The UK is stronger in Europe

Britons should vote to stay in the European Union

We Americans often lament the increased divisions in our country, but the U.S. is far from alone in dealing with this problem. In Europe, there is a growing movement to destroy the fundamental basis of the continent’s unity: the European Union. Across the continent, several political groups from the AFD in Germany to the National Front in France have pushed for their countries to leave the EU altogether. In all the continental European nations, these groups remain on the margins. Yet in one nation, the U.K., the Eurosceptics have consumed the governing party and have managed to force a referendum on the issue of EU membership to be conducted this June. If this referendum is successful, it could embolden continental opponents to the EU and begin the slow unravelling of Europe.

The EU is the most well-developed transnational institution on earth, the culmination of 70 years of effort in the European project. This project, started by the United States after WWII to “guarantee peace, freedom and security” in the continent, has proven remarkably successful despite recent problems in the Eurozone. The U.K. is the third largest member of the EU and one of its most important voices. Yet many advocates for “Brexit,” Britain’s exit from the EU, are trying to convince the citizenry that leaving is necessary. Leave.EU, one of the main Brexit campaign organizations, has published six “facts” supporting this position, all of which are based on weak foundations.

The first is that “leaving the EU would give [the U.K.] more control of [its] laws and regulations.” It states that the EU is “responsible for more than half of the U.K.’s legislation.” However, this claim is misleading as the very paper they cite states that only “6.8 percent of primary legislation (Statutes) and 14.1 percent of secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments)” in the U.K. were created to implement EU obligations. The only way a 50 percent figure could be reached is by taking an extraordinarily broad view of EU influence. Regardless, it is unreasonable to think the U.K.’s laws should be completely uninfluenced by other countries.

The second argument is that “leaving the EU would give the U.K. more global influence, not less,” but it is hard to see how the U.K. would gain influence with other countries when many of its major allies, including the U.S., are campaigning for it to stay. The only world leader actively desiring Brexit is Russia’s Vladimir Putin, an individual not well known for his commitment to a stable Europe. The Brexit advocates insist that Britain will maintain a strong relationship with NATO and the UN. However, if they look toward establishing influence based on stronger participation in multinational institutions, it does not seem consistent for them to push for the U.K. to leave the most well-developed multinational institution on earth.

The third argument presented by Leave.EU is that “leaving the EU would give the U.K. the freedom to make its own global trade deals.” However, it seems doubtful that the U.K. will have more influence in trade negotiations when participating as a single nation with a GDP of less than three trillion dollars than as part of a block five times that size. President Obama has even stated that after Brexit, the U.K. would be at the “back of the queue” when creating new trade deals.

However, the leave campaigners are correct that once the U.K. leaves the EU it would immediately have to start working on trade agreements, 27 of them, one for every single member state that it currently has access to under the single EU market. The leave campaigners offer two possible solutions to the problem of European trade. One is that the U.K. will somehow secure a massive comprehensive deal with the organization it just explicitly rejected. Or, the campaigners propose creating an extensive system of bilateral trade deals such as the one that Switzerland possesses. The comprehensive approach is a fanciful as it sounds, and the bilateral one ignores the fact that it took the Swiss decades to develop its trade system. Furthermore, that system is quite limited in terms of services, which constitute a large portion of Britain’s exports.

Fourth comes the argument that “leaving the EU is a less risky option than staying in.” This is highly unlikely. Severing an extensive system of ties with origins dating back to 1973 can hardly count as a safe option. Advocates for Brexit insist, however, that one of the “core objectives of the European project is a drive toward ‘ever-closer union,’” and that Britain must leave now or condemn itself to membership in a “United States of Europe.” Yet, the “closer union” maxim fell out of favor a long time ago, and anyway, it is currently irrelevant to Britain as Mr. Cameron has convinced Brussels to excuse Britain from this clause in the EU treaties. An equally preposterous notion floating around the Brexit camp is that the U.K. could eventually be forced to enter the Euro. In fact, this would be impossible under the basic framework of the EU.

Leave.EU’s fifth argument is that “leaving the EU would give [the U.K.] back control of [its] borders.” Immigration is a key subject for the British, with a survey showing that the public viewed it as the “most important issue facing Britain.” However, leaving the EU is unlikely to improve Britain’s control as both Switzerland and Norway, the non-EU countries that Brexiters often claim they want to emulate, both have to accept the free movement of people. In particular, when the Swiss voted in a 2014 referendum to “impose quotas on [EU] migrants,” the EU simply declined to enter negotiations. Restricting the free movement of people from the EU to the U.K. would not require leaving the EU, but complete separation from Europe. Moreover, there is no substantial evidence that EU migrants to Britain impose a significant burden on the government. A recent study by the University College London showed that EU migrants that arrived from 2001 to 2011 made a net contribution of £20 billion to the government budget.

The final argument is that “leaving the EU would mean more money in [Britons’] pocket[s].” However, the actual net U.K. contribution to the EU is less than £4 billion (or 0.21 percent of the U.K.’s GDP). Moreover, this claim does not factor in the economic benefits provided by EU membership, which would be lost after Brexit. A recent report by The Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics stated a conservative estimate for the U.K.’s output loss following Brexit would be 2.2 percent of GDP, or £41 billion. Rather than putting money in their pockets, Brexit would leave Britain in a substantially worse financial situation.

Overall, the “facts” presented by the leave campaign are simply not true. Leaving the EU will not result in a stronger U.K. Rather, it would result in a weaker country with a damaged economy. The foundation of the Brexit campaign is based on lies spread by dishonest politicians; its promises ring as hollow as those in the U.S. “to make America great again.” In reality, countries cannot achieve prosperity by weakening global ties.

Britain’s exit from the EU would hurt more than just Britain’s interests. It is also in opposition to the interests of the entire continent. The falsehood at the base of the Brexit campaign is that the U.K.’s fate is separable from that of Europe as a whole. In fact, their destinies are intertwined. If the U.K. takes this extraordinary step to injure a fundamental bond, its effects will be felt throughout the continent and, inevitably, around the world.