Half of Britain Wants to Leave the EU

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Half of Britain Wants to Leave the EU

December 23, 2015

Politico reported last week that half of British voters favor withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, also known as the “Brexit.” 

Due to his reliance on the euroskeptic vote, PM Cameron has been forced to promise back in May that he'd move forward with a referendum on EU membership. Now, it looks like the membership question may dominate British politics in 2016. 

Cameron, a europhile, claims to be neutral on the matter, but it's clear he's advocating for EU membership as much as he thinks he can get away with.

Meanwhile, the opponents of EU independence are gearing up for their campaign against withdrawal. There appears to be at least two strategies here. One is to claim that withdrawal would devastate the UK economy. Europhiles are showcasing economist claims that the “biggest risk to UK growth” in the near future would be a Brexit, and campaigners are saying withdrawal would shrink GDP and even ruin the Northern Ireland peace process. 

In addition, some nationalists are changing their minds about the advantages of exit by saying that exit would encourage Scotland to leave

So, the choice is clear: you can have peace, a thriving economy, and the sentimental good feelings of a united Britain, or you can have Irish terrorists, a rump England, and a ruined economy. Take your pick. 

Of course, to some Brits, if Brexit leads to the exit of Scotland, that would be win-win. After all, the presence of Scotland has long boosted the Labour party and the social-democratic left in the UK. Without Scotland, the UK rump would likely become even more of a low-tax haven for entrepreneurs and property owners. Without low-income Scotland, the overall median wealth of UK citizens would go up as well, improving the perception of the UK as a wealthy country. 

In other words, yes, a UK exit would raise some barriers to trade with the mainland, but the overall flight of brains and wealth to an independent and Scotland-free UK would bring with it its own advantages. 

One should expect opposition from the rest of Europe to reach a fever pitch. The UK has long been one of the net-payer states that keeps the UK bureaucrats fat and happy while subsidizing the lack of productivity from the poorer EU nations. Britain, like Germany and France, is one of the larger productive economies in the EU that pay the EU’s bills, give it economic influence, and produce the wealth that gets spread around to the less-productive countries like Greece and Ireland.

The EU is already in a crisis, with serious problems arising for the Schengen Area, migrant problems, and the realization that the Eastern Europeans might tire of being lectured by the “elites” in Brussels. 

When the Dutch floated the idea of a smaller mostly-German speaking Schengen zone, they were admitting that the EU has long really been a Franco-Germanic club for social-democrat internationalists. A withdrawal of the UK would further strengthen this perception and add some series budgetary problems for the EU as well. 

Image credit. 

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

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