The Chronicles of Downing Street

Barack Obama’s visit in the UK has marked a significant turning point in the campaign for the EU Referendum. Writing to the Telegraph, Obama has pointed out that a strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; conversely, the EU has helped spread British values and practices across the continent and now magnifies the influence of the UK in the world. While trying to avoid any statement that may result intrusive to British voters, the American President has also warned that the UK would be at the “back of the queue” in any trade deal with the US if the country chose to leave the EU and this emotional plea has played quite an effect on British voters, as the last polls show. The reaction of the pro-Brexit campaign has been harsh, as it was easy to expect, ranging from Boris Johnson’s controversial attack to Obama and his origins (“half-kenyan”) to the ex-cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith’s claim that Obama is more concerned about his legacy than UK interests. Facing these difficulties, anti-EU campaigners have also tried to revive some migration fears, as the last declarations by Justice Secretary Michael Gove show. Trying to contain this wave of concerns about migration, Home Secretary Theresa May has suggested that the UK should the European Convention on Human Rights while remaining in the EU, notwithstanding Cameron’s previous opposition to consider this option.

Fear and Loathing in Brussels

This week economic warnings at the international level come from the OECD: secretary general Angel Gurria has stated that Brexit will be “like a tax” for British families, being “equivalent to roughly missing out on about one month’s income within four years”. In the meantime, the European discussion and negotiation on migration issues has not come to an end, since stalemate appears to be very difficult to overcome, as European Parliament president Martin Schulz admits. This European political turmoil is thus providing elements that come to be exploited by pro-Brexit campaigners in UK, as well as by ever growing anti-EU political movements across Europe: the triumph of the far-right politician Horbert Hofer in the first round of the Austrian presidential election seems indeed to bury the hope for an effective response of the EU to the refugee crisis and may be capable of spreading a pan-European desire for greater closure, starting from the UK.

Voices from the Continent

Not all the support coming from European member states to Brexit seems to be warmly welcome. After having announced her decision to visit the UK at the beginning of June, Marine Le Pen has to deal with the harsh reality of anti-EU campaigners distancing from her, including UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who said that “she’d better not to come”. Differently from the British and the international press, the Italian one has been very keen on emphasizing the declarations of ECB President Mario Draghi to the German newspaper Bild: he said that “he can’t believe that the Britons will vote for leaving the EU”, adding that it must be clear that choosing Brexit would entail the loss of the benefits of the European Single Market. Finally, a thorough analysis is dedicated by El Mundo to the effects that Brexit may have on fostering change at the domestic level in member states other than UK, starting from Spain, which is likely to have a new general election just few days after the British EU Referendum: while it may be too early to talk about “disintegration”, the rise of populism appears to be a more and more generalized phenomenon that, if permanent, risks to radically undermine the path towards European integration.

Facts and Figures

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

Remain 47%
Leave 41%
Undecided 11%

Source: Financial Times

Photo Credit CCGlobal Panorama

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