Blog: U.K. Votes Leave, transboundary problems remain

June 28, 2016

By Martin Lodge and Nick Sitter

‘Sir – my need is sore. Spirits that I’ve cited; my commands ignore’ – these words by Goethe in his famous Sorcerer’s Apprentice sum up much of the aftermath of the UK’s referendum result. Whatever the political and constitutional fallout in the UK from an election result, which saw a coalition of Londoners and secessionists being defeated by a group of aggrieved and post-50 year old voters, the crisis in European politics is only going to gather further speed. In doing so, the political pre-requisites for dealing with today’s transboundary crises will be undermined further. In all likelihood, this will end up hurting exactly those individuals who expressed their anger by voting for anti-EU politicians.

On referendum night, commentators from both the Remain and Leave camps made much of the anger of English voters (outside London) about their personal economic circumstances, hospital queues, immigrants from other EU countries, and indeed the leaders of the mainstream political parties. Given the collapse of the British Pound overnight, the consensus among practically all economists is that the Brexit vote will slow down economic recovery, in addition to the Chancellor’s promise of austerity measures to mitigate the effects of Brexit. It appears that rather than addressing any of the concerns of the Leave voters, the only factor that will change is the leadership of the Conservative party. All the other sources of populist angers will remain.

In many ways, the UK referendum result should not be seen as a surprise. The electoral mood across Europe has become increasingly volatile and hostile. This has raised questions about how ‘responsible government’ can continue to be exercised by the grand coalitions of the centre-right and the centre-left. The late political scientist Peter Mair highlighted the potential political crisis emerging from an emphasis of ‘responsible government’ (by technocratic, elitist parties) at the expense of ‘responsive government’ (one that responded to direct voter input). What we are left with is the rise of responsiveness by populist parties, which in turn is removing the basis for ‘responsible government’.

Read the full post at the TransCrisis blog.