So the UK has voted, about 52 to 48%, to leave the European Union. The markets and pound sank on the news but rebounded a bit. Quite a few people are being quoted as saying that they just voted for Leave to send a message that they were unhappy with the government but figured that Remain would win. Some number of would-have-been Remain voters also said that they thought Remain would win. It’s hard to know how many of each there are and whether they would have been enough to switch the result. The media may well be seeking out such people to quote. But they point up a lesson for November in the United States: don’t play with your vote. Seriously consider the alternatives.
Additionally, the vote to Leave was skewed toward older people, with younger people preferring Remain. However, the number of voters was also skewed toward older people. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain. There is a petition online asking for a redo of the referendum that has drawn two million signatures as I write. Hard to see that that will make a difference, although the organizers are looking to gain twenty million people, more than voted to leave.
Another lesson about seriousness is for the Republican and (to a much lesser degree) Democratic parties. David Cameron, now ending his term as Prime Minister, offered up a referendum to placate the extremists in his party looking to separate Britain from the EU. Although the referendum isn’t legally binding, the politics of it are. Cameron bet his reputation and the country’s future on a bid to remain in power in his party. Paul Ryan in particular should be studying this fiasco.
Here are some of what I consider the better articles on Brexit:
John Harris on class. There is an argument about how much of the Leave vote is economic and how much racial. My guess is that economic losses exacerbate racial prejudice, so they are intertwined.
Lawyers list what needs to be done to complete the split. The UK must initiate the action through what is called an Article 50 notification (of the Lisbon Treaty) that it wants to leave. Some are saying that if the Article 50 notification wasn’t filed on the day after the referendum, it’s not going to be filed. And the leaders of the Leave movement are saying well, maybe not right away. A new government will be formed this fall. Much activity on all sides yet to come.
Added later: A very interesting comment. I can’t see any reason it might not be an accurate assessment. Whether or not it’s a plan on Cameron’s part, it’s an enormous piece of bad luck for Boris Johnson.
In other news, two long reads on NATO and Russia that I haven’t read yet:
Followup: Evidently those sailors who got caught by the Iranians last summer messed up. Punishments meted out.
Another long read: How the US and Britain considered using nuclear weapons to destroy Iraqi and Iranian oil fields in case of a Soviet invasion. The plan was originated in 1949, but by 1953, the idea of using nuclear weapons was de-emphasized.
Graphic from the Spectator.