Zirpoli: Going back not an option in today's global economy

Some interesting data related to the recent vote by 52 percent of the people in Great Britain to leave the European Union is the generational differences in how people voted. Of those voters 18 to 24 years of age, only 25 percent voted to leave. However, of those voters 65 years of age and older, 61 percent voted to leave.

As stated by Lara Prendergast, writing for The Spectator, the young voters in Great Britain "tend to be educated and globalist in their outlook. They have enjoyed the freedom of movement that the EU offered them, and feel they have benefited overall from Britain being a member. For them, it is painful to see the comity of the EU suddenly stripped away."


Indeed, the relationship between age and voting to leave or not to leave the EU is informative. The young saw being part of the EU as an expanded opportunity to live and work anywhere in Europe giving them greater educational, employment and social opportunities. A majority of the older folks wanted to bring back a Great Britain that no longer exists and never will again. While they are looking backward, their children and grandchildren are looking forward.

Immigration policies served as a significant variable in the vote to leave the European Union. The comparison with the United States, however, is difficult given the close proximity of Great Britain to the rest of Europe compared to the geographical isolation of the United States bordered by two great oceans. Also, the United States is a nation founded on immigration from Europe, our history significantly shorter, and our role through that history very different from any European nation.

Yet, the comparisons are there and important. In Europe, the young and more educated voted to stay in the European Union because they understand the advantages of membership and the consequences of leaving. In America, the young and more educated are not flocking to the "Make America Great Again" campaign because they understand that what makes America great are our values, freedoms and democratic protections. For America, as with Great Britain, going back is not an option in today's global economy — no matter how much some may wish.

As stated by Nyshka Chandran, writing for CNBC, "Politicians supporting the U.K.'s Leave camp pointed to the EU's immigration rules, particularly the influx of refugees, diminished job prospects and stagnant salaries — factors widely considered the result of porous borders — as reasons to leave the economic bloc." Yet, the results have showed so far that leaving the European Union will significant depress the currency, trade options, future salaries and general economic development within Great Britain.

You can't develop and grow in today's economy without trading partners to purchase your goods and services. Trade is an essential component to economic development and Britain just voted to cut themselves off from 50 percent of their trading partners. These agreements will now have to be renegotiated and Britain will be at a significant disadvantage in the renegotiation process.

Heather Long of CNN Money wrote that "Voting to ditch the EU doesn't look like a great way to boost the average Joe's income. In fact, it looks like it will do the exact opposite." Indeed, for the average Joe, everything in Great Britain is becoming more expensive as the value of their currency crashes.

Regarding the younger generation, Prendergast writes that "Understandably this has generated much anger, given that young people will inevitably face the consequences of Brexit for longer. They feel screwed over" by an older generation looking backward while their future depends on their ability and Britain's ability to participate in the global economy.

As summarized by Thomas Friedman writing for the New York Times, "Countries that nurture pluralism the best will be the ones that thrive the most in the 21st century. They will have the most political stability, attract the most talent and be able to collaborate with the most people." This has been key to America's prosperity in the past and it will be key to American's prosperity in the future.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He coordinates the human services management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at