Policy Briefs

BREXIT Undo: Not A Severe Reverse – By Oseloka H. Obaze

The hysteria over the Brexit undo, whilst understandable, is hardly a severe reverse. Certainly, that’s not the case for the UK; not for her allies and not for the EU.  Indeed, what most EU folks worry about is not the loss of the UK, but the shakeup of presumed normalcy and contagion effect.  Many fear that the UK set a terribly bad example in the EU neighbourhood, with imitators likely to follow.  But UK’s segue out of the EU via Brexit brought home some home truths.  I recall an Italian Deputy Ambassador to the UN saying once during a Security Council meeting some years back that when it comes to regional bloc politics, ECOWAS countries were far more organized; better disciplined, committed and good at rallying to a consensus than EU members.  He blunted his point by noting that whereas all West African countries were members of ECOWAS, not every European country was an EU member.

 Beyond the hoopla Brexit is an unintended consequence; long overdue, but hardly an aberration. The outcome, which is seemingly beyond introspection, remains essentially the byproduct of grievance politics; a backlash against UK and EU establishments, which gained its impetus from spillover of Arab conflicts that orchestrated an immigration surge, which in turn, stirred up long-suppressed fears and nostalgia for insularity and preserving “our way of life”, without exhibiting a hint of xenophobia.  The spike in UK’s refugee intake from 100,000 to 300,000 with possible Trojan Horse implications was a tripwire.  This faux protectionism, though well-rehearsed as being the right measure to check surging immigration and insidious threats to public order, social welfare and cultural norms, was not well thought out; surely not in terms of overall national needs, more so needs of the UK youths, who grew up drenched with the ecstatic values of globalization.

UK’s forced retrenchment of globalization and the diminution of the salutary values of political and economic regional blocs and integration, will now lampoon all such efforts. EU candidate-states will do a rethink, just as Scotland and Wales must ponder the oxymoronic value of belonging to a fragmented United Kingdom.  Indubitably, UK’s voice as an EU member was strong, but in opting for globalization-minus-accommodation, its voice just turned wispy.  Yet, whatever the perceived or real implications, the fundamentals of the UK economy will remain strong, inasmuch as the UK’s loss of hefty revenue from the EU, is likely to run into billions.  The utmost risk facing the UK is its jilted EU partners.

 Contemporarily, Brexit mimics Russia’s perestroika and glasnost. The post-event reflections, naturally, are a mix of euphoria, consternation and trepidation.  What have we gotten ourselves into?  David Cameron has asked that question a million times; and he won’t stop asking it for the rest of his lifetime.  This working class and geriatric revolt is aimed at protecting social welfare and cultural values that UK politicians toyed with in order to be politically correct.  Call it self-preservation!  Huge demographic shifts from fragile and broken states, if left unchecked, were bound to turn stable states into unstable spheres.  The incremental rise of terrorism within EU countries hasn’t been uplifting in any sense. All things considered, it is a tad surprising that it took this long for the UK to disengage.  For starters, the UK was very EU-tentative and never fully engaged.  It wallowed in the spirited convenience and covers the EU and Trans-Atlantic alliance offered, but reserved its monetary and visa rights.  Such straddling of the fence, tolerated while it lasted, was vexatious and repugnant to UK’s EU partners, who knew it was a matter of time before the pyrrhic experiment, aimed at stopping inter-European wars outlived its usefulness.  Brexit was it!  Paradoxically, UK world war nurses pressed the Undo button.

The EU for all its presumed clout, is renowned for its dysfunctionality. The added variable of national disillusionment, which is now fully at play, must give everyone pause.  Prime Minister David Cameron maleficently and recklessly led the UK down to a blind-alley gamble trench and suffered a weighty loss.  Political exuberance is not just perturbing but costly, more so when delusion meets with reality.  While UK voters were stunningly ruthless in handing Cameron his exit card, the consequences of foisted regime change in rogue nations, have upturned otherwise stable countries, indirectly forcing a regime change in the UK, and perhaps, just perhaps, the disassembling of the United Kingdom as we know it.

The prevailing ennui within the EU, is most understandable. The bitterness aside, some key EU members are relieved, and in guarded circles, would gleefully utter that “good riddance to bad rubbish” epitaph.  A few among them, certainly, will make the UK pay for its “sins” — the past, present, and future.  A facetious derivative of Brexit may well be a redo of that immortal bestselling song “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”, with the nations substituted.  Brexit is about lessons learned, not just missed opportunities.  In time, the gains will manifest.  Surely, world political history will be richer for it.


Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.

1 Comment

  •    Reply

    Good write up. Put the BREXIT blame on the politicians who failed to read the hand writing “immigration” on the wall. The people have voted a divorce from Brussels after 43years so be it. However, like you wrote their membership had been a “straddling of the fence” one. (9ja go say how for do) no wonder the reaction from Brussels amongst others is like exit fast but for Merkel who advised not so fast… thks

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