Brexit Goes from Portmanteau to Political Reality

This EU expert says the vote to Brexit, a combination of Britain and exit, has sent a signal to the rest of the world: “The populist politicians that got this referendum on the table were obviously capitalizing on these feelings of not being in control.”

By Alain Stephens & Joy DiazJune 24, 2016 2:40 pm|

Texans awoke this morning to news that the UK voted to exit the European Union. We caught up with one British-born Texan who’s trying to figure out what the vote means for him.

Ben Wright, a British writer living in Austin. He said he didn’t vote in the referendum because of a paperwork mix-up. “I thought the ‘Leave’ folks were going to lose anyway and so I wasn’t too worried,” he says. “Now I have European Union egg all over my face. I feel like the past just got to decide the future…. I can’t see how the dust settles on any of these sorts of issues quickly.”

For some analysis on what the Brexit vote means, Guy Whitten, director of the European Union Center at Texas A&M, reports from Brussels.

“I think a lot of folks are quite surprised,” he says. “Everywhere you go it’s the topic of conversation.”

Whitten says the short-term impacts affect investments and holdings in the UK. “The stock markets and the currency markets have already reacted pretty strongly,” he says, “and UK holdings have already lost some of their value.”

Sen. Ted Cruz says we should forge a closer partnership with the UK. “The UK has always had this tension, in terms of – are they a part of Europe or not?” he says. “… When they think of themselves as not being European, one of the things they certainly think about a lot is their special relationship with the United States and the whole commonwealth of former colonies.”

Because they weren’t part of the currency union, Whitten says it’s difficult to tell how it will affect the UK long-term. “People in Europe are mostly saying it’s going to go way down,” he says, “and it is going to be a crisis.”

Many in the UK viewed the EU as driven by elites, Whitten says, and undemocratic, which likely contributed to the “Leave” votes winning. “They’ve sent a strong signal to the country,” he says, “and the populist politicians that got this referendum on the table were obviously capitalizing on these feelings of not being in control and being at the mercy of this big process.”

The official rules, which have never been invoked, involve a two-year process. “But there’s people here in Brussels that are talking about an accelerated leave process,” he says. “… In the UK, the real interesting question is about what’s going to happen (to) the Prime Minister David Cameron.”

Speculation abounds that the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, could take over in the interim and lead the party. “He’s one of the big winners in this whole thing,” Whitten says. “It’s going to be very interesting.”

Post by Hannah McBride.