Last Thursday the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a result that took many by surprise. The short term impacts are already being felt, with Prime Minister David Cameron announcing his intention to step down and the sterling collapsing to a 31-year low. The process of leaving the EU could take years and it may be some time before we truly understand the implications of this result, but in the meantime we canvassed Public Relations Global Network member agencies for their initial thoughts.
USA: San Francisco
“The Brexit vote presents yet another example of what is perhaps politics’ greatest irony. Many people vote in a way that is exactly opposite from their best self-interest. Polling data indicates majorities of economically-disadvantaged and lesser-educated groups favored the exit. Is it that people who may be the most harmed by the way they vote do so based on fear and frustration (looking back) rather than using rationale decision-making and seeing opportunity (looking forward)? That’s exactly what we are seeing from so many Trump supporters here in the United States. They seek to turn the calendar back to a time in the past that never existed for themselves or anybody else.”
Sean Dowdall, General Manager and Chief Marketing Officer , Landis Communications Inc. (LCI), San Francisco, California
“The challenge for the European Union is now to avoid any “domino effect”. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has urged all EU states to follow Britain’s example( to vote) and eurosceptic in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden have made similar calls for referendums. The loss of one of its biggest members will at the very least force major changes on an embattled bloc already struggling to deal with growing populism, a migration crisis and economic woes. The negotiated terms of the Great Britain’s exit will heavily influence the attitude of other Member State which might be tempted to follow the British path: though exit conditions might discourage them, but it might alter the relation with the United Kingdom for a very long time.
On the institutional side Brexit will rebate the cards in the European Council and the balance of powers will be shaken. With the United Kingdom leaving, partisans of the liberal stream lose their most valuable ally. The “Liberal Block” in the Council, including the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Netherlands or Sweden a traditional British ally, will fall from 25% to 15 % of the total population of the EU. Convergence between France and Germany is the even more crucial to relaunch the European project.The European Union is at a cornerstone. In the long-run, Brexit may lead to other countries holding referendums, a far looser union, and possibly even the disintegration of a grouping set up 60 years ago to bring security and prosperity after World War II. But Brexit is also for the EU an opportunity to move forward, it must be the occasion for European Leaders to give a sense of purpose about shared objectives, and to reshape the Union.”
Stéphane Desselas, Président Athenora Consulting
United Kingdom: London
“A bleak day for Europe, an even bleaker day for global humanity, economic stability and the power of unity. And a very sad day that it is my country that has caused such anguish.
All sensible people in the UK are in absolute shock at the result. I am, for the first time in my life, ashamed to be British. The economic turmoil we have brought on ourselves is spectacular. By our actions we have undoubtedly holed the Union below the water line and in doing so made ourselves and all our neighbours vulnerable for our long term security. We will rightly become the pariahs in Europe and fools in the eyes of the world. We voted on the basis that the money we ‘wasted’ weekly in our contributions to the European Union would mean we could build a new hospital every seven days – I will eat my left arm if that happens. The worst spirit of being a ‘little Englander’ has crawled out from the grave where it belonged. We have imperiled the future for the younger generation who were massively in favour of remaining. It is a very sad morning for so many of us.”
PS: … but I am sure it’s good for fruit!
Sara Pearson, CEO, Spider PR, London
“In our own country, we see so much divisiveness among political parties most acutely in this election year. In the wider world, there is so much discord and mistrust. This is one very stark example of how far we are from the concept of a global village.”
Sandy Lish, The Castle Group, Boston, Massachusetts
“It is a very wrong decision that might play now a bad role model for other countries. I’m really concerned that all those populists and nationalists in other European countries want their referendum as well. Probably the blackest European day for decades … maybe even blacker ones will follow.”
Uwe Schmidt, Industrie-Contact, Hamburg, Germany
“That is democracy – if you ask the people you will get an answer. Even if we do not like this answer at all, we have to respect that more than half of the people in Great Britain obviously do not agree with the EU as it is. Hopefully it can also be a chance for the EU and for Europe to change for the better.”
Henryk Deter, cometis AG, Wiesbaden, Germany
“It is bewildering how the people vote sometimes, the UK being the latest example. What ramifications this will truly mean has yet to unfold. No doubt, this is when a British stiff upper lip applies.”
