Brexit and the backlash against globalism
Europe is still reeling from the shocking victory of the anti-EU campaigners in the recent referendum in the UK. Colloquially termed “Brexit” as in a combination of “Britain” and “exit,” the vote asked if the people of the UK wanted to leave the EU.
Experts all over the world warned the voters that choosing to leave the EU would carry a host of negative consequences, from a decline of economic opportunity, to simply having to secure a visa to travel into the EU. The obvious benefits of staying in the EU left most observers confident that the UK would vote to remain in the Union.
The victory of the leave campaign sent heads spinning as a result, not only in the UK and EU, but globally.
Yet in the aftermath of the vote, it seems obvious that this is yet another manifestation of a growing political movement. The democracies of the West are turning against the tide of Globalism.
For the past few decades, the course of world events has been moving towards international cooperation. Perhaps nothing embodies this dream like the EU. Designed to provide economic and political cooperation between the historically divided nations of Europe, the promise of a common currency and freedom of movement was designed to unify countries in a way that had never been tried before. The model promised a future when international cooperation would result in better lives for the people of the world.
Now the voters of the UK have moved against this vision. There are a number of reasons that were cited by the leave campaigners. Only two are really worth mentioning, as they were likely the issues that decided the vote. Leave campaigners argued that the cost to Britain of remaining in the EU sucked money from their own economy and pumped it into failing countries like Greece. They also argued that the laws of the EU would allow migrants to swarm into the country and take advantage of its government services.
Only by reasserting national sovereignty could these calamities be avoided, they argued. Britain would be strongest and most prosperous going it alone. And the voters listened, barely, with the final tally resulting in a slim margin of victory for the leave side.
The Brexit was a vote against the global liberal order of international union, and the culmination of a growing movement that fears the loss of national identity.
It would be tempting to dismiss these people as bigoted or ignorant, but to do so would be to ignore some valid points. Global economic and political cooperation is not without its costs.
Ask anyone who has lost their manufacturing job after it was shipped to another country where the workers are paid pennies if they are benefiting from globalization. Ask the people stitching together shirts for slave wages.
Some have pointed to these developments as the birth pangs of a new global order which will ultimately bring new prosperity, and divide it more equitably, but for the moment, the side that rejects the new order in favor of the old seems to be on the ascendant.
In America, both current candidates have run on anti-globalism platforms. Hillary Clinton, long a proponent of free trade, has backpedalled and courted the votes of people in long-suffering former industrial areas by promising to keep jobs in America. And of course Donald Trump has made an unprecedented level of success for a non-politician by exploiting anti-globalist paranoia.
This is not an exclusively American phenomenon, these are sentiments that have found their European complement in the leave campaign, which has against all odds triumphed in the UK. Nor is this a trend that only exists in the English speaking world. Speculation is already rampant that other countries are going to move towards anti-EU referendums.
The most worrying development would be a referendum in France, where anti-immigrant and economic concerns would make a leave campaign a worryingly realistic possibility. And while the EU can, and will, survive Brexit, a French vote to leave could signal the end of the European experiment.
Not only would such a vote be a disaster for the future of European cooperation, but it is far from outside the realm of possibility. The far right party of France led by Marine LePen, has had an unprecedented level of success in French elections recently, mirroring the larger success of far right parties in the rest of Europe.
Formed in opposition to immigration and economic cooperation, the far right of Europe is on the rise, calling for the restriction of movement and the end of payments to a European central bank.
The Golden Dawn Party in Greece secured third place in recent elections, which is a troubling development as the party draws obvious parallels to earlier fascist movements in Europe. all the way down to the logo, which bears similarity to a swastika.
The rise of the Right in Europe has signified a movement in the public opinion away from Union and towards the reestablishment of a perceived national identity.
Ultimately this will be the political contest of our time. Global cooperation versus tradition. It’s hard to imagine a future where globalism will be stopped. More than likely, the future will be one of weakened national borders, which will require a change in the cultures and lifestyles of the people of the world, and is ultimately the thing that these political movements are trying to avoid.
Time will tell how smooth this transition will be, but the near term looks to be a contentious time for global politics.