Britain, EU divorce affects us too

It seems both camps have failed to estimate the repercussions of the referendum on the future of the entire world

Diana Moukalled

Published: Updated:

During the first hours of the British referendum on whether to remain in the EU, Google’s Britain page said on Twitter that “what is the EU?” was the second most asked question on the search engine. This little detail exposes the shock of a category of British voters regarding what they have done.

British media outlets showed people celebrating the result of the vote, and some people said they voted to leave the EU to stop a refugee influx, particularly from the Middle East. However, we have also seen some shocked people who said the economic and political repercussions following the referendum made them wish they had voted differently.

Arab reaction

It seems both camps have failed to estimate the repercussions of the referendum on the future of the entire world, not just that of Britain. Fear and shock are not limited to Western countries. Arabs have taken to social media to comment on what had happened, with many voicing jealousy of Britons’ ability to vote and decide their fate.

On the other hand, many - especially those who want to escape their complicated reality at home and flee to Europe - are afraid of the unknown. What is interesting regarding Arab reaction to British developments is how many have criticized the extent of local preoccupation with what is happening in the UK. This shows dereliction when estimating the size of what happened and how it directly affects us.

Britain’s decision is linked to us because leaving the EU is implicitly a decision to be away from us

Diana Moukalled

The interaction and preoccupation with what has happened in Britain may be an indicator to understand the effects of such affairs on our causes, and their effects on Muslims and Arabs in the West. Britain’s decision is linked to us because leaving the EU is implicitly a decision to be away from us. The enthusiasm to leave surfaced when European right-wing leaders began to voice their ambitions.

Right-wing movements across Europe agree on several issues, particularly relating to immigration. Before the British referendum, we witnessed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy welcoming refugees. French President Francois Hollande was one of the most enthusiastic leaders regarding Europe’s involvement in the reform process in the Middle East by helping the Syrian people topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Today, Britons voted against this approach. Their decision to vote “no” is something we contributed to due to our inability to meet Europe’s openness to our causes, and to come closer to its sensitivity regarding a number of problems, primarily terrorism.

We have witnessed such mad voting on several occasions, and not just during elections. Tunisia, for example, elected Ennahda Party, and Egypt elected the Muslim Brotherhood. We have often been dragged behind losing causes, motivated by negative emotional campaigns that are based on fear and fanaticism.

The discussions on social networking sites will not necessarily teach lessons about what happened in Britain, but we will keep hoping that they will, especially when addressing the negativity that fear and hatred can produce if they are put to a fateful vote.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jun. 27, 2016
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.