So we now know the outcome of our EU Referendum, where some 16 million men and women voted to remain in the 28-member EU Club while another 17 million decided to ditch it and take a leap into a bigger world outside Europe.

But is it a calculated and well-studied Brexit move, or is it a walk into the unknown? Is it generational or is it a question of economic status?

Are some older Leave voters impelled by nostalgia and tradition, whereas younger ones are full of hope for the future?

Brexit consequences: Remain voters fear for their future

Does it really have to do with the shape of bananas, the texture of cucumbers and the name of cheeses, or is it more soberly a case of rampant nationalism - uncomfortably close to jingoism and anti-immigration spasms overtaking much of Europe which now rejects top-down and overweening supra-national institutions or political bureaucrats?

Existential fault line

In this political penumbra we have blithely created for ourselves, either by commission or omission, and whether in good or bad faith, can we mend the existential fault line rupturing our continent, or are we witnessing its subliminal atomisation?

Let me opine a few inchoate reflections that have coalesced in my head ex post facto after 72 blurred hours.

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As a convinced Remain supporter, let me start by saying that I hold our prime minister largely responsible for this unhelpful outcome.

We are now in a dyslexic situation whereby many parts of England and Wales wish to exit the EU but London wants to stay in and create a mini-Luxembourg.


Feeling the heat from the UKIP leader Nigel Farage as well as from a clutch of his own Members of Parliament, David Cameron panicked and called for a referendum that was totally unnecessary at this juncture. He thought that he could swing it with the public, but he was hoisted by his own petard.

However, having called for this referendum last February, the PM compounded his error by not qualifying the parameters of his plebiscite.

The Referendum is not any simple piece of legislation being passed on a normal day but a decision that is at the very least as critical and portentous as the amendment of a Constitution.

As such, not unlike other major laws, he should have asked for an absolute (two-thirds) majority with a minimum threshold of voters rather than agree to a simple "in or out” majority. I find this inexcusable from him and his legal advisers.

We are now in a dyslexic situation whereby many parts of England and Wales wish to exit the EU but London wants to stay in and create a mini-Luxembourg.

Regrexit petition

Scotland wants to gain its independence so it remains part of the EU, and some Northern Ireland Sinn Fein politicians are also seeking union with the Republic of Ireland. If the "Regrexit" petition (which has remarkably garnered something like three million signatures to date) were legally binding (which it is not), we would already be considering a second referendum today.

British Prime Minister David Cameron resigns [Getty]

So why are the "Brexiteers" seemingly hesitating in triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to kick-start as soon as possible the two-year countdown for the UK exiting the EU?

One answer might be that they are in a daze and have no clue whatsoever on the nature of their strategy with Brussels.

Will they opt to stay in the Single Market or will they go out?

How will the freedoms of movement be invoked, and what will be the inevitable corporate and financial trade-offs?

The issues, though, are as much legal as they are political. As an international lawyer, I have often intimated in the past about the legal landmines of this Referendum.

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Some of the key pieces of legislation incorporating EU law into UK law are written into devolution statutes for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

This could therefore put Westminster on a collision course with devolved assemblies such as Edinburgh.

By convention, Westminster must seek the consent of the Scottish parliament for legislation on devolved issues.

Any attempt by a UK government in London to ram through changes without such consent could well provoke support for a second Scottish independence referendum.

Further challenges

Moreover, the Belfast or "Good Friday" Agreement of 1998 also includes provisions based on the ECA and the European Court of Human Rights.

Could we manage to escape a meltdown, or will we face the aftermath of becoming an amputated and insignificant player on the world scene?


Let me throw a spanner in the works by assuming that Parliament is duty-bound to approve the outcome of the Referendum.

Given the stance of the few Liberal Democrats, Greens and Labour (despite its internal implosion and breakaways), could this Referendum be voted down even if it infuriates those who chose Brexit? Or would this procedure pillory democracy?

The weeks and months ahead will produce further challenges, not least from the rabid but re-energised cross-sections of British society who claim to support Great Britain but act like puny little Englanders.

So it remains clear to me that we are in for a bumpy ride in the next couple of years.

Could we manage to escape a meltdown, or will we face the aftermath of becoming an amputated and insignificant player on the world scene?

The outcome of negotiations depends as much on us as it does on the EU, and so it is perhaps fortunate that Brussels is weak enough not to be punitive or petulant in the process.

I freely chose to immigrate to the UK some three decades ago, not because I sought any welfare benefits but because of the tremendous sense of decency and tolerance of this wonderful country.

Today, I am fearful for our collective future, and more so for that of the younger generations whose votes were massively pro-EU. So much as I hope all my nightmares and apprehensions will not materialise somehow, I still believe we acted in haste and I dread that we might regret at leisure.

Harry Hagopian is a London-based international lawyer, political adviser and ecumenical consultant on the MENA region. He is also a second-track negotiator and works closely with European institutions.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera