most countries resent immigrants, even in the USA, which boasts itself as a nation built by immigrants has issues with them. The rise of Donald Trump, who was in Scotland when the UK referendum results were being announced, has done so well by riding on the resentment for immigrants.

My sojourn in USA Deep South, gave me firsthand experience on how immigrants are viewed. They are seen as a threat to jobs, to social fabric. Crime is usually attributed to them. They are seen as a threat to communities’ way of life. And some see them a threat to political order. Noted how Hispanics have changed the voting patterns in USA? Immigrants to Nairobi changed the voting patterns. Why does Westlands have an MP with roots in western Kenya?

Add the fact to UK is an island, not as expansive as USA and the fear of immigrants become real. The fact that immigrants could come from Syrian and other troubled regions with different religions and value systems was scaring enough. Recall xenophobic attacks in South Africa and post election violence in Kenya targeting immigrants?
Direct flights from Warsaw’s Fredrick Chopin Airport to Luton in England and non English workers at London’s Heathrow airport are clear signs that UK has lots of immigrants. Some Kenyans are there too.

It is paradoxical that UK, which once ruled a quarter of the world, and transplanted lots of its citizens to all corners of the world completely changing some countries to English like Canada and Australia, can be anti-immigration.

Brexit is real. What next?

Brexit (Grexit was stillborn) is a triumph of nationalism over economics. Voters ignored all the economic reasons given for staying within EU. That is not surprising. Politics is about emotions, economics is about logic. Good politicians particularly in ODM know that.

The remain campaigners in UK failed to appeal to voters emotions and paid the price. It does not matters better that political opportunists saw the referendum as a path to political power. Cameron needs a replacement. This referendum will turn UK politics upside down. Suppose Trump wins in USA? The win for Brexit follows a familiar pattern in western countries, the rise of extreme politics espoused by Trump and nationalistic parties in Europe.

There are fears that this referendum might tear UK apart. Scotland, London and Northern Island voted remain, rest of England voted to leave. The Brexit referendum in UK mirror Kenya’s in 2005 which culminated in a new political system with devolution as its lynchpin.

UK is leaving EU; some could argue the nation is now an island, not just physically but economically. The prominence of London as a financial centre might diminish. Some say the English premier league fuelled by immigrants, either as players or investors might lose its allure. What of UK interests away from home? Did you hear Spain talking about Gibraltar? .

The economic turmoil after this referendum will be felt far and wide through trade, exchange rates, inflation and interest rates, which are all interconnected. How will British firms in Kenya react ?

The biggest effect will be psychological. Will other EU members follow UK? Will other economic unions unravel? Will the peace and prosperity built on economic partnership in Europe be replaced by new political rivalry? How will Russia and China react to Brexit, politically and economically?

The economic and political reverberations from UK referendum, confirms that voters have more power than most politicians can admit. Luckily, political and economic systems will readjust to the new reality. But before the new equilibrium is reached, there will be lots of political and economic casualties. Stretching the truth a bit; could UK one day rejoin EU? Did not we revive East African Community?

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