Britain votes to leave EU
Yesterday’s referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU has resulted in a narrow majority for the leave campaign. Although the result is not legally binding on the UK government, ignoring the will of the electorate is something that the government has said it will not do. While the result is so fresh, the exact timetables of the UK’s withdrawal is something that now needs to be negotiated but which is expected to take around two years at a minimum. During that period, the UK remains a full member of the EU. The immediate effect of the decision is a run on sterling and a drop in the value of UK stocks but this is something that was expected and may prove to be of short duration since the polls predicted that a leave result was a possibility a week ago although that appeared to have diminished in the final days in the run up to the referendum. Of greatest interest to the shipping industry is that the success of the anti-EU movement in the UK is bound to encourage similar movements in many EU countries. It is already rumoured that Netherlands, Denmark, France and Sweden may be among those planning their own referenda. If that is true and if similar results are recorded, the likelihood is that the EU as it is presently structured will collapse and in its place a looser trade bloc will be established. Should that be the result further down the road then the consequences are that most of the EU regulation around shipping will disappear to be replaced by national regulation or co-operation between neighbouring states. Another possibility is that the EU will attempt to push through as much of its agenda as possible in the short term.