Black Thursday Europe in Shock over Brexit
The unbelievable has happened: The British have voted to leave the EU, with Brexiteers scoring a narrow victory. The only certainty at the moment is that Europe and Britain now face great uncertainty.
The inconceivable has happened. Brexit. The British have decided to leave the European Union -- against the advice of almost all experts, against all economic reason and against the desire of its European neighbors.
The result of the referendum is a shock -- for Prime Minister David Cameron, for the majority of the political elite, for the business community and for Europe. For the first time ever, an EU member state is set to leave the bloc. It's a giant lack of confidence vote that could be copied by other countries. The very future of the European Union is at stake.
Brexit supporters exploited the dissatisfaction of many in Britain with the state of politics, and the vote is one that is not just against the EU but also against Cameron's government. The prime minister understood the message and promptly announced on Friday that he would leave office by autumn. The campaign slogan that seemed to work best was, "Take back control."
A majority of Brits have the feeling that the EU dictates everything to them. Allegedly uncontrolled migration prompted many to vote to leave the EU. The Brexit campaign proved adept at exploiting this sentiment and promised the people of Britain a new sovereignty. "If we vote leave, we can take back control of our borders," pledged the United Kingdom Independence Party's Nigel Farage and former London mayor Boris Johnson, the conservative head of the Leave campaign.
EU supporters ultimately failed to paint a positive picture of Europe in the UK. Their campaign had focused largely of the economic disadvantages that would threaten Britain if it left. But it wasn't enough.
Now Britain is facing both government and economic crises. Once the results became clear on Friday morning, the British pound plummeted in value after the markets opened. The stock markets fear a "Black Friday." But it's not just the stock market that faces repercussions. Many observers believe the country will fall into recession.
Cameron's Government in Tatters
Meanwhile, the government is in tatters. Cameron had sought the referendum as a means of silencing EU opponents in his party. But now, it is not just his Conservative Party, but also the entire political elite in Westminster who will be facing enormously difficult times.
It is now likely that Cameron will leave negotiations over Britain's exit from the EU -- which EU law foresees as a two year process, but which could take much longer -- to his successor.
The referendum also represents a devastating defeat for the EU. Right up until the end, leading politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris had hoped that reason would prevail in Britain. But now the entire European community is facing the worst crisis in its entire history.
Many fear a copycat effect, with other EU countries holding similar referenda. Now EU leaders will have to think long and hard about how they can prevent the EU from unravelling. Much of this will be dependent on how those leaders conduct negotiations with the British government. Following Brexit, simple solutions are no longer possible.