Wed, Jun 29, 2016
The decision of Britain to leave the EU, although can be viewed through a realist perspective, is not a threat to globalisation and regionalism.
Well, the UK has decided to leave the European Union. The proponents of an independent UK, outside the 28 member regional bloc, carried the day with over 52% of votes cast, with 48% of the voters opting to remain. In the run up to the referendum, as well as in its immediate aftermath, several issues, mostly revolving around economy, immigration and sovereignty, propped in debates.
Nevertheless, underneath these issues, there seems to be two old age subterranean ideological forces that seek to influence and shape the direction of not only the UK, and Europe, but to an extent our perception of international relations. These two camps are basically realism and idealism. While liberalism is mainly in favour of globalization and to an extent regional, idealism has always been more inclined towards the traditional international political system, based on state sovereignty, and modelled along the 1648 Peace of Westphalia treaty.
Although the UK’s decision to quit the EU, from the outlook may indicate the triumph of idealism over idealism, and can be perceived as a symbol of general dissatisfaction with globalization, the UK’s decision to quit the EU is merely a hiccup in the regional integration processes. Regionalism, as a product of globalization hinged on liberal ideology, is on a cruise across the globe and seems unstoppable. This is especially true in Africa, where regional integration efforts are actively being pursued at the sub-regional and regional levels. Regional integration efforts on the continent are being seen as a panacea for economic, political and security challenges facing Africa. To pitch for liberalism, as an ideological foundation of globalization and to an extent regional integration in Africa, within the context of the recent UK referendum on its relations with the EU, we need to look at urbanisation and youths as the two main parameters that drives globalisation forward.
Urbanisation; the voting patterns in the concluded UK referendum were skewed with regard to rural and urban populations. The majority of voters in rural areas, reportedly overwhelmingly voted for an exit, as compared to most voters in cosmopolitan large centres across Britain. For instance in London, over 62% of voters backed the need for closer ties with EU. This indicates that more people living in urban centres have a positive outlook at globalization, compared to rural folks. The impact of these statistics indicates that the future of regionalism on the continent is bright. This is basically due to the indicators that illustrate an upward trend of rural-urban migration across the continent.
Africa has experienced the highest urban growth during the last two decades at 3.5% per year and this rate of growth is expected to hold into 2050, with projections indicating that between 2010 and 2025, some of African cities will account for up to 85% of total population. As the population of towns and cities expand across the continent, most residents are likely to pick up the urban global culture. Hence, majority Africans are less likely to define themselves on the basis of national identities, and more along with global identities. Thus like in the UK context there is likely to be more support for regional integration efforts as rural urban migration expands.
Age; secondly, in the UK referendum, majority of young voters, up to 75%, between the ages of 18 and 34, mainly voted for the UK to remain within the EU. However, older UK citizens voted to quit the union. It’s highly likely that these young people, who are the future policy decision makers, and in favour of globalization are likely to pursue policies and constitutional procedures that favours regional integration. Africa, with a huge population of young people that is growing rapidly, with over a half aged below 20 years, are more inclined towards supporting globalization and its related trends.
In conclusion, the role of urbanisation and youths in globalization, in addition to the interconnected nature of the global financial system, will continue to make globalization and its ramifications, such as regional integration, at least in economic and cultural sense, a strong ideological base for explaining the dominance of liberal ideology in the study of international relations. As long as urbanisation continues to grow, and the global financial and trading systems continue to widen and deepen its tentacles to the remotest parts of the globe, more people, especially younger members of the population, will continue to share a common culture.
The decision of Britain to leave the EU, although can be viewed through a realist perspective, is not a threat to globalisation and regionalism. This is true especially within an economic and cultural standpoint. The voting trends in the UK referendum thus seems to have more been informed by identity politics, and less with realities of regional political economy of UK vis a vis the European Union.
PhD candidate from the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of Nairobi