UK Independence Day — or Mass Suicide?

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Many of my British friends today have awoken to huge news today: the people of the United Kingdom have voted in favour of leaving the European Union.

Those that voted Remain are feeling understandably worried. And even those that supported Leave are probably feeling a sense of uncertainty. Personally I am excited about new opportunities but a little dazed by the decision now that it’s in print, despite telling clients for months to take the Brexit risk seriously.

Referenda can always be divisive. It’s now time for the people to come together and rise above the politics. It was a horrible campaign in many regards – and quite frankly I think many on both sides of the vote were confused by the politicking. But remember not everyone that voted for Leave voted from fear or anger, although it is true that many people are in pain. The post GFC economy has been hard on many families across the country, with arguably only the wealthy able to thrive. This is a time for compassion and national reflection in that sense.

It is also important that the Remainers are not disenfranchised, you need not be. You should not be. You are still 48% of the vote and should continue to exercise your opinions. I think that the UK can remain an open and international trading nation as it has always been. This referendum result should not be hijacked by racism.  I think many families who voted Out are proud of Britain’s international success and that London is perhaps the most global city in the world. The true Leavers are just against unfettered immigration and losing sovereignty to a supranational organisation. But its important that we continue to look out as a nation.  Sadiq Khan, the new Mayor of London, said this morning that London will carry on as a global city. Europeans will still be welcome to live and work here. There will be no mass deportations!

However, as Nigel Farage also said, the pretence that a group of nations cannot trade together without having a political union is nonsense. We can be trading partners with our European friends and not be in the EU. We will now have independence to negotiate deals with the growing economies of India, China, US etc.  In recent days, European businesses such as German manufacturers have held out their hand and suggested ideas in the event of a Brexit.

As someone that has worked in the financial industry for a long time, I was at times astounded at the campaign of misinformation. Hopefully now smart economists, business people and statesmen and women will emerge to talk up the the UK – as billionaire Peter Hargreaves and many others – have :

The UK has an immensely creative, dynamic and imaginative economy. I think more British people should have faith in UK Plc. We have often been voted as having the most soft power in the world. British businessmen I met this week in continental Europe have told me that this brand helps them immensely in both Europe and in Asia. Just this week I was at a fintech (financial technology) conference in Madrid and it is well known that London is the fintech capital of the world – leading financial services in a way that could be more democratic and useful for everyday people.

For those that care about constitutional issues this might be seen as a victory. Today, the elected Prime Minister of the UK resigned to the will of the people. The EU’s voice was represented at a press conference by an unelected President who claims to represent the people of the remaining 27 nations.  But if the British people truly want to live in a democracy, they need to make this vote the start of political engagement. If they are more interested in football and reality TV, then vested interests will again prevail. Perhaps the victory will be for all of the people of Europe if they also claim back their sovereignty or push for a democratic EU.

Immediate implications

Since March I have said that the financial markets have underestimated the possibility of Brexit so now some positions need to be unwound. Temporarily the UK will be hit by uncertainty. The UK pound fell 10% at its worst and has bounced back a little to -8%. The pressure, over time, will be greatest on European financial assets.

This is likely the catalyst for the end of the EU. There is massive support for referenda in the Netherlands, Denmark and even Italy and elsewhere.  Many across the continent are not happy with the economic management of the union.

Either way, the world was heading in to a global financial crisis in my view. Ultimately the UK might be seen as making a prescient decision to leave the dysfunctional union first.

The PM David Cameron has resigned but will stay for 3 months until a new Conservative leader is elected at the Conservative Party conference. UK politics might fundamentally change: will UKIP emerge as a force? How will Nigel Farage now use his moral authority in the future? Some will say he should join a future Cabinet. If you have judged him as a dangerous racist, as many have branded him, I would suggest you go to primary sources and read and listen to what he actually has said as he is going to be an influential voice in UK politics going forwards.

Scotland and Northern Ireland are now constitutional issues. The knee jerk reaction will be that Scotland has to leave the UK in order to rejoin the EU as the Scottish overwhelmingly  favour of Remain. As time goes by and if the Brexit is implemented properly – and the EU disintegrates – opinion in Scotland might shift.

Some of the above is hope and advocacy and some of it I write as a futurist. Over the coming days and weeks I will write more about my hopes and predictions, and hopefully delineate between the two. Brexit or Remain — the future will be determined by implementation just as much as as it will be decided by the headline decision.   If the British can come together in tolerance then there is no reason that the UK cannot thrive in a very uncertain and difficult era.

As I have continued to predict, we live in a time of colossal upheaval. This is just the start.

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