It seems like hardly a day goes by in post-Brexit Britain without some prophet, or as is more commonly the case prophets, of doom bellowing it’s the end of globalisation! Is it me or has the world gone awry?
I’d argue that globalisation hasn’t stopped. It hasn’t reached absolute zero which in the physical sciences sees all atoms and particles grind to a halt – no longer vibrating and whizzing around. No. Brexit doesn’t fit this description. As The Economist and others have argued, what we’ve been witnessing for some time in western democracies is a growing lust for nativism. Yet the world seems more and more hell bent on integration (globalisation).
Two such vehicles exemplify the continued call of the coming together. Firstly, there’s the Transpacific Partnership and secondly we have the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTP and TTIP, respectfully). Both trade deals have been promulgated by the incumbent hegemon, the United States. Indeed this sets the rules of the game firmly in the US’s favour. And it is this which seems to be causing the most uproar across both basins.
So from a global level, it looks very much like further globalisation is on the cards (this is only referring to these trade deals; there is much more controversy surrounding them, but these were used to illustrate a point). Yet at home, we see headlines like this,
Yes. I apologise to all readers. Both headlines were taken from The Guardian, an increasingly wishy-washy newspaper, but both illustrate the Left and Right’s thinking. Both ends of the political spectrum have embraced a notion of Brexit. Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, set the tone by acting as apathetic as possible whilst “campaigning” to remain in the EU. On the right, however, (or rather right of centre) we saw an unusual pincer movement, a delicate alliance between Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, along with the delinquent parrot, Nigel Farage.
Historians looking back at Cameron’s fateful decision to hold a referendum will, undoubtedly, see this not as the end of globalisation but rather as a rethink. A few brief years to tinker with the project which enriches the few and impoverishes the many. I for one do see Brexit as a significant moment but writing this I hope I am wrong, and The Guardian isn’t right.
Both articles are going to be proven wrong. They’ll be proven wrong because of past history. Looking back over the past 10,000 years, the arc of history (the arc of progress) has been to more and more integration. Brexit won’t formally bring it to a halt. Our leaders and those in Europe will make sure that globalisation doesn’t end. After all, there are too many people who will lose out; not just Big Business but students, migrants, holiday-makers and so forth.
Will globalisation undergo a humanising facelift, re-branded and delivered onto a high street near you? Most likely yes. From a European perspective, the next two years will prove interesting, as word on the street is, the PM (Theresa May) is looking to kick-off Article 50 around Christmas this year, but also because of European elections. Will the European nationalists win and if they do, will referenda be held? However, on the other side of the pond, I don’t really see Donald Trump reneging on trade and military alliances, despite his belligerent rhetoric. Or maybe he will, because of a Mexican Judge not ruling in his favour? The point is, the rules-based system of the 20th and early-21st century is not going to be turned upside down just because the world’s 5th largest economy decided to be a martyr in Europe. No. The world will go on, the economy will go on, and there will be more much more globalisation.