The road to Brexit

Those opposing Brexit have put forward several arguments for convincing UK voters that leaving the EU would be a mistake. For example, taking a personal perspective, Oliver Imhof on The Guardian writes that if Britain would vote no, then he would leave the UK: in a globalised world – as the one we are currently living in – there is no need for more boarders; and the problems our societies face today, with respect to solidarity and human rights, need to be dealt with at the supranational level. In a different vein, Timothy Garton Ash on The Guardian attempts to make explicit several arguments against Brexit and invites people to join the dispute with Eurosceptics in order to convince them that a “no” in the referendum would be a disaster for the UK. The first argument concerns perspective: the one posed by the referendum is a long-term decision involving the economic and political future of Britain. For this reason, it is fundamental not to base one’s opinions about the referendum on a contingent “emergency brake” on in-work benefit for migrants. Moreover, it is important to understand that, not only Britain is already in the best possible deal (outside the Schengen area, but inside of the EU), but also that a Brexit is riskier than a Bremain, especially with respect to economic treaties to be established with the US. Finally, from an international point of view, not leaving the EU would improve chances to ensure security and fight terrorism, whereas, from a domestic one, Brexit would be disastrous in terms of Britain’s relations with Ireland and Scotland.

Most issues concerning the possibility of Brexit are political in kind. On one hand, Denis MacShane, on EurActiv, warns his readers that Cameron’s unenthusiastic, eurosceptical campaign to remain in the EU is risky for it may provoke voters’ apathy. It is indeed an open question whether, with such lack of enthusiasm, voters will find the willingness to get out of their homes next June to vote for the referendum. And this is particularly worrisome if we consider that all possible plan Bs (after exiting the EU) will fail to provide something preferable to plan A (remaining in the Union), as Michael Emerson explains on EurActiv. In the end, Cameron’s strategy can be seen as a zero-sum game, which demands the EU to grant the UK not just an official semi-detached status, but also the right to mess with other countries’ citizens or to interfere in the common currency. This is Denis MacShane’s view, as it appears on EurActiv. And his judgment is clear: Cameron has put forward a lose-lose game in which both the EU and the UK will become weaker. This is also the opinion of Stratfor, on EurActiv, claiming that the referendum in Great Britain is opening the door for other member states to use the political tool of referendum to negotiate with the EU. Indeed, Cameron’s plan is providing a risky precedent for the future of the EU.

However, we should not be too quick in judging the situation: as Paul De Grauwe writes, on Social Europe, Brexit may be of benefit for the EU. The problem lies in the fact that it is not true that the referendum will finally settle the issue of state-sovereignty, which constitutes the heart of the referendum. Indeed, if the Brexit front will be defeated, there would be no interest in keeping the UK in the Union, given that the UK will continue to be hostile to the EU and will keep trying to undermine it. Until the UK will remain a part of the EU, it will be able to weaken its cohesion. Contrary to this perspective, Yanis Varoufakis, interviewed on Social Europe, vigorously defends the reasons why the UK should stay in the EU. By explaining his political movement (DiEM25), the former Greek minister of finance argues that the EU needs some political re-foundation, by establishing a constitutional assembly, where the peoples of Europe are empowered through their representatives to author a proper constitution. Indeed, Varufakis’s point is that, although it is true that there is a problem of sovereignty in the EU, opting out is the wrong solution to it. In the case of the UK, it should vote to stay in the EU so that it can fight against the EU’s anti-democratic institutions.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

Photo Credits CC: xlibber


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