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Investment e.Perspective

Current Issue | April 27, 2017

“Goblin, Lead Them Up and Down”

By: Mark M. Green, CFA, Chief Investment Officer and Oxford Investment Fellow


"Up and down, up and down
I will lead them up and down
I am feared in field in town
Goblin, lead them up and down"
― Puck, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III Scene II, by William Shakespeare

What a perfect a coincidence that the "Brexit" referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union was held during Midsummer! That is traditionally a week-long period surrounding the Summer Solstice, known throughout Northern Europe for all manner of festivals, celebrations, general mischief and, sometimes, dreamlike suspensions of reality. William Shakespeare captured it brilliantly in his comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In one of the main plot lines of the story, the shrewd and knavish sprite Puck unleashes chaos in the forest realm of Fairyland, through the incompetent use of a magical love potion, deception and other misdeeds. Puck, of course, is a literary figure – the archetypal trickster, sometimes harmless, sometimes malicious. Shakespeare uses the play to explore many literary themes, including:

  • The Nature of Love and Attraction
  • Promises, Misunderstandings and Disappointment
  • Loss of Individual Identity
  • Pride and Hubris
  • In the end, of course, everything works out okay – lovers end up with the right partners; the play-within-the-play comes off, albeit as a comedy instead of a drama; and everyone is blessed with good fortune and a happy future. Puck apologizes to the audience for any offence that may have been given and suggests the whole thing has been nothing but a dream….

    In the Midsummer Brexit Referendum, the role of Puck has been masterfully played by Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and the other advocates of the Leave campaign - archetypal tricksters who used fear, anger and unrealistic promises as a magic potion to influence the thoughts and behaviors of the British voters. This time, however, the resulting chaos and confusion will not easily be undone and this story may not have the happy ending everyone hopes for.

    Just days after the vote, the Leave campaign is walking back many of their previous commitments and convictions regarding immigration and market access, and qualifying their previous promises regarding the financial implications of leaving the European Union. The leaders of the remaining EU countries, the US and other World Trade Organization nations have made it clear that Britain will receive no special treatment when it comes to trade negotiations. Internal political leadership has all but collapsed for both parties, as Tory Prime Minister David Cameron was compelled to resign and Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn lost a no-confidence vote.

    This may yet be just a bad dream, as the end of this story is still being written. Absent a major plot twist, however, Great Britain may wake up and find itself isolated in ways it hasn't experienced since before World War II. To quote Puck once more, "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

    For more detailed analysis of the economic, investment and policy implications of the Brexit vote, please read the accompanying article by Brendan O'Sullivan-Hale.

    The above commentary represent the opinions of the authors as of 6.30.16 and are subject to change at any time due to market or economic conditions or other factors.