“Tension in globalization”: Professor Harlan G. Cohen on Britain’s EU vote

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Among the University of Georgia experts offering comments on “Brexit,” the June 23 referendum by which Britons voted to leave the European Union by a margin of 52% to 48%, is Professor Harlan G. Cohen.

Cohen, whose expertise includes global governance, foreign affairs law, and trade law, said:

“After the Brexit vote, the one thing that’s predictable is that we’re facing a long period of uncertainty. Yesterday, everyone knew what the rules were. While the rules don’t change today, no one knows what the rules will be in in three months or two years. The terms of trade in goods and services between the U.K. and the rest of the EU, the rights of U.K. citizens to work, to health care, and to travel in other EU countries, intelligence sharing between the U.K. and the other EU governments, and the regulation of any number of industries in the U.K. are now open to debate at home and subject to negotiations abroad. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union lays out a process for withdrawal but subjects everything to negotiation between the U.K. and the other 27 member states. No one can know today where exactly those negotiations will lead.

“More broadly, the Brexit vote highlights the long-recognized tension in globalization. Increasingly, the things we want cannot be achieved and the problems we face cannot be solved by one country alone. They can only be achieved or solved through cooperation and coordination. But as we move key decisions to more regional or global levels, it becomes harder for people to feel that their voice is really being heard, that they really have a say in the rules defining their lives. When those global or regional decisions are controversial, as many EU decisions have been, those who disagree and feel left out are less likely to see the decisions as legitimate. In a modern globally interconnected world, the regulation we need is in constant tension with the governance we want. And it’s not clear that tension can be resolved. There are ways to manage this tension, which many people will be revisiting after the Brexit vote, but their effectiveness is limited.”

His remarks add to the reflections by a Georgia Law student who is a summer Global Extern in London; her thoughts here. (photo credit)


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