Leadership lacking to guide Britain through separation

Unlike Mr Charles Tan Meah Yang, I believe that the parallels between the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965 and the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union are overshadowed by the differences ("Voted to Leave, inspired by 1965 Separation"; Tuesday).

There are fundamental differences between the two events.

In 1965, Singapore had strong political leadership, and political power had been consolidated under the People's Action Party, enabling Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his colleagues to work through the challenges faced by Singapore after Separation.

However, the UK is not so fortunate. As Mr Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, has said, the UK now has "no government, no opposition".

In the face of formidable adversity and uncertainty, the UK is leaderless, with the prime minister, chancellor and leading campaigners of the Leave campaign lying low.

It is a myth that Britain is better off "unshackled from an EU that lacked democratic legitimacy".

Like every other member state of the EU, the UK elected members of the European Parliament. Its leaders also participated fully in negotiations over EU treaties with leaders of other member states.

It is likely that even after leaving the EU, the UK will still remain subject to EU rules in many cases, such as trade.

Now, however, the UK and its leaders will not have a seat at the negotiating table when these rules are written.

It is regrettable that the UK has chosen to leave the EU, an organisation whose fundamental and often forgotten purpose was to make war in Europe impossible.

That noble aspiration may now be a pipe dream, following the actions of Leave voters.

Britain may be the master of its destiny after leaving the EU. But at what cost?

Dennis Chan Hoi Yim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Leadership lacking to guide Britain through separation'. Print Edition | Subscribe