The recent UK referendum to leave the EU, or Brexit, as it is frequently known, represents shifting tides in many geopolitical arenas. This series is devoted to looking at the many possibilities that this could represent to the Middle East, in particular, and what it means for the stabilization of countries in that region.

Isolationist policies decrease foreign investment

The global economy is dependent upon trade deals set up by different entities. This is what allows countries to share in commerce, and has given to the rise of economic globalism. When the UK voted to exit the EU, it lost its right to any trade deals that Europe has created as a singular purchasing power (the EU was the largest entity in the world, when measured by purchasing power parity). However, due to the increasingly nationalistic tendencies of part of the population, it is likely that further actions will play into the same isolationist mentality. Since movement of commerce is often associated with movement of labor (or people), as it is in the rest of Europe (the Schengen Zone), this may hamper the ability for the UK and many Gulf countries in the Middle East, which are heavily entangled, financially, to benefit from trade agreements.

Other powers will be at play in the Middle East

Before Brexit, the European Union was able to function as a, mostly, unified entity that shared resources in its handling of many foreign policy endeavors. However, since the referendum, the EU has needed to focus on internal issues that threaten its stability. This is estimated to lead to reduced influence in the Middle East, thus opening up the door for other major players to hold more power in the region. For example, Turkey’s relations with the EU were heavily influenced through the UK, but relations with both have since unraveled, which has led to a more hospitable stance with Russia, a country that they were once despondent towards. China has also taken a notable step up in attempting to control the region, and will likely continue to do so.

EU is in further danger

As has been stated, one of the most discomforting aspects of the Brexit aftermath is that the entirety of the European Union could be at further risk. Under the solidarity of the EU, the vast majority of European countries have seen an incredible rise in the standard of living, international commerce, and have existed in a sustained era of peace. The threat of the European Union ending may not be very likely, but it is still looming over our heads. Any movement towards creating a more stable and peaceful Middle East will be lost if their neighbors to the north begin to engage in rivalries that have long been muted.

Continued in Part 3.