The Brexit outcome was a complete surprise only to those well insulated in the corridors of power and the economic and political elite. And our summer of discontent is anything but played out yet. Great Britain has voted (52-48%) to disengage from the European Union, and while the U.S. had not yet voted to disengage from reality by voting for Donald Trump, it will have this option in the fall.
For an excellent overview of the turmoil in Europe, see ‘Why the Far Right is on the Rise” in the current edition of Le Monde Diplomatique (http://mondediplo.com/2016/06/01edito). There are implications for Asia as well, aside from questions of the economic fallout from the British rebuff to the EU. The famous regional organization ASEAN might shatter under all the economic and political pressure being applied by Beijing. After all, Cambodia and Laos are already well stuffed in its back pocket, and Thailand’s junta seems to have decided it needs China more than it needs anyone else.
Regional institutions work well when their benefits are obvious to all. NATO had few persuasive critics during the Cold Way when the Soviet Union’s threat loomed large. But when the reason for their creation seems less pressing, even as the burdens on members and their people seem to increase, a breaking point can arise. The recent psychodrama over the Greece bailout by the EU was a closely watched event worldwide. Brussels seemed to treat this great and invaluable country as if it were some juvenile delinquent.
Perhaps Lee Monde Diplomatique’s Serge Halimi puts it best: “Imposing cruel sacrifices on entire nations in the name of rules you don’t understand … creates a climate of amorality and cynicism in which the far right advances.”
We have not have witnessed the world’s last Brexit. The status quo, in many places around the world, may be fast losing its status.