It is 2200 here in the United States. In London it is 0300 and the the referendum votes continue to be counted. So far, the race has been surprisingly close. At the moment, Leave is holding a slight lead over Remain, however, the lead has been changing hands consistently over the last hour. Recent polls leading up to the referendum were indicating a relatively comfortable lead for Remain. The tragic murder of Jo Cox seemed to galvanize the movement and take steam away from the Leave campaign. The results up to this point, however, seem to suggest that those polls were way off.
The British Pound has reacted to the possibility of a Brexit in dramatic fashion. As the first EU referendum results came in favoring Leave, the market was apparently spooked and the value of the pound plunged hard and fast.
This is turning out to be a very long, anxious morning in Britain as well as on the continent.
Whichever way the Brexit referendum goes, the European Union will have to contend with some very far-reaching aftereffects. The EU is deeply worried about how a Brexit will play out economically and politically. Over the past four weeks, EU officials and supporters of the European project have gone on the offensive in an effort to influence Britons that a Brexit would spell economic disaster for their country. The Pro-EU camp has used every weapon in its arsenal. The pleading, cajoling, warnings and even thinly-veiled threats have been constant and infused with apparent desperation. The clock is ticking and the outcome remains uncertain.
Whether or not Brexit goes through, the EU is going to take a hit. What is happening in Britain right now will inevitably inspire similar nationalistic movements in other European countries. These movements are already making headway politically. Recent polling has found a sharp rise in anti-EU sentiment in every member-state. The union is weak right now, hobbled by economic and political problems, many of which have been either created or exacerbated by EU decisions and policies. The refugee crisis and nearly disastrous Greece debt crisis are shining examples.
Come Friday morning, the EU will wake up to a new reality and new challenges. If Brexit passes, Brussels will likely orchestrate a circling of the wagons against a common enemy- Britain. It will work to make departure negotiations with Britain as miserable as possible. Not only as punishment but to help deter Euroskeptic groups from pushing for referendums in their own member nations. The objective will be to show that a departure from the EU is painful and not worth the effort.
On the other hand, if the EU remains intact on Friday morning, it will not be in a position to celebrate victory right away. The anti-EU sentiment is not going to evaporate overnight and the challenges facing the body are nowhere near being met. Come Friday, we will be able to discuss what comes next in greater detail, but for now, the European Union can do nothing but watch and wait.