After Brexit, it is a muddle out there

  • Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 27, 2016 16:10 IST
A poster featuring a Brexit vote ballot with "out" tagged is on display at a book shop window in Berlin on June 24, 2016. (AFP Photo)

It sinks in.

As the implications of Brexit hit home – political instability, economic crisis, uncertainty over ties with the rest of the world and racist attacks – the most ardent advocates of the “Leave” campaign seem to have suddenly got cold feet.

They have either backtracked on promises or failed to come out with a credible roadmap for the exit from the European Union. This is most visible in their reluctance to push for operationalising Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would initiate the historic divorce.

The EU, however, does not like the uncertainty and wants Britain to trigger Article 50 immediately. Brussels feel this will only embolden other eurosceptics pushing for exit of other member-states and weaken the union.

Clamour for a second vote is also growing. A petition calling for another referendum has collected three million signatures but a vote looks unlikely – at least in the short to medium-term.

Political aftershocks

The seismic vote has shook UK politics. Within the Conservatives, the succession battle has heated up after Prime Minister David Cameron announced his decision to step down by October. Boris Johnson, the former London mayor and the most prominent face of the “Leave” campaign, and Theresa May, the home secretary who was part of “Remain” camp but remained low key, are the primary contenders.

But, it is not just the ruling party that has been jolted. The opposition, Labour, is also struggling. Faced with growing dissidence over an uninspired campaign, party leader Jeremy Corbyn sacked the shadow foreign secretary Hillary Benn. But, soon the shadow cabinet disintegrated as 11 senior members resigned.

The primary faultline appears to be between senior Labour politicians, who want Corbyn to go, and the party cadre that elected him the leader last September.

The crisis in Labour led to the Guardian describing, in an editorial, the moment as “perilous times for progressive politics, perhaps the most perilous since the 1930s”. “With an intolerant right-wing on the rise, every progressive must be hoping that whoever prevails in the left’s faction fighting, it will be finished soon,” it read.

Scotland, too, remains a challenge. First minister Nicola Sturgeon has raised the possibility of parliament in Edinburgh blocking consent to the exit. Scotland had voted overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the EU.

Making sense of it all

The critical commentary continues. In a scathing piece, the Guardian commentator Nick Cohen has torn into the “Leave” campaign for its lies. “The real division in Britain is not between London and the north, Scotland and the Wales or the old and young, but between Johnson, Gove and Farage and the voters they defrauded.”

But amid the gloom, is a personal, nostalgia-laced piece by the India-born UK citizen Tunku Varadarajan. Varadarajan, who lives in the US, looks back at the Britain where he studied and worked and argues not all who backed “Leave” are malicious, and nothing is at it appears in the UK.

Full coverage| Britain’s EU Referendum

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