Brexit: The Divided Kingdom
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The U.K. has spoken: despite massive backlash against the very concept of voting to leave, the price of remaining in the European Union is no longer a price that they’re willing to pay. With 52 percent of the votes, edging out Remain voters by a little more than a million, Great Britain is now independent.
The sheer magnitude of Brexit opened up old wounds as well as new — plans for a second independence referendum for Scotland are on the table, as is a call by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Northern Ireland to reunify the Irish borders. Perhaps most shockingly, British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned from his post almost immediately following the decision to leave. All of this played out as the pound crashed to its lowest value since 1985, while the euro was dealt yet another harsh blow after having to deal with Greece’s debt crisis.
However, Brexit was far from a unanimous decision. Polls by YouGov show that 64 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted to Remain, whereas the vast majority of Leave voters were 65 years of age and up. On average, the former will have to live with the results for 69 years. The latter, 16. Much outrage has been sparked the world over; are older Brexit voters throwing away the future of a generation simply to cling to their beliefs?
Reasons to vote Leave are as diverse as the people and history of the United Kingdom itself, but one of the most prominent is the enormous anti-immigrant sentiment brought on in no small part due to the refugee crisis in war-torn areas such as Syria. In the wake of Brexit, graffiti and vocal minorities plagued the streets calling for foreigners, immigrants and even British citizens of non-white descent to “go home”. Upon landing in Scotland, U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump echoed the sentiments of many a Remain voter by saying that the people had “taken their country back,” never mind the fact that the Scots had overwhelmingly voted to remain. The kingdom which eked out a place in a rapidly-competitive Europe by way of rampant colonialism, it seems, has now buckled under the paranoia that they will be the next to be subdued. It almost brings to mind the image of Ouroboros, the self-devouring serpent.
It is true that the independence from the E.U. will give Britain more control over its laws and borders, although travel to and from E.U. countries will now be much harder. Perhaps the xenophobes and racists are simply a vocal minority. Although trade and business between Britain and E.U. countries will have to be revamped, it is far from dying. At the moment, nonetheless, the same unfortunately cannot be said for the pound. However, Britain has far more to worry about than the future of England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as Ireland itself, being the only E.U. country the U.K. shares a border with, are all heavily invested in what Brexit will bring to the table. With secession of Scotland and reunification of Ireland becoming more likely as dissent and dissatisfaction grows, the “United” Kingdom may be shortening its name in the near future.
One of the most surreal results of Brexit, albeit still hypothetical, is growing talk of Lexit. The idea sounds outrageous: London, pride and joy of the British empire, a name synonymous with culture, history and progress, considering secession? According to many Londoners, it could indeed happen. With a population greater than Wales and Scotland combined, production making up 22 percent of the U.K.’s GDP, and 70 percent of voters wishing to remain in the E.U., talk of Lexit is quickly becoming less and less ludicrous by the day. Although it probably won’t come to fruition, the fact that many are considering it so seriously — as well as the fact that its economic, if not political, feasibility is surprisingly solid — is interesting to think about.
What does this mean for Filipinos? Many actually voted to leave, especially in the medical field, where the EU’s restrictions conflicted with their jobs in NHS-operated hospitals. However, those presently looking to Britain for career options may want to hold off — immigration is likely to become an even more difficult process than it was pre-Brexit. For both countries, however, one thing is eerily apparent: Change is coming.
Oceans rise, empires fall, but it has long been said that UK is the empire on which the sun never sets. When the dust clears, the question will not be whether Britain will survive, but simply one that has been asked at every turning point in history:
What comes next?