If the “Leave” side won… *Cue crickets’ chirping*. No? Didn’t think so. The “Leave” side was never supposed to win. This referendum was a blatant political exercise in keeping an election promise for David Cameron. If the U.K. voted to stay, he gets a huge check mark beside his name, and a likely victory in the next general election… If they lost.
Cameron couldn’t afford to admit losing was a possibility. His government greeted questions of their actions in a potential victory for the leave side with silence in the latter stages of the campaign. Could it be because he didn’t have one aside from a resignation?
It becomes more evident what this means politically for the United Kingdom daily. Cameron’s gamble will likely result in a pretty messy break-up. Scotland is going alone for negotiations with the E.U. and is calling for another referendum on separation. The Republic of Ireland is talking about thickening its borders with the north. Sin Fein’s Gerry Adams is talking about unification proving that money, and economics are very powerful motivators. Even newly-minted London Mayor Sadiq Khan is making noises about the city staying with the common market.
In order to officially leave the European Union member nations have to trigger what’s known as article 50 of the Lisbon treaty. This basically sets a timeline of 2 years for Britain to negotiate payment of past debts, and what a future relationship would look like. David Cameron announced his resignation effective in August. He’s refused to trigger article 50 putting the burden onto his successor’s shoulders, and making it a central question in the Conservative leadership campaign. He gets away without reaping what he sows.
So Cameron didn’t have a plan. Did the actual leave side leaders? Let’s start with the fact there were two of them. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, and United Kingdom Independence Party (U.K.I.P.) leader Nigel Farage. It seemed that they were reading for different song books. Farage was hitting the immigration drum, which triggered feelings of patriotism, which, resounded with a lot of people
He also damaged his own credibility had to climb down from the promise of contributing the 350 million pounds Britain gave to the E.U. to the National Health Service. In retracting it he admitted to not knowing where it went. He also had to retract statements predicting ‘remain’ side would win. That’s not a man with a plan is it?
Johnson hit immigration drum too, proposing a points system that would see a limit on the number of E.U. citizens working in Britain. He has recognized the referendum results as a “clear result.” The Guardian quotes him as saying the only change will be that the U.K. will extricate itself from the E.U.’s extraordinary and opaque system of legislation. He thinks they can pick and choose. The European Union disagrees, and its foreign ministers have released a statement saying they want Britain gone as soon possible.
Johnson’s agenda isn’t exactly pure either. He’s said to be one of the top contenders for the Conservative leadership. He may be the one left holding the bag on this one who has to do something. Cameron’s strategy paints him into a corner. Johnson plays this cautiously and attempts to pull back he’s seen as having betrayed the “leave” side. If he takes the leadership it will be short-lived, because he’ll have presided over the demise of one of the world’s greatest empires.
Staying in the E.U. would have meant a prosperous Great Britain. Cameron got a deal together with new powers painting it all as a rosy future. He didn’t think he could lose on this referendum, so he risked it all. And now it’s all in jeopardy; Britain’s economic and political future, and the very future of the E.U. And nobody has a plan for what’s next.