Overnight, the results of the referendum in the United Kingdom were announced – Brexit.
In what will easily stand as the defining moment for the UK in post-WWII European relations, a final tally of 51.9% (roughly 17.4 million people) of votes were cast for exiting the European Union. People 65 and older overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU, while much of the younger generations, Ireland and Scotland voted to stay. The full ramifications and impacts of this expression of democracy will reverberate for years to come, and will touch many aspects of society – from security cooperation with the EU, to visa and work status, and much more.
It has already begun to shake the markets: Stocks are predicted to open 3% lower in the US, while European stocks have plummeted alongside the British Pound (GBP). For a brief moment earlier in the reporting of the results, the GBP had risen to historic highs on the rumor that the “stay” vote was winning the day.
In other ways, this vote represents a profound sense of uncertainty ringing throughout the broader Western world. Nationalistic and isolationist rhetoric is on the rise, and defenders of regional and international cooperation are on their heels. Faced with indirect challenges to changing national identities during unprecedented waves of immigrants and global insecurity, the Western world is struggling to keep pace psychologically. And it seems that it has chosen to cope with the world’s upheaval by rejecting partnership and going it alone.
From a security standpoint, the rejection of systems such as the EU will only make it harder for the UK and other Western nations to face the threat of lone-wolf terror attacks as information sharing will be diminished if channels of cooperation are cut off. Isolating the nation will not in and of itself remove the threat of terror, nor stop the perpetrators from reaching their goal of impacting society; recent history has shown these individuals to be citizens of the country they lash out at.
Brexit will take years to fully manifest its impact, but its first casualty is the reputation of Prime Minister David Cameron. PM Cameron gambled the future of younger generations, who largely voted to stay in the EU, and today announced that he is resigning his office after the results were made final. The UK is clearly divided by looking at the results of this referendum and the split will be present for many years to come.