So the Brexit happened. Now what?

The UK's departure from the European Union will directly and indirectly impact people, markets and institutions around the world.
June 24, 2016, 3:15pm
Imagen por Toby Melville/Reuters.

Slightly more than 50 percent of voters across the United Kingdom in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Gibraltar ultimately cast their ballots in favor of leaving the EU. As the UK moves forward with the exit process, it is seeing immediate effects like the drop in British pound's value and Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement that he will resign. But the five-country state is not the only place we can expect to see Brexit have an impact, with concerns looming over how the vote will impact the European Union, countries around the world, and global financial markets.


United Kingdom
As the news settles in, the move could threaten to strain the fabric of the 215-year-old United Kingdom itself. While Wales and England sided with the "Leave" campaign, a majority of voters in Gibraltar, Northern Ireland, and Scotland wanted to "Remain."

Just hours after results came in, Scotland floated the potential for another independence referendum. This would come nearly two years after voters decided to remain part of the UK, with those campaigning for Scotland to stick with the United Kingdom arguing that an independent Scotland would not be able to remain a member of the EU.

"As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against her will. I regard that as democratically unacceptable," she added, referring to the local Scottish vote that was 62-38 percent in favor of remaining in the 28-nation bloc. "I think an independence referendum is now highly likely."

In Northern Ireland 56 percent voted to stay, and deputy government leader Martin McGuinness of the nationalist Sinn Fein party urged London to allow a referendum on whether to unite the two sides of the Irish border.

"The British government now has no democratic mandate to represent the views of the North in any future negotiations with the European Union and I do believe that there is a democratic imperative for a 'border poll' to be held," McGuinness told national Irish broadcaster RTE.


Gibraltar voted in favor of Britain remaining in the EU. A spokesman for Gibraltar's government declined to comment on the overall Brexit vote and referred to previous statements on how co-sovereignty had already been rejected by around 99 percent of Gibraltarians in a previous local referendum. Spanish acting foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said on Friday that Madrid would seek "co-sovereignty" of Gibraltar, which sits off the coast of Spain.

In the lead-up to the Brexit referendum vote, many feared that a decision to leave the EU could trigger similar discussions across the 27-member economic and political bloc. Leaders across the continent were quick to make statements as results came in on Friday.

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party whose rise prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to call the plebiscite, gloated that the EU was now "dying" and said he hoped this was "the first step towards a Europe of sovereign nations."

EU diplomats point to Denmark, the Netherlands, and possibly France as states where political pressure for a British-style vote will be strongest, but they see no chain reaction of other countries voting to secede.

Calls for the European Union to do less, and to focus on essentials, have already begun. But there is little agreement on what those essentials should be. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the EU should be reformed to concentrate on the economy. Others in France and Germany want to see it to do more to control Europe's external borders and manage migration.


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who defied Brussels by shutting out migrants, plans a referendum in October to reject the EU policy of sharing the burden of accepting asylum seekers stranded in Greece and Italy through a quota system.

Eurosceptics in the Netherlands and Denmark have won referendums against aspects of EU policy in recent months. Following the Brexit vote, the leader of the Dutch anti-immigrant PVV party, Geert Wilders, said the Netherlands should hold its own referendum on whether to leave the EU.

Wilders' Euroskeptical party is leading opinion polls in the Netherlands, one of the six founder nations of what has become the EU, ahead of a parliamentary election expected next March.

"I congratulate the British people for beating the political elite in both London and Brussels and I think we can do the same," Wilders told Reuters on Friday.

"The Dutch would like to be in charge again of their own budget, their national borders and their immigration policy," he continued. "We should have a referendum about a 'Nexit' as soon as possible."

United States
The immediate focus in the US is on how Brexit will affect the economy and the stock market.

One key area to watch is retirement funds, since about half of most Americans' retirement invested in stocks, which are expected to take a beating on the worry that Brexit will destabilize the global economy and torpedo corporate profits.


While Treasury bonds are rallying on the result, courtesy of their status as a global safe-haven asset, those price gains mean that already meager bond yields are going even lower. This diminishes their ability to deliver substantial income for investors and savers.

One upside could be for would-be homeowners, or those looking to refinance or with adjustable-rate loans. For them the cost for buying a house is likely to drop, at least in the near term.

The US dollar is rising sharply, which could put the brakes on American exports, damaging the sales and profits of multinational companies based in the United States.

Add to that the fact that Britain is the No. 5 buyer of US goods and services, totaling about $56 billion last year, according to the US Census Bureau. The British pound has plummeted by the most ever in a single day, about 8 percent, to its weakest level in three decades, and that will make US products substantially more expensive in the United Kingdom.

But that's not all. The dollar has also surged by nearly 3 percent against the euro, and the EU is an even bigger export market for the US, totaling $272 billion last year.

That spells trouble for the hundreds of American companies with substantial revenue from Britain and the rest of Europe. Non-US sales will now be worth less when translated back into dollars.

On the upside, traveling to Britain and the rest of Europe is likely to become noticeably cheaper.


Global Financial Markets
While financial markets react instantly to shocks such as Brexit, the deeper impact on economies will take time to emerge. The International Monetary Fund has said Brexit could leave Britain's economy more than 5 percent smaller by 2019 than if it stayed in the bloc. The vote has added to uncertainty over the global economy.

The first indication of how Britain's vote to leave the EU will affect the global economy will come from business surveys, with the hard data to follow — a lag that increases uncertainty over growth.

Before Thursday's vote, most global economic institutions had warned of collateral damage from a British exit, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) listing the referendum as a key global risk, causing severe regional and global damage by disrupting trade relationships currently in place.

Central banks recognize the dangers and have made clear they will pull out the stops to calm jittery markets.

The warnings over the risks to the global economy have accompanied signs that growth across the world may be cooling. The IMF has already downgraded its global growth forecast this year, projecting a "modest 3.2 percent" for 2016, a rate pushed up by emerging market economies. Growth in advanced economies such as the euro zone is expected to be much smaller.

Although it is not certain that Brexit will have as big a global impact as the IMF and others have suggested, many economists think it will. Britain, of course, will be in the cross-hairs. A Reuters poll of 70 economists and analysts on Friday gave a 53 percent chance of a recession in the coming year with growth at least flatlining in the coming two quarters.

How Brexit affects the euro zone may be key. The bloc's economy was just beginning to take off after trillions of euros were pumped into it by the European Central Bank. But now the EU as a whole faces bigger risks.

The schism within the EU spells trouble for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the free trade pact between the EU and Canada that could boost economic cooperation between the two countries by trillions of dollars. Thus far, the deal has hit potholes on the road to ratification, as a handful of states in mainland Europe have been skeptical of how the deal's investor-state dispute mechanisms — legal tools that could allow corporations to sue governments over their laws — could come into effect. That deal was designed to be a test run for the significantly larger US-EU deal that has been in the works for a number of years.

With the UK, one of the main proponents for closer economic ties with North America, out of the union, the road ahead for the two deals appears anything but certain.

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