On Friday morning the consequences of Britain's vote to leave the European Union started to come in quick succession. Prime Minister David Cameron was going to be eased out — no! — he was resigning. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, was to face a no-confidence vote. The SNP's Nichola Sturgeon demanded a new referendum on Scottish independence. And Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness called for a border poll in Ireland. Markets roiled. The pound cratered. And pundits declared it the end of the United Kingdom and the resumption of World War II hostilities.
But now it is time to slow down. Much of the panic is just directionless fear.
First, the Brexit vote doesn't automatically trigger a Brexit. Parliament has to act, and even then they may not immediately trigger Article 50, which creates the off-ramp. Previous momentous steps in British life featured a similar delay between the vote and enactment — think Irish Home Rule in 1912-14 — to create time and space for opponents to organize and find a way to defeat the "winning" result. It's not over until the U.K. is actually out.
Second, Scotland will probably not leave the United Kingdom. Beyond the fact that there is something a little humorous about good-hearted liberals cheering on the nationalism of Scotland, which would create a 96 percent white ethnostate, there are serious obstacles to Scotland leaving.
Unlike in 2014, Scotland can no longer delude itself that it will become a Nordic-style social democracy, riding a wave of soaring oil revenues to higher living standards and greater equality simultaneously. The U.K. would also have to agree to the independence referendum, a task they may see as too important to take on while conducting negotiations on its exit. And, really, does Scotland want to cede control of its most important trade relationship — with the new Scotland-less U.K. — to Brussels? Lastly, for any of this to work, the SNP would somehow have to convince everyone to allow it the novel route of separating from the U.K. and gaining its own independent status in the EU just as Britain leaves it. This is an enormous leap for a country that, frankly, offers very little to the EU, besides the chance to spite England.
As for the isle to the West, Sinn Fein's demand for a border poll to end partition is extremely unlikely to result in a united, 32-county Ireland. It's bluffing.
The six counties of Northern Ireland are an economically dependent statelet. Nearly a third of its citizens are public employees, compared to less than 20 percent in the U.K. or 24 percent in Ireland. Protestant Unionists still outnumber Catholic Nationalists in the North. And the desire of some Protestants to remain in the EU is not going to encourage Orangemen to vote for a united Ireland, when it is being championed by parties they see as historic adversaries.
Next up: economics. Some worry that a kind of trade war will break out between the U.K. and the EU, and Britain will be decimated. That's hard to envision. Powerful European nations sell a lot of products into the British market. Nearly 20 percent of German-made cars are sold there. And trying to inflict punitive trade terms would bring the biggest wrath on small EU states like Ireland, for whom Britain is their largest trading partner.
And finally, everyone should slow down in assuming that Leave's success means Donald Trump is going to become president of the United States.
It may be that media browbeats some people into becoming "shy" voters, who tell pollsters they will vote for the elite-approved choice, and then vote for the populist cause in the privacy of their booth. But Leave had advantages Trump does not.
Because it was an issue referendum, traditional Labour voters were able to vote for it without having to vote for their historically hated Tories. Leave also had multiple personalities. It had high Tory advocates who are concerned with sovereignty. It had economic populists who think the EU is a threat to working-class jobs or the NHS. It had advocates who focused on anti-immigration sentiment. Not all "Leavers" agree on everything, and some of them openly despise each other.
In America, a "build that wall" referendum would likely be much more popular than Donald Trump himself. But it is Donald Trump that is running this November.