In a bona fide democracy, it is the will of the people that ultimately matters, never mind the positions political leaders may take on the particular issues. Democracy leaves it to a majority of the people to decide, whether rationally or irrationally, what they consider best for themselves and the country as a whole.
Despite a robust campaign by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and, to a lesser extent, Labour Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn for Britain to remain in the 28-member European Union because the advantages outweighed the disadvantages, British citizens overwhelmingly stated through yesterday’s referendum that they no longer wanted to remain.
In the poll which attracted a 71.8 per cent turnout, the highest in almost 30 years, which underscored the importance citizens attached to the issue, 52 per cent voted in favour of leaving the European Union and 48 per cent supported staying. It is a seismic development with obviously far-reaching repercussions for Britain both at home and abroad.
Given Barbados’ historically close ties with Britain, our economy, especially the tourism sector which heavily relies on British business, will inevitably feel some fallout, as well as investment. An immediate casualty was the value of the pound which today recorded its biggest plunge on the currency markets in 30 years
In another sign that the Brtitish economy may be heading for instability, a major global investment firm has reportedly decided already to shift 2,000 jobs from London to elsewhere in Europe.
As the biggest political casualty, Mr Cameron immediately announced he was stepping down. The spectre of political instability within Britain also arose immediately. The leadership of Scotland, where voters overwhelming backed remaining in the European Union, raised the possibility of a new referendum on Independence which threatens a break-up of the European Union.
Britain’s exit from the European Union will not be immediate, however. There is a process to be followed that will take probably up to two years. Since joining in 1972, Britain has always shown an uneasiness with membership of the European Union. The discomfort largely stemmed from having to surrender some aspects of British sovereignty, which resides in an elected Parliament, to unelected
bureaucrats in Brussels –– an understandably difficult proposition for a former global superpower.
Brussels, the seat of the European Union, therefore, came to be seen as the source of many of Britain’s problems, especially related to an influx of European immigrants in recent years. The outcome of the referendum reflects a strong desire by Britons to take back their country, which was a rallying cry during the campaign.
Similar sentiments exist too in other European Union countries, and it is likely that the British vote will trigger public clamour for referendums in these member states to decide the future relationship with the European Union.
Uncertainty, therefore, hangs over the future of the European Union which started out as the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 to promote peace among countries with a history of war. The idea behind the world’s first regional integration project, based on what is known as “functionalist” theory, was to provide a framework for collaboration among participating countries in the search for solutions to common problems.
Functionalism was based on a central assumption that success in one area would have a “spill-over” effect, leading to cooperation in new areas and resulting in peaceful, harmonious relations among the countries involved. From its humble, post-World War II beginnings, the integration experiment subsequently evolved into the European Economic Community and finally to the present European Union.
Interestingly, the European project inspired Caribbean and other developing countries which applied a similar approach in designing the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other regional integration schemes in the hope of enhancing the prospects of economic growth and development through regional cooperation. Functionalism runs through the veins of CARICOM.
Given the current seemingly comatose state of CARICOM, reflected in the fact it hardly features in public discussion these days after the initial excitement related to the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) which is yet to achieve full implementation, perhaps the time has come for the people of the region to clamour for an opportunity to also have a direct say, via a referendum, on the continued relevance and importance of CARICOM.
Let’s face it! CARICOM was a solution to the development challenges of the 1970s. Since then, the world has undergone fundamental change and the development challenges facing the region have certainly become greater and
In the spirit of democracy, the people of the region should be afforded an opportunity to speak directly on the CARICOM question instead of leaving it in the hands of bureaucrats. The question, however, is whether regional governments are courageous enough to put the issue to the test.