- Scotland, Northern Ireland kick
- It’ll have negative effects on Nigeria – Experts
By EMMA EMEOZOR and VINCENT KALU
THE United Kingdom Thursday withdrew from the European Union in a referendum vote that shocked the international community and forced the British Prime Minister David Cameron to resign.
The referendum held after four years of bitter campaign with the country divided between two groups who remained antagonistic towards each other even till now: the Remain camp and the Leave camp (referred to as Brexit).
The result showed that the Remain camp had 16,141,241 (48.1 %) votes while the Leave camp won 17,410,742 (51.9 %) votes. It was the second time a referendum has been held to determine the EU status in UK, the first being 1975, when continued membership was approved by 67 per cent of voters. The Remain camp lost despite the strong backing of Scotland, Northern Ireland and London.
The process leading to UK’s exit was set in motion after the legal basis for a referendum was established by the Parliament in accordance with the ruling party’s manifesto commitment “through the European Union Referendum Act 2015.”
UK becomes the first country to quit the Union since its formation, though the Leave vote does not mean it ceases to be a member of the 28-nation body. Due process leading to a final exit would have to be followed .
The process could take a minimum of two years. Conscious of the implications of an exit, the Leave camp had, during the campaign, suggested the process should not be completed until 2020, the date of the country’s next general election.
While the Remain camp considers the outcome of the referendum most disappointing and a chattered dream for a nation it felt stronger in the Union, the Leave camp believes it is good riddance to a bad omen.
Cameron, first victim
The outcome of the referendum is a double tragedy for Prime Minister David Cameron who was full of hope that the Remain camp would gain victory. Just as UK is quitting the Union, he is also quitting the office of the prime minister.
In an emotional speech, with breaks in his voice, Cameron yesterday announced he would step down in October for “fresh leadership.” “The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected. The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered,” he added.
He explained he had informed Queen Elizabeth II of his decision to remain in office for the short term and that it would be for the new prime minister to carry out negotiations with EU.
Boris Johnson booed by angry crowd
Reports said an angry crowd booed Brexit leader and likely successor of Cameron as he left his north London home. The Leave campaign had argued during the campaign that the only way Britain could “take back control” of its own affairs would be to leave the EU.
Leave dismissed warnings from economists and international bodies about the economic impact of Brexit as “scaremongering” by a self-serving elite. UK media reported that many businesses would be concerned about the referendum result. “The urgent priority now is to reassure the markets”, but warned against “rushed decisions,” the reports quoted financial experts as saying.
Scotland, Northern Ireland kick
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in a swift reaction warned that a second independence referendum was “highly likely.” She noted that there was now a significant divergence between Scotland and the rest of Britain, which she “deeply regretted”.
“It was democratically unacceptable that Scotland faced the prospect of being taken out of the EU against its will,” she said. She said the Scottish government would begin preparing legislation to enable another independence vote. Scotland voted in favour of the UK staying in the EU by 62% to 38%.
The SNP manifesto for May’s Holyrood elections said the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there was a “significant and material change” in the circumstances that prevailed at the time of the 2014 referendum, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will.
Northern Ireland has also threatened to seek independence following the Brexit win.
The EU’s reaction after the result was released was expected. On the eve of the referendum, the President of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, had warned that there would be no more negotiations if the Leave camp wins. “Out is out,” he said. The Union’s leadership comprising of President of the European Parliament, Donald Tusk, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and President of the European Council, Mark Rutte met yesterday with Juncker in Brussels, the Unions headquarters and asked UK to invoke In a statement, they said: Any delay would be unnecessarily prolong uncertainty. We have rules to deal with this in an orderly way. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union sets out the procedure to be followed if a Member State decides to leave the European Union.
“We stand ready to launch negotiations swiftly with the United Kingdom regarding the terms and conditions of its withdrawal from the European Union.”
EU foreign ministers to meet today
The foreign ministers of the founding six-member states: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy and Belgium will meet today to discuss the implications of the UK quit.
According to reports, on the agenda is also a discussion of the migration crisis, including the issue of deportation of migrants back to Africa and the current deployment of naval craft off Libya to intercept smugglers. This is because UK has a major role on the matter. Already a UK warship has been deployed in the EU’s naval operation and a second has been promised.
Article 50 – and a new deal
Triggering Article 50, formally notifying the intension to withdraw, starts a two-year clock running. After that, the Treaties that govern membership no longer apply to Britain. The terms of exit will be negotiated between Britain’s 27 counterparts, and each will have a veto over the conditions. It will also be subject to ratification in national parliaments, meaning, for example, that Belgian MPs could stymie the entire process.
Two vast negotiating teams will be created, far larger than those seen in the British renegotiation. The EU side is likely to be headed by one of the current Commissioners.
Untying Britain from the old membership is the easy bit. Harder would be agreeing a new trading relationship, establishing what tariffs and other barriers to entry are permitted, and agreeing on obligations such as free movement. Such a process, EU leaders claim, could take another five years.
