Political and economic lessons to be learnt from Brexit: Singapore politicians

Singapore politicians Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Lawrence Wong and Ng Eng Hen have highlighted the economic and political lessons Brexit holds for Singapore.
Singapore politicians Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Lawrence Wong and Ng Eng Hen have highlighted the economic and political lessons Brexit holds for Singapore.PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Britain's decision to leave the European Union (EU) and its immediate impact on the world's stock markets show that small, open economies like Singapore's have to be nimble and highly adaptable if they hope to thrive in these uncertain times, said Singapore politicians on Friday (June 24).

At least seven of them highlighted in their Facebook posts the economic and political lessons Brexit holds for Singapore.

They also called on Singaporeans to brace for gloomier times as Asian stock and currency markets took a beating from the unexpected result.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam wrote a Facebook post titled: Divided We Leave.

He noted: "That's what the UK referendum result looks like. London and Scotland voted to stay in the EU; Wales and the English provinces outside London voted to leave. The majority of the educated class voting to stay; the less educated to leave. Those doing well in their jobs and incomes voting to stay; those who felt they've been losing out voted to leave. Many more of the young voted to stay; old voting to leave."

He added it will take some time to "draw the full lessons of the vote", observing that there is a "new brew in politics around the world, especially in the most mature democracies like the US, UK and in Europe".

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong wrote: "Beyond the initial market turbulence, this historic move is likely to have far-reaching and longer-term repercussions on global growth, trade and integration. As a small, open economy, Singapore "will always be subject to the vagaries of the global market, and major forces beyond our control."

He added that Brexit is "yet another reminder" that Singapore has to stay alert and nimble and keep adapting and innovating to survive and thrive in an uncertain world.

The political repercussions include the response of Scotland, which Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen noted, had voted to stay.

While 51.9 per cent of about 33 million British voters favoured leaving the EU, 62 per cent of Scottish voters wanted to stay - a sign of widening differences of opinion within Britain itself.

Last night, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a second independence referendum is "highly likely".

Dr Ng also wondered if Brexit would lead to other EU nations holding referendums to quit the union.

Marsiling-Yew Tee MP Alex Yam said some Scots had told him they voted to stay in Britain in their own independence referendum in 2014 because it would be part of the EU.

Dr Ng said the most important lesson for Singapore is that when change comes, it is the solidarity of the people with each other and their leaders that will pull them through.

Nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin noted the campaign was marked by xenophobia and inaccurate claims, like how much Britain pays into European budgets.

In this way, the referendum is possibly "one sign of a further overturning of institutions", she said.