I thought I was a lukewarm Remain voter, but today I am gutted. The most sobering image of the day so far is Nigel Farage declaring a new dawn. As I walked to my local café in Hackney, the atmosphere is one of shock: our borough returned the second highest vote for Remain in the UK. Friends in Spain texted me ‘mala noticia’ though one of them is ready to pounce on cheap equities. The FTSE was down 7% at the start of the day, but it had climbed nearly 10% in the last few days so I don’t think today’s fall is as huge a shock as the headlines would have you believe. The pound has fallen in the last few hours from 1.30 to 1.24 euros, heralding cheaper exports. The ability to control our currency is one of the reasons the UK came out of recession long before the rest of the EU, crippled by the one size fits all Euro so let’s hope that a lower pound will now help the UK economy through a turbulent period. For business, the question is how many major corporates will consider relocating their headquarters? I think they should wait and see because the likelihood of contagion and more referendums in the Netherlands, Denmark, maybe Greece and Italy is not out of the question. It’s too early to call this the beginning of the end for the EU. Ironically the EU may now reform and become an institution that would be more attractive to UK voters.
Looking at the map of the UK on the BBC referendum coverage, Scotland turned completely yellow in stark contrast to England. All council areas there voted for remain and this has to be the perfect opportunity for the SNP, like UKIP to achieve its ultimate goal. I find the prospect of a rump of the UK outside the EU very depressing. I was lying in bed last night relieved that I have British and Spanish passports so selfishly I can retain a stake in both the EU and the new UK. But then I thought of friends and family whose life choices could be affected by England’s retrenchment. I am also angry with Jeremy Corbyn’s dismal leadership of the Labour party. Having shamelessly haemorrhaged so much Labour support to UKIP by his absence of conviction for the Remain campaign, our only saviour is an Autumn general election that could see his demise.
What are the implications for the housing market? I have always felt that Osbourne’s tax change hammering of landlords would precipitate a fall in house prices this year. A Remain business-as-usual outcome would have made house price falls less likely. I think post Brexit economic uncertainty will not give people the confidence to buy and I see house price falls more likely. One positive for property professionals is that the Cameron Osborne partnership that turned against us is now heading for the exit. There is no doubt that Boris Johnson’s fronting of the leave campaign won it for them. I think he is likely to be the next leader of the Conservative party and the public’s affection for him, plus a weak offer from Corbyn would probably win him a subsequent general election with a bigger majority. As London mayor, Boris was pro landlord, so we might see a change of tone in government policy towards the property sector, particularly if the housing market starts to wobble.
And then to a UK without Scotland. I think it likely there will be a referendum next Summer so that Scotland can stay in the EU, leaving the rest of these islands to Brexit. All the signs are that the SNP would win. There’s talk of an all Ireland unification referendum too – who knows – each time a country has a referendum it seems to whet the appetite of others for more, particularly at a time when public confidence in politicians, EU officials and the parliaments they oversee is low.
I hope there will come a time when this historic decision by UK voters feels like it was a constructive move. At the moment I feel like it is a victory for xenophobia. If we want to trade with the EU we will still have to accept free movement of labour, so the idea that a Brexit would help control migration is a red herring. My own frustration with those unelected officials and the undemocratic nature of the EU was the main source of my own sceptism. But I don’t feel confident enough in our own politicians in the UK to want powers to return lock stock and barrel to Westminster. Seeing Britain torn apart will be heart breaking. There are also going to be a lot of angry and disillusioned remain voters, particularly in London.