The road to Brexit

As we get closer to the vote, the issue of Brexit seems to occupy a more and more growing portion of the public agenda. This week, great debate was prompted by Jeremy Corbyn’s rejection of the so-called Lexit (left-wing Brexit). On the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland cherishes the irony of an economic British establishment resting their hopes on Corbyn, a leader they would either have mocked or struggled even to name. His intervention, without which the whole campaign was dangerously looking like a Cameron’s one-man show, should help mobilizing Labour’s voters against Brexit. Still on the Guardian, Polly Toynbee congratulates Corbyn for putting his country before his party. For him, it would have been tempting to stand back and watch the Tories be defeated, but the damage would have been painfully high. Denis MacShane, on Euractiv, observes that while Corbyn was noble in putting nation before party point scoring, Cameron has in fact done the opposite by calling a referendum in order to appease Tories Euroscepticism. Distancing himself from Lexit, Corbyn made a persuasive case for a Social Europe that protects workers’ right, fights offshore tax evading, tackles global warming and allows students to study abroad. The Economist proposes an interesting investigation of the opinion of British businesses. A survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found that the overwhelming majority of small and medium businesses (80%) supports Remain. However, they have also been mostly silent on the issue so far, judging that it is not their job to tell people how to vote, and fearing an economically damaging public backlash.

Barry Eichengreen, on Social Europe, remarks that the economic arguments against Brexit are overwhelmingly clear. Thus, he asks what can the proponents of the Leave campaign possibly be thinking. He concludes that they are not thinking much at all, and that the campaign is tapping in the primordial instincts of the disadvantaged, who are left behind not by Europe, but by the failure of conventional politicians. On the Guardian, John Redwood denies this and claims that, as Germany and others sell to the UK more than the UK sell to them, they cannot wish to impose new trade barriers. Thus, he argues that people should vote for Brexit in order to stop financing the common European budget. Then he starts indulging in how Britain could spend the £10bn budget bonus. John Longworth, on the Guardian, agrees that there is a trade deficit with the EU and a trade surplus with the rest of the world, and concludes that, adding up the remainder of domestic economy, 87% of British economy and the vast majority of jobs are subject to the burdens that flow from being in the EU but prosper entirely independently of it. However, Chris Giles, on the Financial Times, comments on the warning that Wolfgang Schäuble issued against British chancellor George Osborne to expect tough negotiations with Berlin if they want access to the common market after leaving the EU. Unofficially, finance ministers also noted that if the Leave wins, subsequent negotiations would happen during 2017 elections in France and Germany. On the Guardian, David Miliband is amazed that while in the last 30 years the EU has become progressively a better deal for Britain, public support steadily declined. Even ignoring the economic arguments, which are not as sound as Brexit supporters would like people to believe, leaving the EU would be nothing less than political self-destruction. In an ever more dangerous international order, leaving the EU means unilateral political disarmament: Remain may be ridiculed as “Project Fear”, but it is Leave which should be called “Project Fantasy”.

Dealing with the refugee crisis

On Euractiv, Stratfor, a Texas-based global intelligence company, focuses on Austria’s project of unilaterally reinstituting border controls on the Brenner Pass. Worried about the imminent relocation of the refugee flux on the Mediterranean route, Austria aims to force Italy to become more efficient in registering and housing migrants. However, the economic and political repercussions would not only affect Italy and Austria, but the whole region. Jerome Phelps, on Opendemocracy, argues that two key illusions need to be debunked: first, the Balkan route is unlikely to reopen; second, all migrants in Greece can be sent back to Turkey. Therefore, attention should be directed at Greece, a country facing economic meltdown, whose reception facilities are inadequate to cope with the prospect of all new arrivals being stuck in the country. The article suggests that these two harsh problems can be solved together, if EU funds would be given directly to those Greek families that are choosing to host refugees in their houses.

Two reforms of the now dysfunctional Dublin treaty, proposed by the European Commission, are discussed by Marley Morris on Opendemocracy. The more radical policy would introduce a centralized institution that continuously evaluate asylum claims and redistribute refugees according to a “distribution key”. The second, more realistic option (the so-called “Dublin plus”) is to leave Dublin intact and supplement it with an additional emergency “fairness mechanism”. However, this proposal embeds, as a permanent exception, the emergency relocation scheme for Syrians which is currently in place and that is not actually working. Moreover, many have argued that both proposals fail to account for the Schengen treaty, and that refugees would just move after relocations in “secondary flows”. Any working proposal would just either discontent Euroskeptics, by setting up a federalist scheme, or dissatisfy Euroenthusiasts, by restricting Schengen.


This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli


Photo Credits CC: The Weekly Bull


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