Brexit: Stay and Reform

June 6, 2016 Updated: June 6, 2016

In just over two weeks, British voters will resolve a question that’s been simmering close to the surface of politics there for a generation: Should the country remain within the European Union, or leave and go it alone?

A recent Manchester Guardian survey indicated that voters were split 52–48 percent in favor of leaving.

If they vote accordingly in their national referendum on June 23, EU-busters, including Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Marine Le Pen in Paris, and Donald Trump in New York, will be delighted. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, most European leaders, and many friends of Britain around the world would be disappointed.

Their future is for Brits alone to decide, but many of us outside Britain believe that Brexit would be harmful for Britain, Europe, and the world. We hope that U.K. voters will choose to stay with the EU, albeit with an even greater determination to reform its unelected Commission and other institutions.

The EU is already severely affected by the refugee crisis, strains within the eurozone, the rise of extreme right nationalists, and Putin’s deadly mischief-making. It shouldn’t lose a key member that has contributed much to modern Europe.

The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence; it magnifies it.
— Barack Obama, president, United States

Britain pushed successfully to expand the single market through free-trade agreements with other nations. It led the EU enlargement to the east, bringing countries liberated from Soviet tyranny into democratic norms, and making the continent safer for both democracy and human dignity.

The words "IN" and "OUT" depicted on mugs in London, U.K., on March 17, 2016. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The words “IN” and “OUT” depicted on mugs in London, U.K., on March 17, 2016. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Barack Obama added during a pre-referendum visit to London, “You should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values: democracy, the rule of law, open markets across the continent and to its periphery. The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence; it magnifies it.”

Without Britain, the EU would be a much-reduced player in world affairs.

Britain and France are probably the only EU states with fully global perspectives. The two led the forging of an EU defense policy, which has delivered more than 30 peace-keeping and humanitarian missions on three continents. Without Britain, the EU would be a much-reduced player in world affairs.

An EU without Britain might well drift into protectionism. This would delight the Kremlin, not least because it would weaken the bond between Europe and the United States. Following a British vote to leave, moreover, EU leaders would likely make the terms of Brexit severe as a deterrent to anyone else considering leaving. Britain would thus be unlikely to enjoy the benefits of access to the single market from outside.

Geoffrey White in Bedfordshire, U.K., observes:

“Despite global economic storms, the EU’s citizens in 28 independent countries enjoy greater prosperity and greater freedom of movement, freedom from discrimination, freedom from conflict, freedom to trade across borders, and freedom of expression than at any time in history. So far no member state has ever applied to leave the EU. There have always been candidates to join but to succeed they must have democracy, the rule of law, a market economy, and guarantees for the protection of minorities and human rights. They also need the support of ALL existing members, including us, without which they cannot join. In my opinion it would be a shame if Britain were to turn its back on Europe, give up its voice and influence, and opt for an uncertain future. So … I shall vote IN on 23rd June.”

Britain’s departure could trigger destructive forces that might result in the beginning of the end for the EU. Some Brexiters actively seek that result. Their ambition is not confined to amputating Britain from the EU. The ultimate goal is to destroy the EU itself.

British attitudes toward the EU haven’t been helped by the perception that the U.K. is linked to a group of poorly performing economies. Better real growth among key European partners could change that view. Better governance through improved institutions would boost growth across the continent. A surprising prediction is that 2016 could prove the strongest year for growth across the EU as a whole since 2007.

If Europe fragments into competing nationalisms, Field Marshall Bramall, Britain’s most senior soldier, says it could be catastrophic for Britain to be faced with “a broken and demoralized Europe just across the Channel.”

While the immediate aftermath of a Brexit might be manageable in the U.K., Britain leaving the EU would send shockwaves across international markets, pushing volatility and uncertainty higher globally. This is the risk the “Remain” campaign supporters are attempting to prevent.

The EU is a major reality of today’s Europe. Do Brits really want to turn their backs on it?

David Kilgour

David Kilgour, a lawyer by profession, served in Canada’s House of Commons for almost 27 years. In Jean Chretien’s Cabinet, he was secretary of state (Africa and Latin America) and secretary of state (Asia–Pacific). He is the author of several books and co-author with David Matas of “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for Their Organs.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.