Why BREXIT, why should we care?

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On June 23rd 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum with unanimous participation of 36.3 million Britons on whether to leave or remain in the European Union, a continental political and financial entity of which it had been a very influential member country for 43 years. It was a rigorous campaign with politicians, analysts and academics divided on the two sides of the argument although major mainstream media outlets like BBC and SKY News were largely in supported the REMAIN Campaign. A campaign which saw 4 months of political turbulence, blame-games, rise and fall in opinion polls, ad-hominem attacks and intense debates finally ended with the British people deciding to leave the EU with a very close margin of 51.9-48.1.

Various political pundits and analysts have attributed the result to a number of factors ranging from immigration to economy to just a reactionary vote to the failure of the establishment. But the most important factor was decentralization. The number one slogan of the LEAVE camp was “Take back control”. UK wasn’t doing as poorly as the other member nations in the EU, far from it. So why did they have to leave before even Greece or Spain that are still reeling through financial crises? It is because the British citizens decided they didn’t want to be ruled by a central regional entity which may not have their national interest on top priority. They wanted to take back control.

The majority of the people who voted to leave were people who were eligible to vote when UK had a similar referendum in 1975 and they decided to stay in because they felt it would be good for national prosperity. But they realized the EU was encroaching upon their sovereignty. European laws were overlapping British laws. Why should European bureaucrats from Brussels decide how they should function as a country and what their tax rates and foreign policy should be like? Why should they surrender their rights to a political entity that isn’t obliged to them? These were some very deeply rooted sentiments that led to the results.

The most important thing worth noticing here is that the British economy was forecasted to face a setback if they decided to leave. London mayor Sadiq Khan was very vocal in expressing his opinion about the financial risks they might have to bear as a result of leaving and vehemently requested the public to not take the risk. And people were aware that it was not a risk-free decision from any stretch of imagination. But they still went on with the decision and voted against the mainstream political rhetoric.

United Kingdom has learnt quite a few lessons from their own past. Not a long time ago, it was an imperialist power. There was no continent that the British thought they couldn’t conquer. But one day they came to a conclusion that it was just not worth it. They saw the demise of Nazi Germany, and of the Soviet Union. Forty-three years ago, the baby boomers (people who were born in the years following the Second World War) of UK had voted for the establishment of EU and in those years, they witnessed the corruption of central planning and sensed what EU was turning into. As a result, their demographic voted overwhelming in favor of an independent UK. The results of this referendum has spurred   political debates all over other European nations on whether they too should hold their own independence referendums.

World politics is a free marketplace of ideas, with political event in one part of the globe having potential lessons for the other part of the world. Although an event geopolitically distant from ours, Brexit offers important lessons for Nepal. The entire concept of federalism in Nepal is based on the very fact that people want local governance. Although letting the political class on top do all the planning from the center and surrender their aspirations to them because “They’d know better than us” seems tempting, but the citizens of the 21st century aren’t fond of such submissive politics. Political parties in Nepal should be very sensitive while addressing the demands of federalism. The sentimental value attached to self-governance is vital to understanding the psychology of people. The complex federalism system in India, as it has evolved through the years is a good example.

Not only within the country, but we need to access our relationship with our regional relationships with powerful neighboring countries. Nepal has been overseen and micromanaged by the power structures from outside the country and consequently, the common population is growing wary of career politicians who see their political future in greasing their palms to Delhi. Economic and political independence after a long period of foreign influence on even the tiniest of details of our policies that should solely be of concern to us, is not going to be easy. It won’t be easy for Britain either. In the long run, however, they would be glad they regained the authority to make their own decisions. Responsibility comes with its own challenges. Let’s have confidence in our own abilities. Let’s be our own entrepreneurs. After all, a society that puts security before freedom will end up with neither anyway.

(Dahal is pursuing a Masters in Transportation Engineering in Pulchowk Campus, IOE)

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