Initial Reaction to UK’s Leave Vote

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Initial reaction to the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union

By the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit:

As a committed believer in Regional Integration, I have been reflecting deeply on the implications of the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union (EU) by a margin of 52% to 48%. My first reaction is to acknowledge the value of democracy and to hope that an issue that has stirred such strong feelings leading up to the referendum will be peacefully accepted by those who wanted a different outcome.

It is absolutely necessary to understand the unique circumstances that persuaded the majority of Britons to vote to leave the European Union. No one in other regional unions should therefore take solace from what happened in the United Kingdom to justify their voting without fully understanding the circumstances.

There are two main reasons why the United Kingdom would want to leave the European Union after 43 years of membership. The first is the question of sovereignty. Member States of the European Union have fought each other for centuries over the issue of sovereignty. Then in 1973 they put aside their differences and proceeded to unite. It is for this reason the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

However, in the case of Britain, historic events linger in their memories. Their history is replete with major expressions of other European states wanting to conquer and rule them. These include the Roman invasion of Britain beginning in AD 43; the Norman conquest of 1066; and the threat of German invasion during World War II. This fear of invasion lies deep in the psyche of the British, especially the English. To them the European Union represents a politico-economic union of 28 member states with powerful institutions such as the European Council, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the European Central Bank. This union is perceived as a cumulative process of denying the United Kingdom its much-cherished sovereignty.

The other reason is the cost of maintaining and absorbing immigrants from the EU. In developing an internal single market with free movement of people, goods, services, and capital through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member states, the EU has abolished passport controls. This means that any EU citizen migrating to the UK has access to the comprehensive system of welfare and other benefits available on arrival.

Not surprisingly there has been an influx of EU citizens into the UK. More recently considerable alarm was expressed when increasing numbers of refugees who prefer to live in Britain started arriving after acquiring EU status via any EU port of entry. Putting aside the usual xenophobia, the United Kingdom simply cannot afford to welcome the large numbers of migrants from Syria, Iraq and other countries plagued by large-scale conflict, while still trying to claw its way out of the 2008 recession.

It is therefore not surprising that the majority voted to get out of the European Union. It is not for me to say whether their vote is right or is wrong. What I would say, however, is that I understand the thinking of the majority….and it ought to be respected.