The United Kingdom adopted the referendum as a political tool to assess the wish of its citizens as to its membership in the European Union on 24 June 2016.
The result took the world by surprise and the U.K. was flabbergasted for it is now called upon to leave the Union and fend for itself in the wide world.
The first question that arises is about the referendum itself. The unwritten constitution has always stayed clear of this practice till last week or tried it but very rarely. At this moment, it is but an indicator as to what the British voters think about the Union. Parliament which is the supreme body for taking decisions will have to accept the result and give it force of law in order to be conclusive.
Recourse to fresh general elections is also being mooted to reach the ideal outcome although Brussels is showing impatience as to the presence of the U.K. in the Union. The top British political leaders are feeling uncomfortable both in Brussels and at home as their stance in favour of the Union has been foiled.
Forty-three years ago, when Britain joined the Union, it sacrificed the splendid isolation it cherished so much, and went in for the greater good of the continent. It was the attitude of steering clear of the Continent that brought it unparalleled glory in world history in the beginning. Its military achievements, economic leadership and culture have dominated the world.
Its system of democracy has been adopted by scores of nations and is respected worldwide. Its most spectacular successes have been its interventions to save France and other countries between 1870 and 1945 in European and world wars from German militancy. It is the English Channel that is praised to have kept it apart.
Britain gave up its empire and the Commonwealth where its respectable position with the Queen at its head is still extant, in order to integrate Europe where it looks subservient to Germany and France. It made itself small and reduced further for having been mongering for favours for different purposes. The continental press jeers at it for this. A nation that respects itself will certainly not tolerate its dignity be trod and its sovereignty trampled upon. Now, with the referendum result, it is even being made a laughing stock. Even the dismemberment of the UK is contemplated, with Scotland possibly leaving.
Relatively poor countries like Greece are being put in a mess to provide food and shelter to the millions fleeing their homelands. Britain is being pushed to toe the line and put its socio-economic services under stress. One observer even referred to the fact that war was in the offing if each nation went its own way regardless of the common good. Europe has been at peace for the past sixty years now. Bismarck, Hindenburg, Hitler, and who next, shall we ask?
British people are very attached to history and they have a flair for it. Economic ties are not everything for a nation because people do not live on bread alone. They are like passengers jumping off a passing train. Courage which has always been an integral part of British character, is still present today. Right or wrong, the dice is cast. “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves. And Britons never, never shall be slaves,” that’s what we used to sing in chorus at school as citizens of the British Empire, that is, before 1968. Those days are gone but the spirit lives on. Chagos or no Chagos for Mauritius, but Britain is taking newer steps to make its place under the sun. Its good will be our good, no doubt, in return. Let us wait and see.
* Published in print edition on 8 July 2016