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.

Continuing Islamophobia

As said before, there was a very pronounced anti-refugee sentiment behind the Brexit movement. In particular, it has been directed towards muslims who have taken refuge in London, and other parts of the UK. The peacekeeping efforts in the Middle East that have been pushed by the EU could entirely unravel if the populations of Europe continue to hate their neighbors to the south. Prolonged peace is often only possible when it is attached to the freedom of human movement, which is something that anti-refugee and anti-immigrant policies will greatly restrict. If Brexit is an indication that a broader movement against these people is bound to sweep across Europe, then the lives of millions of people from the Middle East will be thrown into question. This could greatly induce further unrest in the region.

The EU will abandon peace-keeping missions

The EU has long been a supporter of various efforts to build sustained peace in the Middle East. After Brexit, we are seeing a focus-shift to more internal issues within the Union’s structure. This brings about uncertainty for many diplomatic missions that are taking place in the Middle East, and may cause the EU to take a step back from being a mediator in many conflicts, especially since issues regarding refugees from that region are seen as being one of the main dividers in many European policy debates. In particular, any progress that has been made in the volatile conflict between Israel and Palestine over the West Bank may be at danger of being unravelled.

Less outside pressure on ISIS

As Europe retracts its efforts in the Middle East, it does throw into question many questions of militaristic strategy. More isolationist stances will probably relieve some pressure on ISIS that has been provided by the air support of various governments within the European Union. Indeed, this has already happened before any elements of Article 50 have gone into effect. Because of this, however, Turkey has taken aggressive military action to push ISIS past its own borders into Syria. Although this has been productive in reducing the influence of ISIS, it is also increasing tensions between the Syrian government and Turkey. If conflict arises between these two nations, it could mean that ISIS spreads further south into countries with weaker concentrated military power.

Continued in part 4.