The Chronicles of Downing Street

The past week has been arguably one of the toughest in David Cameron’s political life. The British Prime Minister had to defend himself from attacks and calls for resignation, after having admitted to have benefitted from his father’s Panama offshore trust. This may have serious repercussions on the EU Referendum, as the position of the pro-EU Tory leader is weaker and weaker before British voters and as this event exacerbates fault lines within the Conservative Party. Last polls indeed show that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is more trusted on Europe than Cameron. In the meantime, the government has been also severely attacked by Brexit campaigners for spending nearly £10m sending leaflets to every household in Great Britain to make the case for the UK to stay in the EU. Yet, a new strong voice has arisen in favour of Britain staying in the EU: former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband has claimed that the impact of Brexit could extend well beyond the UK and could cause “the dilution and perhaps even destruction” of the international order. Furthermore, the Electoral Commission has designated Vote Leave, backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, as the official Leave campaign: Johnson’s group has thus beaten Grassroots Out, backed by UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Finally, the Economist has dedicated an editorial to summarizing the main economic forecasts for Brexit, univocally determining a negative impact in the short-term (mostly due to trade losses), while a greater uncertainty characterizes the long-term.

Fear and Loathing in Brussels

The negative results of the Dutch referendum last week have raised a number of comments at the international level. While European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker claimed that “this vote could open the doors to a continental crisis”, David Cameron tried to minimize its value for the EU Referendum in the UK, saying that it was a “very different issue”. However, Nigel Farage hailed the Dutch vote as “a tremendous victory for democracy” and invited Dutch campaigners to come to Britain to help the “Leave” campaign. Moreover, new efforts have been put by the IMF in underscoring the risks of Brexit: in the last World Economic Outlook it has been pointed out that the EU Referendum “has already created uncertainty for investors” and that “a Brexit could do severe regional and global damage by disrupting established trading relationships.” Along the same line, European Parliament president Martin Schulz’s last declaration on the UK vote of 23 June has been particularly stark, as he warned that Brexit might cause an “implosion of the EU”.

Voices from the Continent

This week on La Repubblica German journalist Silke Mülherr reflects on the value of ever more frequent referendums on foreign policy, with particular reference to the Brexit case. According to the article, on the one hand, these votes appear to provide neither policy decisions with greater legitimacy nor citizens with greater power. On the other hand, they seem to be exclusively useful to consolidate the status quo and to oppose the advancement of EU politics, thus undermining voters’ trust in the EU. As well, on El Paìs Spanish politician and former European Commissioner Joaquìn Almunia analyzes the costs of Brexit for the UK and the advantages deriving from the deal struck by Cameron with the EU, concluding that the former effectively outweigh the latter, but only if the permanence of the UK in the EU does not impede European integration from going forward.

Facts and Figures

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

Remain 43%
Leave 42%
Undecided 12%

Source: Financial Times

Photo Credit CC: Plashing Vole

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