Sunday, June 26, 2016

Leadership vacuum

In the three days since the UK's referendum it has become clear that the Leave campaign were not merely lying about the impact of the EU, they literally had no idea about what would happen if they won.

The backlash has been enormous- I think the level of "buyers remorse" is now so severe that if the referendum was now re-run, that Remain would utterly crush the Leavers.

The problem is that even if the referendum could be re-run, the damage is already done. The differential vote, with Scotland strongly supporting the EU, and England voting to leave has restarted the divisive and difficult argument over Scottish independence. The economic damage is already in the billions, and the next week will see further carnage in the markets.

From the point of view of the EU, there is a clear temptation to push the UK out and try to reconfigure the Union without the uncertainty. In my view this would be a disaster, not just for the UK, but the EU itself. I have never been impressed by the leadership of Mr. Juncker, but I had hoped better of Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council.

The problem now is the total leadership vacuum in the UK. The political system is going to be shaken to the core, and it is entirely possible that the Conservatives and Labour could both face existential challenges. London is in no position to trigger article 50, and will not be able to do so for some time.

Previous referendums in the EU, in France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark have been rerun, and there is now significant pressure inside the UK, that this happens in Britain too. This is something that the EU leadership should welcome and tacitly support.

If they do not, and Brexit actually happens then, as George Soros forecasts today, we could be looking at the total breakdown of the EU. 

The leadership vacuum in London must be met with understanding in Brussels, otherwise the crisis in the markets in the coming week could finally destroy not just the UK, but the EU too.  

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