The ‘Brexit’ shock has just begunThe United Kingdom finally chose isolation. In a historic referendum held on Thursday, the “Leave” camp supporting Britain’s exit from the European Union won with 51.9 percent votes. As the so-called “Brexit” scenario has materialized, the U.K. will divorce the EU after 43 years of being one Europe and stand all on its own. It’s a development even more shocking than seeing Donald Trump become the Republican candidate for U.S. president.
Both the EU and U.K. are now walking up unforeseen paths. The EU has lost the world’s fifth largest economy, while the U.K. has lost its European allies. How long this divorce process will take, whether the process will be smooth or not, and what will happen during the process, remain questionable. It is no exaggeration to say Europe is engulfed in a totally unpredictable future.
Despite repeated warnings and attempts at dissuasion, the British made a bold decision that might end up whittling Great Britain down to Little England. Accountability for the result goes to the British people. The Conservative Party rashly held the referendum as a campaign pledge for the upcoming general election. Prime Minister David Cameron has already announced he will resign to take some political responsibility.
The immediate future of the EU has become uncertain. The possibility of other EU members following the U.K. in a domino effect cannot be ignored. The EU nations have been recently plagued by economic hardships, inflows of refugees and terrorism. Greece, Austria, the Netherlands and Czech Republic might be next. France is not a safe zone either. The single currency of the EU has proven to be a fundamental defect as it resulted in the Eurozone financial crisis and Greek debt crisis. The EU disappointed the world with its responses to the refugee issue and Islamic State terrorism. It is only reasonable that skepticism about the EU system grows.
Britain is the home to a neoliberalism that traces back to the Margaret Thatcher government in the 1980s. With the Ronald Reagan administration of the United States, Britain introduced globalization and neoliberalism to the world economy. One can’t overestimate the implications of Britain’s choice to be isolated. The British choice can be seen as the end of an era of open liberalism after World War II and the beginning of a new era of isolationism.
Trump too claims to support isolationism and has even demonstrated his doubts about the Korea-U.S. alliance. If Trump does become the 45th president of the United States, isolationism will be an inevitable trend along with Brexit.
An era of neo-isolationism means there will be major shifts in the paradigms that have been supporting Korea for decades. The country has achieved its growth and wealth based on the open liberalism paradigm. In an era of high uncertainties, in which the unthinkable turns into reality, the Korean government needs to review where the country is heading in all areas ranging from politics, security, diplomacy and the economy.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 25, Page 26