Britain’s vote to quit the European Union will have profound consequences across the globe. Although achieved by a narrow margin, the leave campaign’s victory is set to damage Britain’s economy, while placing renewed pressure both on the EU and the west in general, at a time in which industrialised economies have barely recovered from the global financial crisis.
At this event, Lord Peter Mandelson — a senior minister under Prime Minister Tony Blair, a former European Commissioner, and a fierce proponent of the view that Britain should have stayed inside the EU — will argue that “brexit” fits a wider and even more worrying pattern of political instability.
A deep division is opening between voices once thought to make up the mainstream majority and the margins of societies in Europe and America. Europe’s political class has been buffeted by rise of previously fringe parties. Political figures which were once a minor irritant, in addition to their prominent role in the Brexit vote. are now shaping political agendas from Austria to France. Old left vs right divides are less relevant, as public debates focus on the relative merits of economies which are open or closed, be that to economic globalisation or the free movement of people — a trend which links Europe’s problems to the rise of Donald Trump in the US.
Europe now faces an urgent question. How its political elite respond to events that are taking the UK out of the EU, and are seeing the far-right mounting a serious challenge for the French presidency later this year. And what can other countries — in America, but also in Asia — learn from these political upheavals?