Firstly I voted to remain in the EU despite having many misgivings about its operations and policies. To remain seemed to me the lesser of two evils, however my countrymen have now narrowly voted to leave.
Economic Impacts on the UK
Even as the exit votes came in the pound sterling fell in value by ten percent prompting the Bank of England to print a quarter of a trillion pounds to prop up the UK finances. This is more than a third of what the UK government spends on everything for a whole year. It is enough money to run the NHS for two and a half years. It is difficult to conceive how right wing newspapers were recently moaning that the NHS was a financial ‘basket case’ because it over spent by two billion pounds, only two percent of the value of its budget. These same right wing newspapers easily shrugged off the quarter of a trillion cost of their Brexit vote.
More worrying is if the prolonged uncertainty of our economy and economic relations with the EU continues to undermine the pound. A weak pound could mean inflation reappearing, in itself not a worry in a nation strangled by debt, but it would mean new pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates. Such a rise could trigger a collapse in the UK economy and possibly the banking system.
Scottish Independence and NATO
Next as we awoke to this new prospect the penny began to drop that Scotland could well now pull out of the UK. The conditions were those which the Scottish National Party said would demand a new referendum on Scottish independence. The rationale by which many Scots voted to remain in the UK, that as both countries were in the EU it was not such a big deal nowadays, was swept away reopening the whole question. My biggest fear is that if Scotland does vote to break away as seems more than likely now, the repercussions in the field of global power politics could turn things very nasty.
I heaved a sigh of relief when Scotland voted to stay in the UK because I expected it to trigger a crisis within NATO. Scotland has a geographical location of extreme strategic sensitivity. It is the key stone to the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap. This is the maritime choke point through which Russian submarines must pass to threaten the Atlantic shipping routes. A hole in the GIUK Gap would undermine the ability of NATO to keep the flow of materiel and supplies across the Atlantic open.
Now you may argue that as Scotland is not planning to leave NATO Scottish independence does not matter, however the men, materiel and resources deployed from Scotland are those of the UK not Scotland, and Scotland is expected to want to remove ‘English’ forces from Scots territory and for Scottish forces to replace them. This could mean a long period of transition while Scotland develops its defences during which the Atlantic security is weakened, all at a time of tension with Russia.
The USA is likely to react badly to the prospect of Scottish independence as are power-mongers in the Whitehall establishment. Scotland would become NATO’s Crimea. Just as the Russians saw potential loss of the Black Sea fleet, or rather its ejection from the Black Sea, as a threat to their national security, the failure of the GIUK Gap would pose a threat to US and NATO national security. I would expect some dirty politics to result in response to an independence vote, dirty politics which might harm Scotland.
Instability in Norther Ireland
The next unwelcome fallout from the Brexit vote came from Northern Ireland. Suddenly there was the prospect that the now highly open, highly permeable border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic would become must less permeable, disrupting cross border ties, relationships and commerce. This now triggered Sinn Fein to state it wanted to actively campaign for Irish reunification. Any such campaign is likely to get a deeply hostile response from the majority unionist population, and could reignite the violence of the ‘Troubles’.
Potential Disintegration of the EU
Now that the UK has voted to leave, the governments of other countries in the EU will face increased pressure to grant exit referenda. In particular the strong right wing politics in France seems likely to lead the country in that direction. If the public disaffection in France is merely no worse than in the UK, than a vote for France to leave seems a realistic prospect. The recent ‘crises’ in France, including a so-called ‘state of emergency’ in Paris, suggest disaffection is likely to be higher.
If France leaves, Germany becomes the centre of gravity of a ‘Rump EU’, surrounded by a mixture of rich but small states, and impoverished states of various sizes, some quite large. Following the Eurozone crisis there is already considerable political tension over Germany’s need to bankroll debt relief programmes to other members. The loss of large rich states like the UK and France will greatly increase the financial burden on Germany and the political pressure within Germany to alter the terms and conditions of the union.
Taking all this together we could be looking at the terminal decline of the EU as a supranational arrangement.
A Good Day’s Work?
So taking a pessimistic view the future the UK Brexit vote may lead us to could look like this:
- The British banking system and economy collapses
- Scotland declares independence but finds itself the victim of subversion, economic warfare and destabilisation
- Civil war breaks out in Northern Ireland
- The EU disintegrates with unpredictable economic and political repercussions for decades to come
Well done voters. It reminds of what I wrote in an earlier post about right wing people; “Be careful what you ask for, it might come true.”