It was as though a volcano had erupted, with hot lava falling to the ground.
Early Friday morning, it became clear that the UK electorate had decided to leave the EU – an institution to which it had belonged for over forty years.
The consequences of such a move were visible barely hours afterwards, when the value of sterling dropped by ten percentage points to its lowest since 1985. Subsequently, the French economy overtook Britain’s as the fifth largest economy, seeing Britain drop down the economic league table.
Some element of confidence was soon restored in the British economy when Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, claimed that he would do anything that it takes to ensure Britain’s exit of the EU was a smooth process.
Nonetheless, deep-running and historically contentious constitutional issues soon came to the fore, with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, arguing that the UK’s decision to leave the EU amounted to “a material change in circumstances”, indicating that the possibility of a second Scottish referendum was firmly on the table. This was soon followed by a claim from Spanish politicians for Dual Sovereignty over Gibraltar, and a gesture that there should be a referendum regarding the unification of the Republic of, and Northern, Ireland.
Procedural concerns over the authority of a referendum, the outcome of which reflected a narrow split in the UK electorate also dominated news when more than a million people signed a petition, calling on the government to hold a second referendum on the EU.
Whilst it is unlikely such a referendum will be held, the political capital generated by such a large number signing the petition, can trigger a debate in Parliament.
As a result, this has the potential to look at some of the constitutional and procedural issues surrounding referenda.
Such an examination of Britain’s constitutionalism can also attempt to address some of the nation’s ageless political debates, such as the tension between state centralism and federalism, as well as the West Lothian Question, and the question of English Votes for English laws. This would be a rare opportunity to hold the long-awaited, and much demanded, Constitutional Convention.
Regardless of the outcomes, the greatest threat to the UK is the fear of the unknown; a fear of where increasingly nationalistic sentiment will lead to, and a fear of how the UK will be governed in years to come.
This unprecedented level of political, economic, and constitutional, uncertainty in one of the world’s most stable liberal democracies can act as a real opportunity to address the future not only of the UK or Europe, but of the global community. We can only benefit from open, transparent, and sober, debate and discussion. Let’s seize the opportunity.