Earlier this year, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a referendum that was widely publicized around the world. This event has become more commonly known by its media pet name, “Brexit.” Although the full effects of brexit are still uncertain, it will definitely have a wide impact on international relations for decades. Not only does this dramatic action affect the European Union and the United Kingdom, but every major player in the global economy. However, not enough has been said about what this will mean for one region of the world that is known for its relative instability. This series will examine the effects of Brexit on the Middle East; both ones that have already happened, and are expected to occur as Article 50 is enacted…
England has been involved in the region throughout modern history
The first thing that must be said is that England and many Middle Eastern countries are not separate entities. England has been majorly involved in Middle Eastern affairs for well over a century, and has been a source of imperialist influences that have bred a major distrust for western powers in certain Middle Eastern countries. Some of the biggest economic factors that connect these two regions are oil and energy, real estate investment, and tourism. Because of this, any major shifts in the UK economy are certain to shake up the economy of many of the wealthy gulf countries, and also present further instability for countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brexit is marked with anti-refugee sentiments
One notable part of many pro-Brexit campaigns was that they were decidedly rife with concerns about Europe’s role in the recent influx of refugees from Middle Eastern countries like Syria and Iraq into the European homeland. Indeed, anti-refugee sentiments were one of the primary drivers of the Brexit movement. This is hardly specific to the UK, however. The refugee crisis has led to many angry movements across Europe that wish to close off their borders. This puts the future of millions of refugees from war-torn countries in horrible uncertainty. However, it is not hard to see the irony that millions of people have left countries shattered by war and economic despair have risked death by the thousands in order to reach Europe, while the UK has put their own economy at risk in order to leave it.
Nationalism is on the rise
As has been stated before, there seems to be a trend that points towards a return to the hypernationalism of the 1930’s. From the surprising success of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate in America, to the far-right movements in Europe are hostile towards immigrants and outsiders, we are encountering a resurgence in ideals that have remained, mostly, dormant for most of the 20th and 21st centuries. A lot of this energy is focused around recent events in the Middle East, such the the refugee crisis and the rise of ISIS. If more movements like Brexit continue to happen, it may not be long until we see larger scale military action against perceived threats in the region.
Continued in Part 2.