Should the Middle East be taking Brexit a bit personally?

Published June 28th, 2016 - 04:27 GMT

The UK has voted to quit the European Union, leaving Britain – and the world - reeling from aftershocks of currency devaluations and slumped equities. Global markets lost $2 trillion USD in value on Friday, and British voters now face economic consequences ranging from recession to spiked unemployment. While the main drama is unfolding between continental Europe and the UK, nobody can downplay the global ramifications.

Brexit voters claim to have been most antagonized by over a decade of immigration from other EU nations, particularly sensitive to East European unskilled migrants. But could Syria’s refugee crisis have tipped the British isles over the edge or, put differently, be the straw that tipped the camel’s back?  Let’s leave the looney Leavers to their own devices and look at what this very European affair means for the Middle East. Apart from mock reactions - including Arab states threatening to file for their own divorces from the GCC and the Arab League - how does Brexit come off for the region whose ongoing refugee crisis some suspect prompted the UK’s exit?

 
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Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage made immigration the defining issue of the Brexit referendum, tapping into fears of a wobbly economic future and lost national identity, which particularly hit home for low income voters concerned about the uptick in Middle Eastern immigration, on top of years of European immigration, to the UK.

syrian refugees turkey

Leavers used Turkey to foretell the UK’s future, a nation stressed by Syrian refugees and victim to bloody terror attacks. They claimed that the UK could not stop Turkey (with its shared borders with Syria, Iran and Iraq) from joining the EU, fanning popular fears.

 refugees at EU border crossing

Just how burdened is Britain by refugees? In 2015, 1.25 million people applied for EU asylum, Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since WW2. But proportionally there are far fewer asylum applications to the UK than to other EU nations. The UK received 60 asylum applications per 100,000 nationals in 2015, far below the EU average of 260.

brexit news

Arab pundits have mixed opinions on how Mideast relations with Britain will be affected. Many took to social media to share their views on the outcome, with some calling it a "defeat" for the future of both the UK and Europe, presaging the demise of continental unity.

Yaser Zaatreh tweet

Jordanian writer Yaser Zaatreh (@YZaatreh) sees Europe's identity starting to crumble. He reminded followers that “Europe was not supportive of our unification”, tweeting, “Europe expelled us, explicitly and implicitly, and the time for the explosion of identities will expel others as well."

Jamal Khashoggi tweet putin

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (@JKhashoggi) tweeted, "Putin is happy today. He succeeded in breaking up the European Union with the refugee crisis he created in Syria."

Faisal al-Kasim tweet

Al Jazeera talk show host Faisal al-Kasim (@kasimf) compared the UK and Syrian governments, "In Britain, when people said 'No', Cameron left immediately. In Syria, when people said 'No', it was the people who left and [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad stayed."

Arab League european union

“In theory, UK influence on EU policies [regarding] Palestine, Syria and Iraq will end,” Khaled al-Hroub, senior research fellow in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge, told Al Jazeera. "The British used to pull the EU in the direction of US politics. [Brexit] allows for a more independent European standing on Arab affairs."

Queen Elizabeth oman visit

Oman's foreign ministry praised the "brave and historic decision to leave the EU, explained by some as a firm reaction to certain policies of the European Commission". Their twitter feed also crowed over "the historical relationship that brings both countries and peoples together, as well as the existing bilateral cooperation".

King of Bahrain visit london

The Bahraini government hedged its bets - stating its respect for the decision of its "British ally" and committing to continuing over 200-years of good relations between the two nations, while pledging to work with the EU to "consolidate peace and security in the region"

Russian plane crash egypt

Egypt and the UK have had longstanding relations across political, trade, and military sectors. Weakened sterling will damage Egypt’s already limp tourism industry (about 200,000 Brits visit Egypt annually), this on the heels of suspended BA flights to Sharm El-Sheikh after 2015 terror attacks.

Saudi flag dollar

Trade between Gulf states and the UK is likely to improve apres-Brexit. Sterling's decline has strengthened the US dollar, and the Saudi riyal is pegged to the American buck. “The fall of sterling will definitely benefit Saudi Arabia (KSA) in terms of imports,” National Commercial Bank’s group Chief Economist Said Al-Shaikh told Arab News.

bank UAE

Brexit’s impact on UAE financial institutions is likely be minimal. "Due to the limited interconnectedness between the UAE and UK financial systems, there are only few channels through which uncertainty about future UK and EU relations could affect UAE financial institutions," the UAE central bank said in a statement this week.

British Qatari brands

Call it a “Brexit bubble”? Basil Al-Ghalayini, CEO of BMG Financial Group, told Arab News that property investors will find bargains as a result of price corrections coupled with the decline in sterling against GCC currencies. Good news for Qataris who can use new acquisitions to offset their now-deflated UK real estate portfolios.

refugees camp france

But how are Syrian refugees reacting? With real concern, viewing Leave as a win for fear, hatred and racism. Fans of the Syrian regime are pleased as punch, expecting the UK to pull back from military intervention (soon-to-be-former Prime Minister David Cameron is an outspoken critic of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad).

war in syria

Jamal Mamo, a refugee in Istanbul, said, “I don’t believe that the international community will take serious steps towards settling the Syrian crisis and its repercussions. For me and many other refugees [it’s this] simple: ‘As long as Assad is in power, no one will be willing to return to Syria. The refugees’ crisis will continue.’”