C.L. Conroy, The Conroy Martinez Group, Miami, Florida
USA: New York
“This is a very unfortunate win for the rising instincts toward fearful nationalistic isolationism we see in so many parts of the world today. So-called “leaving” or building walls or whatever form this takes does not divorce any nation or people from global accountability. Sadly this feels more like the early portions of the 20th century than the 21st.”
Anne Green, President/CEO, CooperKatz & Company, New York, NY
“This manifestation of populist Trumpism in Britain makes Europe a more volatile and riskier place to do business and invest money. As a result our clients will look even more closely at opportunities in other parts of the world, especially the US, North Asia and south-east Asia.”
Mark Paterson, Currie Communications, Melbourne, Australia
“A black and bleak day indeed for all Europeans including the Brits. However, I agree with Deter, maybe we need this for the Union to go forward. The horrendous bureaucratic cost of the un-voted European parliament does not speak of democracy (Britain is one of the world’s oldest democracies) together with the total breakdown of the National Health Service in the UK have helped to get where we are now. I would like to think that all this is part of becoming global … we are having teething problems, but it doesn’t mean we won’t be able to sort it out further ahead.”
Sheena Campbell-Royle, SCR, Barcelona, Madrid/Spain
Argentina: Buenos Aires
“The vote reflects people´s general distrusts and unhappiness with politics, and not only in UK. They want solutions for their everyday problems, and want them fast. They don´t want to hear about bureaucracy, organisms or supranational mechanisms. ´My taxes should go to fixing my sidewalk´, they are saying. ´What happens at 3000 km is not my problem, we won´t be able to fix it. Enough of spending in politics and politicians’. Politicians and the whole system should take note.”
Dominique Biquard de Parenti , Socia, Identia PR, Buenos Aires, Argentina
“People are egoistic by definition. The reptile part of human brains needs to feel safe. The only problem is that it does not plan ahead. The “good” may soon become “unsafe”. How the English brain reacts if Scottish, Welsh or Northern Ireland brains decide to vote to leave… UK. Will it result with peaceful talks and friendly divorce-parties? What happens if goods and services become more expensive. It is easy to complain about food when a belly is full. Once it gets emptier, mind may look for different rationalisation. Next four years, before the next UK elections, will be harder for Brits then Brexit. Europe and all world are in shock. Many comments name English nation with dark adjectives. But nearly 49% of the UK does think differently and does not match the negative opinions. I would not like to walk their shoes. This morning it was a walk of shame.”
Mariusz Pleban, Multi Communication, Warsaw, Poland
“For Switzerland (not an EU member), there will be an immediate impact on how it is able to continue its bilateral discussions with EU member states, and its own particular issue of “freedom of movement” may move down the list of EU priorities.
It will be interesting to observe how the UK and Switzerland may develop even stronger economic ties and learn from each other’s experiences and expertise. Both countries are islands surrounded by mountains or seas, and both are determined to retain their own currencies. However the quality of chocolate does differ between the two countries.”
Nick Miles, Cabinet Privé de Conseils, Geneva, Switzerland
“Like Donald Trump, the Brexiteers have endorsed a “go-it-alone” approach to dealing with global challenges. This outcome distresses all of us who believe that cooperation and unity should prevail over isolationism and xenophobia. Today, the world became less flat.
On a broader level, I am in awe of what just occurred in Britain: Every single citizen had the chance to voice his or her opinion on this issue. Every. Single. Citizen. The United States Constitution does not provide for federal referenda. A constitutional amendment would be required before every, single citizen in our country could vote, on a single issue, in a referendum. Can you imagine what a national referendum on gun control would look like in the U.S.?”
Anne A. Buchanan, APR, Buchanan Public Relations, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mexico: Mexico City
“That is democracy! And also a clear sign of how populist and simplistic arguments are finding strong ways among desperate, angry and distrustful citizens (older this time but also young as in my country). Also a communications lesson as I see more and more challenges on getting across appealing messages from government / experts to common citizens and in this case, how the technical economic argument had a huge loss to the “political and social causes”. Interesting and challenging times.”
Vladimir Saldaña, Associate, Guerra Castellanos & Asociados, Mexico City