Leaving the EU would be the gamble of the century Cameron argued. However, on January 23, 2013 it was his idea to present a simple IN or OUT choice to the British people, should he be re-elected in office. One has to say: he kept his promise. However, what was this promise all about? And now that the Brits opted to leave, did Cameron overplay his hand? Or has he purposely steered the country in this direction?
If one thing can be said about the outcome of the Brexit referendum it is that the anti-establishment wing has won. In the referendum in the Netherlands about the Ukraine membership, populist groups had even instigated the referendum to be held. However, in Britain it was the Prime Minister himself who first went to Brussels to get a deal for the UK. Watching the news around that time, Cameron made a whole demonstration out of it that he had personally brokered a deal with the EU that would allow for membership that would safeguard the economic interests without any commitment to further political integration. The first response to the Brexit is likewise. It will take two years to get a firm trade agreement in shape which will regulate preferred access to the European Market. So, what's the deal?
Cameron saved his face internationally. He was reading local public opinion very well but also knew how important good friendship with European leaders would be to future British statesmanship. Now that the Brits have opted out, he can at least say: I was at your side. I am sorry it did not work out. But let us still formalise what we already agreed - proper access to the European market without much political engagement in Europe. You can deal with your own refugee crises. We won't share the burden. You can deal with your own Euro crisis, that won't affect us either, apart from providing a safe haven for investors who want to move their assets to a more stable environment less affected by these crises.
However, did Cameron act in the interest of the UK? Or did he act in the interest of The City. Both Schotland and Northern Ireland as well as London showed pro-European colors during the referendum. Now that Britain will close its doors to the social unrest at the European mainland, will it be able to control the social unrest at home? Separatists in both countries will have a strong argument now against the unionists (though paradoxically Unionists in Northern-Ireland voted massively in favour of leaving the European Union). Will London and its surrounding become the new Singapore of Europe?
The Pound Sterling dropped, markets strongly reacted. For the time being instability is likely to remain. But out of the ashes will an Atlantis arise where the superrich can safeguard their assets and claim The City to live out their pleasures? It is hard to predict. It would not be the first time in human history that public up-rise only served a few market players to tighten their grip on the market (see the role of the army in the Egyptian economy before and after the Arab spring). The free market hegemony came to an end. Money freely floating without any government control or interference resulted in the accumulation of a lot of wealth into a few hands leaving a scorched earth behind. Special 'free' trade zones and tax holidays helped to transfer wealth out of resource poor countries into paradise islands.
The week preceding the Brexit was marked by the tragic death of Jo Cox, a mother of two and politician-activist in the UK. Unfortunately, her death did not change the discourse. It only stopped the campaign trains for a few days. To some extend for a lot of former Labour current UKIP supporters she was part of the 'establishment' and her social cause that motivated her to stay IN was not recognized by the majority of the British people. They have seen an increase of informal labour in the British labour market. They have seen their jobs being taken by Polish and other foreign workers. They cannot see how staying in the EU would give them back their livelihoods. They probably also have no clue how leaving the EU would do the job. They just want to get rid of far-away bureaucrats deciding on their future. Well, they succeeded. Hope the bureaucrats at home will do a better job for them. It all depends again on what trade deal a new British PM can broker in Brussels as Cameron thanked for the honor and will leave this delicate job to his successor, joining the corporate sector soon I suppose. Yesterday's draw got Britain a sligthly different set of cards.
My name is Reinier van Hoffen.
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Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.