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Brexit: global reaction to Britain's vote to leave the EU

The Conversation | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

The United Kingdom has voted by a close margin to leave the European Union. Here, experts from around the world react to the news which has sent shockwaves around the world and what it means for their country. This article will update.

United States

Scott Lucas, professor of international politics, University of Birmingham

One consequence of Britain's vote to leave the European Union will be damage to the US-UK "special relationship" that has been a pillar of Britain's political, economic, and military strategy since 1945.

Brexit campaigners have insisted that the UK can easily replace its economic position within the EU with the primacy of links with the US. That assertion - whether from genuine belief or political manoeuvring - is misguided.

From the interlinked creation of NATO and the EU's ancestors, such as the European Economic Community, to the support of Western Europe as a bulwark against Soviet Communism, America's economic and political strategists have built their approach on a UK inside Europe, not detached from it.

The current US leadership has not been shy about reasserting this. To the contrary, the US president, Barack Obama, made clear in March that the UK would be at the "back of the queue" for trade deals if Brexit triumphed. Former high-level officials - used as channels for the views of those who now hold their positions - spoke of the negative effects not only on Britain's economic future but on relationships within diplomatic, military, and intelligence partnerships.

The US-UK relationship rests on institutions which prefer security and certainty. Given that the UK - which may not be "united" in the near future if Scotland departs - is entering a period of protracted insecurity and uncertainty, Washington will not be looking at "Independence Day" in England and Wales as an asset, but as a problem.

Daniel Chirot, Herbert J. Ellison professor of Russian and Eurasian studies, University of Washington

After the referendum, British opinion remains badly split. The typical "Leave" voter is similar to supporters of Donald Trump in the US and National Front voters in France. Xenophobic, angry nationalist and isolationist parties have been rising all over Europe.

This is the revolt of the losers who feel marginalised by globalisation. Perceptions of economic insecurity, unwelcome cultural change, intrusion of untraditional, foreign ideas, and a sense of national decline have produced a massive backlash against ruling establishments.

Sadly, the closure to the outside world they demand, if carried out, would plunge much of the world into economic depression and cause immense international conflict. We would be back in the 1930s, heading for disaster.

Alarmingly, the losers' anger is also a revolt against the liberal Enlightenment values of tolerance and openness to progressive ideas that seemed, only 25 years ago, to finally have prevailed. Similar threats in the 20th century were ultimately reversed by the defeat of first fascism and then communism, but are now back.

Only reinvigorated economic growth, better protection for the inevitable losers of globalisation and greater sympathy for their frustrations can ease their anger. Establishment parties of the moderate right and left have failed to help. Unless they do, the crisis will continue to worsen. The referendum's results solve nothing.


Mark Beeson, professor of international politics, Murdoch University

As the world reacts to the UK's decision to leave the EU, the significant and long-lasting economic damage that is likely to ensue will inevitably get most attention in the short term.

The rest of the EU will want to make life as difficult as possible for Britain to deter others from following in its wake. Young Britons looking to escape their insular, parochial and incredibly short-sighted and badly led homeland may need to look further afield than Europe.

The good news is that Australia might get a flood of applications from talented prospective citizens. The bad news is that Britain will be a diminished international force with limited capacity to play the sort of role some conservative commentators in this country fondly imagine. It is hardly a coincidence that those in Australia who want the country to become a republic have a renewed spring in their step as they consider political folly on an epic scale.


First published: 24 June 2016, 6:39 IST