Business leaders want the easiest terms possible, to prevent economic harm. But political leaders say the conditions will be brutal to discourage other states from following suit
World leaders react
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “great regret” at the British decision, saying: “This is a blow to Europe and to the European unification process”
Mrs Merkel said she would meet Mr Tusk, French President Francois Hollande and Italian PM Matteo Renzi in Berlin on Monday
Mr Hollande said the vote “seriously puts Europe to the test”, adding: “I respect this painful choice. France will continue to work with this friendly country”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the decision showed the UK’s unhappiness with migration and security
Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said: “We must… work hard so that we do not lose the unity of the European Union”
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said, “the European project remains valid to defend the values that mark our common identity”
Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka said: “Despite the disappointment many of us feel… we must realise that this is not the end of the world and it’s absolutely not the end of the EU.” He also echoed the voices of many in calling for change, saying: “Europe must be more operational, flexible, less bureaucratic and much more perceptive to the diversity that its member states represent”
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras said the vote was “either a wake-up call or the beginning of a dangerous path”, adding: “We urgently need a new vision and beginning for a united Europe for a better Europe, more social and democratic”
Implications of Britain exiting the EU-Nigerian experts
Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) will have negative consequences on Nigeria, Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, Director-General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), has said.
Akinterinwa, a professor of international affairs, on Friday siad that the negative impact of Britain’s exit from the union would be bilaterally and multilaterally. According to him, it is at the level of multilateral configuration that Nigeria may be slightly affected.
“Britain is a member of the EU and Nigeria is a member of Commonwealth and in this case, Britain is both an active member of the EU and Commonwealth. Nigeria has been benefitting from the free trade tariff access of the British to the EU; now with the Brexit (Britain Exit), that one (free trade tariff access) may become a little bit difficult for Nigeria,” he said.
Akinterinwa said that Nigeria’s economic relationship with the EU might also be affected with the development, explaining that it would jeopardise Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.
“With the withdrawal of the British from the EU, now the EPA will no longer apply to Nigeria within the framework of Nigeria’s bilateral relationship with the British,” he said.
Politically, he stated that a weakened Europe would also affect Nigeria in terms of aid donation to the country.
“Politically, Brexit can bring about a weakened economy of Europe; it will be weakened in various respects because Britain accounts for about 15 per cent of EU’s operational budget. This will create more burdens for countries like France and Germany, the two main countries carrying the financial burden of other member-states.
“With that relationship with the European Union, the other members will also be weakened. When it comes to insolvency, the amount of money given to Nigeria either as development grant or whatsoever, cannot but be reduced. So, these are some of the implications,” he said.
Akinterinwa added that Brexit could also affect Nigeria’s and ECOWAS’ relationship with the EU. According to him, since Britain is not part of the Schengen Visa Regime, anyone going to Britain must apply for visa directly for Britain.
Two other Nigerian political scientists however shared differed from Akinterinwa’s views. Prof Ebere Onwudiwe, political scientist, and Executive Director of Ken Nnamani Centre for Leadership and Development, Abuja said “The costs may include the break-up of the United Kingdom (Scotland may have new referendum ideas) or even the disintegration of the EU itself since other member countries may follow UK’s bad example. One cannot say that Mr. Cameron was not aware of these perils. But a promise is a promise in the mind of a great principled leader. This is what African leaders should take from this referendum in Great Britain, principled leadership.”
He added that “There may be impacts on developmental aid from the EU, where UK is a great contributor as a former colonizer of large portions of the continent that has resulted in the current Commonwealth Africa. It is too early to say what the exit of UK from EU will mean for the preferential trading schemes that UK’s presence in the EU provided for Commonwealth Africa, and for the trade benefits provided in the Cotonou Agreement of 2000 between the EU and Africa. Anyone can speculate on what direction all these and many other potential impacts will take, but no one actually knows for sure because this is totally new and unfamiliar.”
For Dr. Sylvester Odion Akhaine, lecturer, Department of political science, Lagos State University, Ojo, the development is good for Africa. According to him “for us in Africa, the global hegemons when they are in disarray, it is good for our own autonomous development.
“If you look at how they have made their game, Britain is not out of NATO alliance, which is a military bloc, and they all enforced that the leading member of the bloc in terms of pro-action is France, Britain and of course, the United States of America. They still have that military might to influence their policies and decisions within the continent. You can’t take that away from them.
“There is a way we are witnessing the decline of Britain. Not too long ago, they went into a referendum with Scotland. Scotland though in, it is not over, there will still be a referendum. Don’t forget there is still a separatist agitation in Wales. Scotland, apart from being under United Kingdom has every other thing to themselves, they have the Scottish pound. When they go for global competitions they go as Scotland. You can see the kind of power distribution within Britain, even though it is not a federal, but unitary state, but there is power distribution within the Island.”