Yet in the close, close fight on whether to stay or leave the EU, will those who voted to leave stand to actually lose more?
This is what Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam says about Brexit:
If you can’t read the Facebook post, his text is below:
Divided We Leave.
That’s what the UK referendum result looks like. London and Scotland voted to stay in the EU; Wales and the English provinces outside London voted to leave. The majority of the educated class voting to stay; the less educated to leave. Those doing well in their jobs and incomes voting to stay; those who felt they’ve been losing out voted to leave. Many more of the young voted to stay; old voting to leave.
It will take some time to draw the full lessons of the vote. The big issues are not about financial markets or economics. The markets will react negatively, and overshoot, but this will not be like 2008 when the house came down. There will be a loss of growth in the UK and Europe because of the uncertainty of the next few years, and the weaknesses there will also hurt the rest of the world including us in Asia.
But the more profound questions revolve around politics. Many of the people who voted for Britain to leave Europe, like those in England’s industrial cities, may end up being hurt by its economic consequences. Yet their frustration over their jobs and wages, and their fear of uncontrolled immigration if Britain stayed in Europe, has shaped their votes.
There is a new brew in politics around the world, especially in the most mature democracies like the US, UK and in Europe. The growing appeal of nationalist politics, demagogues, and in some cases outright racism. (There was in fact all of that in the UK referendum debate.) A growing disaffection with the establishment. A weakening of trust and consensus in society, and of the centre in politics. That too has happened in the UK itself, with the two major parties now weakened.
As politics gets fragmented, the political extremes will gain appeal. We do not know where this will lead to, but it cannot mean anything good. But to tackle it, the politics of the centre must stay connected to the challenges that ordinary people face – and address their need for jobs and security, and a balance in immigration that preserves a sense of identity. Tackling this without turning inward, and weakening jobs and society further, is the central challenge everywhere.