Refugee praying

Brit Muslims in Tower Hamlets, the London borough with England's highest concentration of Muslims, are worried about life after the UK leaves the EU. Arif Haque told Middle East Eye,”The Quran tells us that 'verily with hardship comes ease,' but I think Muslims in the UK are preparing for many hardships in the months and years ahead."

Nigel Farage
syrian refugees turkey
 refugees at EU border crossing
brexit news
Yaser Zaatreh tweet
Jamal Khashoggi tweet putin
Faisal al-Kasim tweet
Arab League european union
Queen Elizabeth oman visit
King of Bahrain visit london
Russian plane crash egypt
Saudi flag dollar
bank UAE
British Qatari brands
refugees camp france
war in syria
Refugee praying
Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage made immigration the defining issue of the Brexit referendum, tapping into fears of a wobbly economic future and lost national identity, which particularly hit home for low income voters concerned about the uptick in Middle Eastern immigration, on top of years of European immigration, to the UK.
syrian refugees turkey
Leavers used Turkey to foretell the UK’s future, a nation stressed by Syrian refugees and victim to bloody terror attacks. They claimed that the UK could not stop Turkey (with its shared borders with Syria, Iran and Iraq) from joining the EU, fanning popular fears.
 refugees at EU border crossing
Just how burdened is Britain by refugees? In 2015, 1.25 million people applied for EU asylum, Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since WW2. But proportionally there are far fewer asylum applications to the UK than to other EU nations. The UK received 60 asylum applications per 100,000 nationals in 2015, far below the EU average of 260.
brexit news
Arab pundits have mixed opinions on how Mideast relations with Britain will be affected. Many took to social media to share their views on the outcome, with some calling it a "defeat" for the future of both the UK and Europe, presaging the demise of continental unity.
Yaser Zaatreh tweet
Jordanian writer Yaser Zaatreh (@YZaatreh) sees Europe's identity starting to crumble. He reminded followers that “Europe was not supportive of our unification”, tweeting, “Europe expelled us, explicitly and implicitly, and the time for the explosion of identities will expel others as well."
Jamal Khashoggi tweet putin
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (@JKhashoggi) tweeted, "Putin is happy today. He succeeded in breaking up the European Union with the refugee crisis he created in Syria."
Faisal al-Kasim tweet
Al Jazeera talk show host Faisal al-Kasim (@kasimf) compared the UK and Syrian governments, "In Britain, when people said 'No', Cameron left immediately. In Syria, when people said 'No', it was the people who left and [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad stayed."
Arab League european union
“In theory, UK influence on EU policies [regarding] Palestine, Syria and Iraq will end,” Khaled al-Hroub, senior research fellow in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge, told Al Jazeera. "The British used to pull the EU in the direction of US politics. [Brexit] allows for a more independent European standing on Arab affairs."
Queen Elizabeth oman visit
Oman's foreign ministry praised the "brave and historic decision to leave the EU, explained by some as a firm reaction to certain policies of the European Commission". Their twitter feed also crowed over "the historical relationship that brings both countries and peoples together, as well as the existing bilateral cooperation".
King of Bahrain visit london
The Bahraini government hedged its bets - stating its respect for the decision of its "British ally" and committing to continuing over 200-years of good relations between the two nations, while pledging to work with the EU to "consolidate peace and security in the region"
Russian plane crash egypt
Egypt and the UK have had longstanding relations across political, trade, and military sectors. Weakened sterling will damage Egypt’s already limp tourism industry (about 200,000 Brits visit Egypt annually), this on the heels of suspended BA flights to Sharm El-Sheikh after 2015 terror attacks.
Saudi flag dollar
Trade between Gulf states and the UK is likely to improve apres-Brexit. Sterling's decline has strengthened the US dollar, and the Saudi riyal is pegged to the American buck. “The fall of sterling will definitely benefit Saudi Arabia (KSA) in terms of imports,” National Commercial Bank’s group Chief Economist Said Al-Shaikh told Arab News.
bank UAE
Brexit’s impact on UAE financial institutions is likely be minimal. "Due to the limited interconnectedness between the UAE and UK financial systems, there are only few channels through which uncertainty about future UK and EU relations could affect UAE financial institutions," the UAE central bank said in a statement this week.
British Qatari brands
Call it a “Brexit bubble”? Basil Al-Ghalayini, CEO of BMG Financial Group, told Arab News that property investors will find bargains as a result of price corrections coupled with the decline in sterling against GCC currencies. Good news for Qataris who can use new acquisitions to offset their now-deflated UK real estate portfolios.
refugees camp france
But how are Syrian refugees reacting? With real concern, viewing Leave as a win for fear, hatred and racism. Fans of the Syrian regime are pleased as punch, expecting the UK to pull back from military intervention (soon-to-be-former Prime Minister David Cameron is an outspoken critic of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad).
war in syria
Jamal Mamo, a refugee in Istanbul, said, “I don’t believe that the international community will take serious steps towards settling the Syrian crisis and its repercussions. For me and many other refugees [it’s this] simple: ‘As long as Assad is in power, no one will be willing to return to Syria. The refugees’ crisis will continue.’”
Refugee praying
Brit Muslims in Tower Hamlets, the London borough with England's highest concentration of Muslims, are worried about life after the UK leaves the EU. Arif Haque told Middle East Eye,”The Quran tells us that 'verily with hardship comes ease,' but I think Muslims in the UK are preparing for many hardships in the months and years ahead."