Is this the beginning of the end of the European Union? On June 23, Great Britain went to the polls to vote whether to leave or remain in the EU. By 10 p.m. Denver time (5 a.m. British time) the result was in: a Brexit is in the works.
It’s clear why many Britons wanted out. The EU, especially since the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, has become a cumbersome bureaucracy, in many ways stripping countries of their national sovereignty. National governments have ceded much decision making to Europe, including on key, emotive issues such as immigration.
What must be said, however, is that the EU has succeeded in maintaining the longest period of peace that has ever existed in Europe. What if the dominoes start falling? What if other countries, with similar complaints to those of Britain, also vote out? What happens to peace in Europe?
Much of the anti-EU sentiment across Europe is populist in nature, and much of it is anti-immigrant. Marine LePen’s National Front in France is an example. Does a Brexit provide an empowered platform for such far-right leaders?
What happens to the UK itself, which following this result, is anything but United? Does Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain, hold another independence referendum — overturning the result of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s previous referendum victory? The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland will likely be negotiated to be open, but Northern Ireland, like Scotland, also voted to remain. The fissures this vote revealed are deep.
And, finally, what does a Brexit mean for the US — not in terms of the economy (though its impact will surely be felt there quite deeply), but in terms of our own upcoming vote? There’s a populism behind Brexit similar to that fueling Trump. Does a Brexit boost Trump’s campaign?
Many, many unanswered questions that will take months, if not years, to sort out.