People take part in a march against the outcome of the recent EU referendum, in London, Britain, July 2, 2016. (Xinhua)
by Xinhua writers Gui Tao, Larry Neild
LONDON, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Britain's historic referendum on Brexit after being a member of the European Union (EU) for 43 years has brought along a spate of game-changing issues that could reshape the global political landscape forever.
With a close margin of 52 percent against 48 percent in favor of exit, the British voters' decision to leave the EU preceded other "black-swan events" around the world, including the surprising win of U.S. Donald Trump and the unexpected resignation of former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi after losing in a referendum on constitutional reforms.
Amid the surging populist waves across the Atlantic, experts said Brexit was the culmination of the world's long-running financial crisis. Many said the economic turmoil has destroyed the credibility and legitimacy of ruling elites.
British economist and writer Martin Wolf said that the financial crisis has adversely affected those unskilled and semi-skilled male workers in the West, who were once significant beneficiaries of industrialization.
Wolf, an associate editor and chief economic commentator of the London-based daily Financial Times, believed that the rising role of the financial sector, the increasing imports of labor-intensive goods, and the surging immigration are behind the Western public anger.
Other experts said the EU's alleged disfunction has also spurred wide-spread Eurosceptic sentiments in Britain.
"When you go to the core issues, the EU has not delivered on what it should have done in its most ambitious goals," said a leading economist Jim O'Neill.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, O'Neill, who won global fame for coining the acronym BRIC in 2001 to describe a group of newly emerging economies, said the 28-member trading bloc failed to create a single market of goods, services, labor and capital as it was supposed to.
"In fact, many European governments have deliberately tried to stop it," he noted.
In Britain's Boston, one of the country's most Eurosceptic towns where nearly 75 percent of voters backed Brexit, immigration was the real issue behind the biggest margin.
Residents complained about the East European immigrants that have swarmed to their hometown over the past years and caused social problems including rocketing house rents and job shortages.
But officials said that some of these claims were just myths made up by social media.
Patrick Minford, once an economic adviser of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, also said the situation of ordinary households in Britain has never been better, with disposable incomes rising at more than 3 percent and the employment rate souring to a record high.
In the early hours of June 24 when the dawn brought news that the country voted Leave, Britain was plunged into a state of shock. Its future path to exit and beyond has remained unclear even till now.
Shellshocked Prime Minister David Cameron resigned within hours, and was replaced within days by former Home Secretary Theresa May.
One of May's first priorities was to rebuild the Conservative front bench team. There was also a shakeup in the main opposition Labor Party, mainly over what has been seen as a half-hearted effort by its leader Jeremy Corbyn to campaign for "remain."
May, who had supported "remain," insisted that "Brexit means Brexit" and vowed to bring Britain out of the EU in her term. But Members of Parliament (MPs) argued that they must be in the Brexit driving seat.
Their stance was backed by a group of ordinary, but very wealthy citizens, who hence took the fight to the British Supreme Court.
The High Court later ruled that politicians at Westminster should be involved in the Brexit process, which May has steadfastly challenged. She even vowed to trigger the process of leaving the EU by the end of March next year.
Under such circumstances, it remains to be seen whether May's ambition will be hampered by Scottish Nationalist Party leader and Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Sturgeon, who wanted Scotland to stay in the EU single market to protect the economy, has threatened a second independence referendum for Scotland, paving the way for a breakup of the United Kingdom.
Experts said the British political landscape in 2017 will be dominated by Brexit, and it seemed that the gloves have been off already on both sides for one of the biggest battles in more than one generation.
The next year will start with the Supreme Court announcing whether May's government or MPs will be in the driving seat over Brexit.
Her biggest fear is that if she needs a parliamentary act to advance Brexit, the people's will would be delayed or even sabotaged by pro-remain MPs and their peers in the House of Lords.
Financial experts like Wolf predicted that the full effects of Brexit on Britain's trading relations may not be resolved in 20 years.
"Brexit negotiation -- narrowly defined -- will be over in two years; but the creation of a post-Brexit environment... is going to take, certainly, far longer," he said, warning exit from the EU was merely the first step on the journey.
The British media also predicted that Brussels will act tough toward Britain during the coming talks to prevent Brexit-style revolt from engulfing Europe, where populists are targeting the next domino.
BRUSSELS, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Brexit and the rise of populism across Europe are wake-up calls to European integration which is already under the converging challenges of stagnated economy, anti-immigrant sentiment and terrorism, a veteran official of the European Parliament told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Geoffrey Harris, who started his political career in 1976 and retired this year as Deputy Head of Office of the European Parliament Liaison Office with the U.S. Congress in Washington, lamented that people overlooked the potential of negative backlashes in the process of the European integration. Full story