THE EXIT of the United Kingdom from the European Community is not solely a result of economic forces (who would vote for market turmoil?), but is rather an abject political lesson in democratic power relations. Will Brexit give way to a Brixit, the dissolution of BRICS?
If it wasn’t the constant flow of immigrants from the continent that riled the British voter, then it was the growing centralisation of power in Brussels, the plethora of EU legislation, the imposition of European laws and legal precedents and the resulting erosion of the powerful common law in Britain, which appears to have put paid to the European union for the meantime.
As Larry Kudlow writing for CNBC online put it: “For a country which has routinely acted to limit the power of royalty, which holds stock in documents such as the Magna Carta … Britain will regain its political freedom, its autonomous self-government, and its independence from an European Union that is spinning out of control under the power of establishment elites, unelected and unaccountable socialist bureaucrats, and a court that is increasingly making legal decisions that replace Britain’s powerful common law.”
The same uneasy indictment could easily apply to other economic blocs such as SADC, the AU and its much vaunted rival and successor, BRICS. In the short space of two decades, South Africa’s political leaders have taken our nation into a number of regional and international, monetary and economic unions. The introduction of the Rand-based Southern African Development Community (SADC) on 17 August 1992 was quickly followed by the African Union (AU) 26 May 2001, and then BRICS on 16 May 2008.
By all accounts South Africa is thus a serial unionist. Having arisen like the United Kingdom as an aggregation of several states, including the Boer Republics, Cape Colony and Natal. The country’s first experience as an economic and political union was as a member of the British Empire, followed by the Commonwealth, a block of 52 nations. Then another bout of Republican nationalism followed, with successive periods of relative isolation resulting from apartheid.
Upon the emergence of the new era, a majority government,the Bill of Rights and an inclusive democracy, South Africa embarked on an outward path, which lead to a regional 15 member economic block in Southern Africa including Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland. This was quickly followed by the rise of the 54 member African Union under Mbeki. By all purposes, an attempt to emulate the emergence of the EU.
The result inside the country was a long boom, as South Africa became the gateway of choice to the rest of Africa. But then things began to unravel somewhat. Not content with being a regional superpower within the AU, South Africa, ever much the Casanova of politics, jumped into bed with Brazil, Russia, India and China to form BRICS. All of which, except for India, have atrocious levels of public debt and weak currencies. Brazil was recently given junk status.
It is this awkward attempt to create an alternative to the Post-WW2 Bretton Woods structures such as the IMF and World Bank, which has presented huge problems. The grouping is not simply a marriage of convenience, predicated on the numbers, like the G20, but has come to dominate foreign policy, to the detriment of both the SADC region and the increasingly insignificant AU. Under the Zuma administration, one could be forgiven for thinking that both SADC and the AU no longer exist. The result can be seen in the re-emergence of regional conflict, such as the political turmoil in Mocambique and continental instability.
Time to think the unthinkable. Time for a Brixit?