Days after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union, official proceedings for the “divorce” have not yet begun. But repercussions of the decision are already multiplying.
Credit ratings agencies have downgraded the U.K.’s rating. Police report a rise in reports of hate crime incidents. London’s mayor is calling for greater autonomy for the capital city (which voted to remain in the EU). And fury and glee duked it out on the floor of the European Parliament.
This is all, of course, in addition to the current chaos in the world of U.K. politics. As we’ve previously reported, Prime Minister David Cameron is resigning, the Labour Party is in upheaval and talk has resumed about the possibility of the U.K. breaking up.
The newest developments:
In a new blow to the reeling British economy, the major credit rating agencies have adjusted their evaluation of the U.K.’s debt.
Standard & Poor’s took the nation’s rating down two notches, to AA; with that, the U.K. has lost its last remaining coveted AAA. Fitch Ratings and Moody have also lowered their ratings for the U.K.
More broadly, NPR’s Jim Zarroli reports that the British exit, or Brexit, continues to impact the world’s financial markets. Since the vote result was announced Friday, he says, “the British pound has lost a tenth of its value compared to the dollar. [George] Osborne, the British chancellor of the exchequer, tried to reassure investors about the state of the markets, but prices fell anyway.
“Stock prices tumbled all over the world. The major U.S. stock indexes have lost three months’ worth of gains in just two trading sessions. The yield on the 10-year U.S. treasury note fell to its lowest level since 2012.”
‘Hatred … Damages Communities’
Reports of racist graffiti, verbal abuse and hate crimes have increased in the wake of the Brexit vote, with some British commentators pointing to the anti-immigration rhetoric of the “Leave” campaign as legitimizing British racism.
On a Facebook group called “Worrying Signs,” British residents are sharing incidents that they describe as racist or xenophobic, including a large number of people who say strangers on the street have shouted at them to “go home.” Polish and other Eastern European immigrants, nonwhite people and anyone who appears to be Muslim report particularly frequent harassment.
News outlets have also been covering individual incidents of harassment.
The U.K.’s National Police Chiefs’ Council says there are a number of ways that hate crimes and incidents can be reported in the U.K., and there’s no single national number that would reflect a rise in such events. But one indicator — a website allowing people to report hate incidents — has seen a 57 percent rise in reports since the Brexit vote.
“Hatred not only has the potential to cause serious physical and emotional harm, it damages communities and undermines the diversity and tolerance we should be instead celebrating,” the Chiefs’ Council said in a statement. “Police forces will respond robustly to any incidents and offenders can expect to receive enhanced sentencing.”
Cameron also spoke out against the xenophobic attacks, The Guardian reports.
“In the past few days we have seen despicable graffiti daubed on a Polish community centre, we’ve seen verbal abuse hurled against individuals because they are members of ethnic minorities,” Cameron said, according to the newspaper.
“Let’s remember these people have come here and made a wonderful contribution to our country. We will not stand for hate crime or these kinds of attacks.”
Can London Stand (Somewhat) Apart?
London overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU — on a map of the results, the region around the capital city is an island of “stay” in a sea of “leave.”
And as the upheaval of the country’s choice begins, London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, wants more control over his jurisdiction.
A petition calling for London to declare independence, establish its own nation and remain in the EU has gathered more than 175,000 signatures.
Khan said that is not going to happen.
“As much as I might like the idea of a London city state, I’m not seriously talking about independence today. I am not planning to install border points on the M25!” he said in a speech on Tuesday.
“But on behalf of all Londoners, I am demanding more autonomy for the capital — right now. More autonomy in order to protect London’s economy from the uncertainty ahead, to protect the businesses from around the world who trade here and to protect our jobs, wealth and prosperity.”
Khan said he wasn’t asking for more resources from the national government, but for more control over the resources London does receive.
Chancellor Of The Exchequer Tells U.K. This Will Sting
George Osborne, a member of David Cameron’s Conservative Party, a member of Parliament and the chancellor of the Exchequer, told the BBC’s Radio 4 that leaving the EU will hurt economically.
And he said that meant the country’s future would involve spending cuts and higher taxes.
“It’s very clear that the country is going to be poorer as a result of what’s happening to the economy,” he told the BBC.
“We are going to have to show the country and the world that the country can live within its means.”
But reshaping the British government’s spending habits would have to wait until Cameron was replaced by a new prime minister, Osborne said.
EU Says U.K. Needs To Make Next Move
EU leaders are calling for the U.K. to start the formal process of separating, which will begin with an official notification from the U.K. of its intent to depart. The president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, summed up his stance in four words: “No notification, no negotiation.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said there will be “no negotiations whatsoever” until the U.K. makes that move.
And when it does begin working on the details, she warned, the U.K. can’t expect to have its cake and eat it, too — or rather, have its single market and leave it, too.
“We will make sure that negotiations will not be carried out as a cherry-picking exercise. There must be and there will be a palpable difference between those countries who want to be members of the European family and those who don’t,” she said, according to a Guardian translation.
“Whoever wants to leave this family cannot expect to shed all its responsibilities but keep the privileges.”
Rhetoric ran hot at the emergency session of the European Parliament. Nazis were invoked; backs were turned; jeers were tossed. A pro-Brexit British leader taunted European lawmakers and told them they’d “never done a proper job in their lives,” before calling for everyone involved to be “grown-up, pragmatic, sensible.”
NPR’s Peter Kenyon has more on the political situation in Europe, and what’s happening next.