The Chronicles of Downing Street

As it was easy to expect, echoes of the European debate on security and counter-terrorism after the Brussels attacks have extensively shaped the British battle over the EU Referendum this week. Former Secret Intelligence Service chief Sir Richard Dearlove has indeed pointed out that “security gains” would derive from Brexit, as it would be easier to strengthen border controls and deport extremists. Along the same line, the pro-Brexit organization Vote Leave has released a list of 50 foreign criminals they claim have been allowed into the UK because of the EU laws on freedom of movement despite having serious criminal records. The Brussels bombings seem to have played a role also in pushing 250 business leaders to sound a contrary note vis-à-vis the support to the EU expressed by the business sector in the past weeks. However, a number of voices have risen to counterbalance this anti-EU wave. First, the Bank of England has raised new concerns regarding British financial stability, underscoring that the UK’s high current account deficit leaves it vulnerable to an increase in borrowing costs for government, businesses and households in case of Brexit. Second, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has stressed the inter-generational conflict that lies in the EU Referendum, claiming that leaving the EU would worsen life chances of British young people. Finally, the Economist dedicates a thorough analysis to the still unclear picture of the EU-UK trade relations that would take place if the majority of Britons vote against the EU on 23 June.

Fear and Loathing in Brussels

A strong reaction against the speculations on the “security gains” of Brexit has been promoted by Europol chief Rob Wainwright, who has stated that withdrawing from security cooperation with other member states would be a “serious miscalculation”. A firm pro-EU stance at the international level has also been assumed by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria, claiming that the OECD will actively campaign for the UK to stay in the EU. In the meantime, European institutions appear to study the appropriate counter-measures to Brexit. ECB Executive Board Member Benoit Coeuré said that the ECB is preparing for “any possible scenario”, and pays particular attention to safeguard Eurozone banks from potential negative impacts. Furthermore, the next summit of European Union leaders, originally scheduled for June 23-24, is increasingly likely to be postponed to avoid clashing with the EU Referendum.

Voices from the Continent

This week on Corriere della sera economist Lucrezia Reichlin envisages that Brexit would cause the European Union to necessarily move forward in order not to disintegrate. However, due to the substantial lack of trust between creditor and debtor states, a two-tier model is the only path that might be pursued, with Italy playing a role that has yet to be clarified. On Libération French Finance Minister Michel Sapin says that the EU ideal is endangered, but not by Brexit per se: he indeed sights to actively work to show the necessary evolutions in order to make Europe a new source of hope for European citizens. Finally, an op-ed on El Paìs compares the British Referendum on the EU to the scenario that would take place in case of a Spanish or Catalan vote of that kind, underscoring how in all of these cases the main determinant of the ultimate vote’s outcome would be the fear of uncertainty.

Facts and Figures

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

Remain 46%
Leave 42%
Undecided 12%

Source: Financial Times

Photo Credits CC: Petras Gagilas

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