Brexit: Lessons For Biafra, By Mbasekei Martin Obono

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    The idea of voting out of the EU based on the free movement of persons was very self-centered. Like every self-centered idea, there are negative implications that the UK may never recover from and these are lessons that other nations must learn from, especially Nigeria.

    In the early 2000s, I was consumed by the exciting possibilities in the concepts of the globalisation and commercialisation of economies with the view to a shrinking world and single market. My enthusiasm was based on how ICT was breaking barriers and linking small markets to bigger ones.

    The decision of the people of the UK to exit the European Union has not only dealt a political blow to the Union, but to that beautiful concept of globalisation. One could have taken it for granted that the 20th century imprinted global economic tolerance in the form of the free movement of goods and persons in our world. The exit of UK from the Union has proven otherwise.

    The EU and its Law are the most successful international organisation and Treaty that I know, and the Law confers direct horizontal and vertical effects, which the courts of the member states of the Union are bound to recognise and enforce, as opposed to the United Nations Security Council’s enforcement of international humanitarian law, which is selective and biased because of its political nature.

    According to Nigel Foster, the EU was formed in order to bring lasting peace to the European states after the Second World War. The idea was that when people share things in common there would be little or nothing to fight about.

    The Union started out as the European Coal and Steel Community, with the aim of organising the free movement of coal and steel, and free access to sources of production.

    The Community was backed by a Treaty and had a common High Authority that supervised the market, respect for competition rules and price transparency. The Community, after many stages, metamorphosed into today’s Union which guarantees the free movement of workers under Article 3 (2) of the TEU (Treaty on European Union), the free movement of goods through the elimination of customs duties and quantitative restrictions, and the prohibition of measures having an equivalent effect, under Articles 26, 28–37 of the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

    The world is integrating, even businesses and corporations are either merging or acquiring each other, and development partners are building alliances and collaborations for the common good. Human beings are marrying, even among the same sex or animals. No country, individual or organisation wants to stand alone. Not because we are weak being alone but because we are stronger together.

    Already, the global economy has been impacted by over $2trillion in financial losses and corporations are strategising on moving their headquarters from England to the next big market. Investor confidence would gradually diminish and there would be a negative impact on the demand for labour. The world is too interconnected for people to want to live separately.

    I think David Cameron made a series of mistakes with Brexit.

    The first and grievous mistake was in putting the issue of a referendum on the matter on the table. According to Alex Salmond, Referenda are used to effect change in systems. Cameron wasn’t proposing a change in the system but maintaining a status quo and so, it gave those who needed the change a window of opportunity and enthusiasm to vote, than those who wanted to remain in the EU. Hence, those in the BRIGRET (who regret their votes) category and those who took it for granted that the votes to Leave would not win constitute the over 2 million seeking a second referendum. It would be a disaster if there is a second referendum and the Leavers win again.

    That is why the democratic wish of the people must be respected; someone needs to trigger Article 50 in order to end the uncertainties around the future of EU immigrants. Bad choices are also democratic choices and we must live with them and suffer the consequences collectively.

    Secondly, selling the campaign to Remain, with the single market message, did not make meaning to the average voter. The likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson sold the Leave campaign on the basis of immigration and it was exciting because it is easier to convince someone that they don’t need people in their “space”.

    As we speak, Scotland has officially tabled another referendum to leave the UK in order to join forces with the European Union. This means a smaller United Kingdom and who knows, if Leanne Wood successfully convinces her party, Plaid Cymru to have a referendum to leave the UK, that would be the beginning of a much weaker British Empire.

    Already, the global economy has been impacted by over $2trillion in financial losses and corporations are strategising on moving their headquarters from England to the next big market. Investor confidence would gradually diminish and there would be a negative impact on the demand for labour. The world is too interconnected for people to want to live separately.

    Now, Westminster is considering negotiations with Brussels in order to get better deals and to remain in the single market, while there will be no deal for the free movement of persons. This is laughable. How can you eat your cake and want to have it at the same time? There are no antecedents of a member state that has been able to successfully cut this deal while leaving the Union. It’s a different thing if the UK were never part of the Union. Westminster must also note that Brussels would be negotiating from the point of strength, and not weakness. Hence, the chances of getting a good deal would be sort of slim.

    …This is the question that pro-Brexit voters did not properly pose to Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. If they had posed the question, there would have been no Brigret today calling for a second referendum. Therefore, this is the same question I want every Biafran agitator to ask Nnamdi Kanu and those seeking to leave Nigeria.

    The implication of this is that prices of goods and services would skyrocket because of the imposition of tariffs and taxes on imported goods that ordinarily would have moved freely from one member state to the other. The UK would not benefit from the larger market that comes with being a member state of the Union.

    The British Pound would value less in the foreign exchange market. As the Pound weakens, imports will become more expensive and inflation would lurk around the corner. This inflation would lead to higher interest rates in mortgages and loans, as well as increased taxes on the bailout funds the Bank of England wants to inject into the system to keep the economy and currency afloat.

    The idea of voting out of the EU based on the free movement of persons was very self-centered. Like every self-centered idea, there are negative implications that the UK may never recover from and these are lessons that other nations must learn from, especially Nigeria.

    The South–Eastern part of Nigeria has been agitating to leave the federal republic for a while now. In 1967, a civil war broke out as a result of this agitation. Recently, there have been increased agitations to leave. In fairness and unlike the EU, the Nigerian State has not been politically, geographically and economically fair to the people of the South-Eastern region. They suffer marginalisation and degradation like a few other regions: but is leaving the Nigerian entity the solution?

    When I was 16 years old and quite excited about the promise of adulthood, I kept on drumming it in the ears of my family members that I wanted to leave home at the age of 18. Until my older brother said to me, it is understandable that you want to leave but when you leave where are you going? What’s the plan? That singular question laid my ambition to rest.

    This is the question that pro-Brexit voters did not properly pose to Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. If they had posed the question, there would have been no Brigret today calling for a second referendum. Therefore, this is the same question I want every Biafran agitator to ask Nnamdi Kanu and those seeking to leave Nigeria.

    Mbasekei Martin Obono writes from the United Kingdom.

     

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