The U.K. referendum on the country’s membership of the European Union has produced a vote to leave the EU with 51.9 percent in favor of leaving. This shocking result
has already prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to resign.
I think it is futile to speculate on the precise extent of the ensuing financial carnage, but let's not fool ourselves: There will be meaningful economic damage.
has fallen to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 and while import prices do not tend to move that much in response to currencies, a move of this scale will almost certainly produce import price inflation for the U.K.
The euro’s relatively moderate weakness reflects a degree of contagion risk.
The uncertainty over the U.K., which is by the way the EU’s second biggest economy after Germany — and the European Union itself — is an unknown negative quantity for both of those economic outlooks.
There is also the question of Scotland and the possible bid for independence although interestingly part of the reason for the exit vote was the poor turnout in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.
The support for an independence referendum in Scotland in the wake of a result like this is also not overwhelming, according to opinion polls.
Beyond fretting about the near term, for long-term investors especially, there are several trends that are worth considering for the long run.
In addition to U.K. and EU issues, we have to consider global issues and consequences.
The rise of anti-politics — or the politics of being against something and the politics of scapegoat economics — are clear here and could stay with us much longer than many expect.
Opinion polls indicate that the referendum result was the consequence of the anti-immigration sentiment for the most part. Anti-politics is by no means an exclusive U.K. phenomenon as it is very clearly present elsewhere in the OECD.
Please keep in mind, anti-politics and the associated scapegoat economics undermine trend growth in the longer term. Prejudice is increasingly negative for economic development in a world where the value of human skills is increasing.
Polarized politics is likely to be a feature globally, particularly as modern methods of news communication change and reinforce more extreme opinions within modern social tribes.
This trend is deeply troubling for financial markets and thus for long-term investors.
Polarized politics can produce very tight voter results as is the case for today but very difficult to predict because it makes opinion polling difficult.
Because polarized politics is more likely to produce extreme outcomes, markets are prone to mis-price the outcomes, that cause extreme market reactions.
No doubt, conventional mathematical economic models are failing. This is a world of political economics, not scientific economics. Not that economics was ever particularly scientific.
This is not a climate where running econometric analysis is going to give us meaningful results.
This uncertainty applies not only to the near-term cycle, but also to longer-term growth.
There is a consideration for global trade here. The U.K. was, acting through the magnified force of the EU, very instrumental in the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Generally, the U.K. is a strong advocate for free trade.
Aside from the U.K.’s diminished influence in global trade, this decision is likely to reduce momentum for free trade from the EU itself.
In this context, in a just released report, the WTO informs G-20 trade restrictions have reached their highest monthly level since the crisis.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other free-trade initiatives could also be called into question by today’s referendum result.
Finally for Europe, today’s result will change things, and although the U.K. theoretically has a voice in the councils of Europe until it finally exits, which could turn out to be long and extremely complicated,
in practice it will be sidelined.
The balance of power in Europe therefore shifts and Europe becomes some more southern European in tone, particularly in economic matters. That impacts Europe of course, but it will also impact the U.K. as U.K. trade with Europe may well have to conform with a regulatory regime that moves further and further away from the U.K. in norm.
The near term fallout will occupy the media, but today’s result is something that contributes to the reshaping of global economics. Today’s result is indicative of global forces, it is not just a problem for the U.K. and the EU.
Unfortunately, uncertainty and volatility are back in force while the big question is: "How many dominoes will fall before we come back to some form of normality in the U.K., the EU and in many other places?"
Etienne "Hans" Parisis
is a bank economist who has advised global billionaires and governments on the financial markets and international investments. To read more of his articles, GO HERE NOW.
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