Equity markets worldwide plunged on the news of Great Britain39s vote to leave the European UnionmdashGetty ImagesThomas Lohnes

Equity markets worldwide plunged on the news of Great Britain's vote to leave the European Union.—Getty Images/Thomas Lohnes

The Brits revolt...and we're all hit in the pocketbook

Look before you leap is a maxim that may not have been given much heed when British citizens voted to separate their country from the European Union after 40-odd years, in the process sending world financial markets into turmoil and delivering yet another jolt to millions of IRAs, 401(k)s, and other savings/retirement plans that saw an estimated $3  trillion in value vanish in a day.

The pain continued into the following trading week, and though the markets recovered over the next couple of weeks, the uncertainty and volatility related to Brexit may well go on for many months, or even for the two years it supposedly will take for negotiating the legalities and for the separation to become final.

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The Brexit vote, to a large extent, mirrored the situation in our own country: widespread disenchantment, distrust, and anger at the failings of government, real and perceived, and ambitious politicians capitalizing on that dissatisfaction through carefully orchestrated campaigns of misinformation and promises on which they can’t deliver.

This bright red bus toured Great Britain promoting one of the promises of the Brexit campaign that may prove not factual.—Getty Images/Ian Forsyth

Within a couple days post-election, well over a million Brits had signed petitions for a redo on the vote (unlikely, leaders say), including many who had enthusiastically voted for the exit — particularly after the politicians who’d ballyhooed the separation started hedging on the grandiose promises they’d made.

Among them, a biggie: that by leaving the EU, England could save $350 million British pounds ($462.7 million U.S.) per week, which the separatist promoters said could help support the National Health Service and schools. After the vote, the backtracking began: Well, umm, probably not, it was a mistaken comment by a campaign worker, ever so sorry (immaterial that a huge red bus had toured the country, painted with a many-feet-tall sign, “We send the EU £350 million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead”).

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Another outcome proponents had promoted in their campaign was tighter control of national borders by no longer being bound by the EU’s open borders policy, the implication being that this would stem the massive inflow of immigrants into Great Britain. But as one leader put it, “If they’re expecting this will mean zero immigration, they’re going to be disappointed.”

This world-altering vote brings to mind a line from early day cowboy movies (paraphrasing a bit), “Politician speak with forked tongue,” and the equally cogent maxim, “Act in haste, repent at leisure.”  

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