The Chronicles of Downing Street

British council elections of the past week have partially marked a turning point in the path towards the vote of 23 June. The overall acceptable performance of Labor, with the significant exception of Scotland, and the election of Labor candidate Sadiq Khan in London seem to have avoid an internal coup against Jeremy Corbyn and potentially strengthen Labor’s pro-EU stance in the last weeks before the vote. In the meantime, the British debate seems to be polarized on the issues that raise the greatest concerns among voters. On the one hand, David Cameron this week has stressed the negative impact that Brexit would have on security, as the loss of British influence would “undermine Nato and give succour to the West’s enemies”. On the other hand, ex-London mayor Boris Johnson has kept on playing the “migration card”, claiming that staying in the EU would jeopardize government’s pledge to cut net migration and adding that Cameron’s negotiations with the EU have been a “total failure”. As well, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has thrown his weight behind the campaign to stay in the EU, suggesting that it is high time for the British to stop being “reluctant Europeans” and also claiming that Brexit would enhance “Russian aggression, Middle East terrorism and African instability”. The Economist validates the point made by Cameron and Brown: the EU has become a key piece of West’s defence, and the weakening of its links with Great Britain may prove dangerous for the security architecture of the international system.

Fear and Loathing in Brussels

The degree of uncertainty of the relations between the UK and Europe in the post-Brexit scenario seems to increase, rather than diminish as the EU Referendum approaches. This is what may be inferred by the words of Jean-Claude Juncker, who has stated that Brexit would have “unforeseeable consequences on European cooperation”. Yet, Juncker says to be confident that “Britons will make the reasonable decision”. A new warning instead has been sent by Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan: he said that Brexit might turn Ireland into a “new Calais”, with migrants using it as a back door into the UK. Furthermore, a potentially unpleasant endorsement to the Leave campaign has come from the other side of the Atlantic: US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has officially backed Brexit, suggesting that Great Britain would be better off without the EU.

Voices from the Continent

The idea of a referendum on EU membership is increasingly spreading on the European continent and quite surprisingly this week the proponent has not been an Eurosceptic politician. Indeed, Bruno Le Maire, former Agriculture minister and now candidate in the primaries that will designate the leader of the Centre-Right in the 2017 presidential elections, has promised that, if he is elected President in 2017, a referendum will be held for obtaining “the treaty modifications necessary to have new European orientations”. More softly but along a similar line, another candidate in the French Centre-Right primaries, former Prime Minister Alain Juppé states that the EU “does not create dreams any more” and calls for a profound renewal of its institutions. Meanwhile, in Italy there is somebody who tries to assess the potential benefits deriving from Brexit: on Corriere the economist Francesco Giavazzi deems Brexit an occasion for Italy, and in particular for Milan, which might benefit from the relocation of part of the financial services business from London to the continent.

Facts and Figures

Should the UK remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Remain 46%
Leave 43%
Undecided 11%

Source: Financial Times

Photo Credit CC: Socialdemokraterna

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