Singapore is a global city-state that is closely tied to the UK via its colonial history, trade policy, and mutual exchanges of English-speaking talent. Unsurprisingly, the Brexit referendum saw it plunged into a state of deep reflection.
In the short-term, there is some feeling that Brexit has pried open new financial opportunities at home. On Friday 24th, following the announcement of the referendum result, the city’s money-changers were swarmed by opportunists trying to take advantage of new exchange rates.
But this opportunism is tinted by a general loss of confidence in Brand UK, which is likely to persist for the longue durée. As a sign of the times, Brexit seems to signal a more protectionist and nationalist world that a small, dependent state like Singapore will struggle to keep afloat in.
Most problematically, Brexit has given political incumbents reason to deride ‘unchecked’ democracy, and avow that Singapore’s concessions to authoritarianism are a favourable ‘Asian’ model of governance. Citing the deep divides in class, age, and education that produced the referendum result, politicians have portrayed Brexit as the unfortunate consequence of a ‘weakening’ in ‘the centre of politics’— an ‘unnecessary’ consultation of the popular will, which demonstrated the ‘tragically irrational consequences of Western democracy’.
This local ‘spin’ on Brexit came just as the government clamped down on alternative news sources like The Real Singapore— a website whose founder was jailed for sedition, in a story that topped local news alongside Brexit. For a nation already leaning towards political conservatism, Brexit may furnish the final proof that these restraints on civil liberty are necessary prerequisites for socio-economic stability, rather than something to be feared in themselves.
Part of our Culture Crunch: Brexit edition – global perspectives on Brexit from our partners across the globe.