Europe changed last Thursday.
It doesn’t matter that the result was very close.
It doesn’t matter that Cameron has resigned or who gets his job next. The Machiavellian schemes of Tory politicians are no longer of any consequence. Ditto the Labour party meltdown.
It doesn’t matter if millions of British people sign petitions, if the referendum is run again, or not adopted by the British Parliament.
It doesn’t matter if the UK breaks up or if Scotland gains independence.
For the rest of the world, what happens next to Britain is now utterly irrelevant.
It is just local news.
Right now the only thing that matters is shoring up the Euro and preventing another currency crisis. Protecting the interests of the 338 million people in a very bruised and battered Eurozone area from the ripple effects of Brexit is the only priority.
Every other European country will have no choice but to adopt policies that will do just that. The dynamics of the situation allow for no other alternative. And if that means giving Britain a very raw deal then they will have no hesitation is doing that. Protecting their own national interests is all that matters for the rest of the world now.
Britain has long defined itself as a major power and for much of history it skilfully used divide and rule tactics, playing one country off another, in order to maximise its influence over the various European powers.
That game is done.
Every Eurozone country has an interest in stopping contagion and preventing the Brexit result from causing another currency crisis. The sense of barely suppressed panic is palpable. There is real fear throughout the rest of the EU, and beyond, about what might happen next.
In this situation, firm leadership will be demanded and expected from national leaders and the various European institutions.
Real power will be wielded with a firm hand without the slightest compunction. There is no other option.
The details can be tidied up by lawyers at some later date.
Britain can howl with protest and complain bitterly about the unfairness of its treatment. It can call for more time to sort everything out in advance of negotiations and get a new prime minister. The Daily Mail can rant all it wants about foreigners trying to destroy the UK.
Nobody’s listening. Nobody cares.
Right now, Britain has no power, no friends and no influence. Zero.
The economic, physical and psychological trauma will be immense. Over time, of course, things will settle down. The crisis will play itself out and everybody will adjust to the new reality. Trade deals will be struck and geographical proximity means that it is in no one’s best interests to prolong the pain for any longer than necessary. Britain is too big and too important to ignore in the long term.
But right now for the EU and the Eurozone, it is a matter of existential survival. The pressing issue of reform and the many, many dismal failures of the EU that contributed to this crisis are irrelevant at this point in time.
In order to stave off disaster, the EU and the Eurozone countries have no choice but to be seen to be strong, decisive and united in the face of this crisis.
Anything less would make them appear weak and vulnerable. They are not going to let that happen.