United Kingdom's Reckless Gamble

Referenda are terrible mechanisms of democracy.  As a case in point, the recent British referendum over the United Kingdom’s membership in the EU was a reckless gamble that took a very real issue — the need for more open and legitimate contestation in the EU — and turned it into a political grotesquerie of shamelessly opportunistic political elites.  The raucous debate over the United Kingdom’s continued membership in the EU was riven with lies and misrepresentations, some of which are now being explicitly rolled back by Brexit advocates; even the British press rues its bombastic support for the Leave side. 

On Tuesday, June 28, 2016, House of Representative’s Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that the United States negotiate a Free Trade Agreement to get the UK back in financial order.  No one understands that the EU is a FTA.  They travel and see people from the EU just showing the Customs Agents their passport and walking through while they have to be processed since they are traveling from a non EU country.  They do not understand that also means that cargo does not have to be cleared by Customs Agents.  Plus the EU purchases commodities and products as one instead of each country purchasing separately.  

The United States is currently negotiating a FTA with the EU.  Now that the UK is no longer a part of the EU they need a separate FTA with the US.  The Trans Pacific Partnership FTA has not passed Congress.  The only hope for this FTA is to be voted on during the Lame Duck Session in December 2016 after the Presidential election.  All the candidates have sworn away from FTA still condemning the North American Free Trade Agreement

Unfortunately, many British voters appear not to have known exactly what the EU is, validating other recent research demonstrating a lack of factual knowledge about the union.
 Observers of the referendum should therefore be wary about drawing conclusions about broader globalization efforts, the Western order, the inevitability of the rise of populist anti-immigration parties, or the viability of the EU project overall.  The answer to the breathless question posed in the New York Times on Sunday, June 26, 2016 — “Is the post-1945 order imposed on the world by the United States and its allies unraveling, too?” — is simple.  No, it is not.  And yet the emotions and cultural chasms brought to bear in the Brexit vote cannot and should not be ignored. 

Brexit’s real lesson is that there is a consequential divide between cosmopolitans who view the future with hope and those who have been left behind and have seen their economic sharing of the wealth disappear if it was ever there in the first place but at least there was hope.