It is demoralizing to observe how a partnership for peace and mutually beneficial exchange could so easily be diminished. And it is chilling that such a consequential decision will largely be shaped by temporary moods. Emotional geo-politics - not a good combination at all.
I have been reminded in recent weeks of one of the passages in George Kennan's Around the Cragged Hill about American politicians who insist on referring to the United States as "this great country." They may obviously be pandering, but Kennan suspects that they are "trying to overcome a certain uncomfortable doubt about this in their own minds." They end up sounding like they are trying to convince themselves.
Kennan couldn't be more right when he writes: "We could do, it seems to me, with less frequent reassurance on this point" though he naturally adds that the U.S. is a great country.
The lies, the tone, and the inconsistencies (a satirical site described a warnings of Schrödinger’s immigrant who ‘lazes around on benefits whilst simultaneously stealing your job’) were exhausting. They are absolutely not new (as The Economist reports, "Britain has a long and well-observed tradition of fabricating facts about Europe—so much so that the European Commission ... set up a website to debunk these lies in the early 1990s. Since then the EC has responded to over 400 myths published by the British media") but that doesn't make them any easier to stomach. Daily Mail promised "a great future outside of a broken, dying Europe" on its front page, Daily Express used cartoons with messages like "We demand our country back" and The Daily Telegraph asserted with no evidence whatsoever that "A world of opportunity awaits" after Brexit.
For me, economic arguments matter a lot - and I suspect they would influence many more voters if the U.K. was in a recession. Falling incomes would probably focus attention on living standards. Arguments about the economy would be salient if unemployment was rising rapidly. Instead, an emphasis on the economic benefits of membership in the EU seems not to have worked. William Galston says that "[f]or much of the public, the key issues are threats to British sovereignty from Brussels and to British identity from immigrants, whose movement from the EU to the U.K. cannot be regulated as long as Britain remains a member". If he is correct, then that's partly because the British economy is mostly doing fine. When your pocketbook is OK, then you can afford to vote based on identity-related impressions, I suppose...
But let's be clear about the economic angle. When people like Philippe Aghion, George Akerlof, Kenneth Arrow, Timothy Besley, Nicholas Bloom, Robert Solow, Diane Coyle, Daniela Gabor, John Van Reenen, Mariana Mazzucato, Jakub Steiner, Tony Yates, and many many others put down their thinking, we'd better listen. What follows is an excerpt from their letter:
A recession causing job losses will become significantly more likely due to the shock and uncertainty of Brexit. With interest rates near zero and debt still high, the Bank of England and Government would have limited ability to prevent such a recession. ...
... Credible, independent institutions like the IMF, OECD, Bank of England, Institute for Fiscal Studies, and London School of Economics have provided similar warnings. An Ipsos/MORI poll showed that 9 in 10 professional economists think Brexit would hurt the economy. The EU is facing major challenges and in need of reform. Some of us have been significant critics of the EU. But Britain is far better off “in” leading that reform than “out” and isolated. Modern 21st century economies thrive on connections, trade, and exchanges between people and ideas.
I also appreciated Frances Coppola's perspective on recent history, and I agree completely that these accomplishments should not be taken for granted:
Ten countries, most of them former Iron Curtain countries, joined the EU in 2004. Two more - Bulgaria and Romania - followed in 2007. The EU today encompasses almost the whole of Europe from the Atlantic Ocean to the border of the old Russian empire. Even some countries (Ukraine, Moldova) that were historically part of the Russian empire have asked to join. This, not the Euro, is the EU's greatest achievement. Admitting the former Iron Curtain countries to the EU has brought together the sundered parts of Europe and helped to heal the deep wounds left by the Cold War. The UK should be proud of its part in this remarkable example of cooperation for a far-reaching common good. [emphasis added]
This timeline was originally published on the website of the Peterson Institute.
Ben Chu: How the Leave campaign has eroded trust in British institutions --- "... this style of campaigning does damage. If you trash the reputations of institutions, if you cross those lines for short-term advantage, there is a cost. Others will cross those broken lines. And they may have even fewer scruples. ... If institutional organisations, or rather the people in them, are wrong or abuse their authority, there must be a framework of accountability, transparency and checks and balances. Other institutions can police the institutions – they should not be above challenge. But demagogic dismissals of elites and experts, such as the infamous comment from Michael Gove that “people in this country have had enough of experts”, merely pollute the waters of public life. If a serving cabinet minister says we ought to be contemptuous of qualified analysis, that sets a baleful example."
Sam Bowman on political norms: " All politicians lie and all campaigns are dirty, but the Leave campaign has been an order of magnitude worse than usual. ALL of Leave’s key messages have been bare-faced lies that Leavers know are lies: about the UK’s contribution to the EU, about Turkey’s chances of joining, about the UK’s power to veto EU treaties. ... ” The UK has maybe the best political culture in the world and Leave have threatened that. I like and respect many Leavers, but I’ve never shared their enthusiasm for democracy – I want liberty and prosperity, and I don’t want to trade that in just to give my stupid next-door neighbours more power over my life. To the extent that the EU does restrict democracy it is often for the best, preventing governments from doing nasty, illiberal things (like restricting immigration or subsidising domestic firms). There’s a small chance that a Jeremy Corbyn could be elected – if he is, under the British political system he would have basically unlimited power to do whatever he wants. The EU limits that power, and in my view that’s a good thing."
Net migration to the UK stood at 333,000 in 2015. 630,000 people moved to the country in that year, and 297,000 left, according to the Office for National Statistics, giving us the oft-quoted net migration figure of 333,000. Of those who immigrated to the UK, there were slightly more non-EU citizens than EU citizens.
The Government’s stated goal is to have net migration in the tens of thousands. Many argue that cutting migration to this level could be bad for the economy. Regardless, because of high levels of non-EU migration – which the Government can already control through the visa system, leaving the EU and ending the automatic right of EU citizens to live in Britain would not automatically achieve this target.
... In a major speech on immigration, Michael Gove warned that more arrivals could make the NHS “unsustainable” by 2030.
The NHS itself disagrees. Chief executive of NHS England has pointed out that 130,000 European-born doctors, nurses and care workers are vital to keep our health and care services functioning. It is unclear what their working status would be in the event of Brexit, but Vote Leave has indicated it would want them to stay.
Migration can benefit the NHS in other ways. About 78 per cent of working age EU migrants in the UK are in work (a higher proportion than among UK nationals), so most are paying tax and contributing to the NHS – in theory making it better able to cope with the higher numbers of patients.
Migrants are also more likely to be young and fit so less likely to need the NHS.
The fact that Remain don't have a pithy phrase like "take back control" is a massive problem for them— Tim Shipman (@ShippersUnbound) June 21, 2016
The leave campaign has been using slogans like:
And some newspapers apparently assumed the readers were too calm and needed a dose of huge letters...
The text is wrong, but the picture is right. The lifespan of the chance to 'spread her wings' will be butterfly-like pic.twitter.com/1wEjlWSaTo— Jan Zilinsky (@janzilinsky) June 17, 2016
Tomorrow's front page today: 'If this Thursday's referendum is a choice between fear and hope, then we choose hope' pic.twitter.com/1qV1wFqjZN— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) June 20, 2016
Simon Hix: Is the EU really run by unelected bureaucrats?: "the Commission’s power to propose legislation is much weaker than it at first seems. The Commission can only propose laws in those areas where the EU governments have unanimously agreed to allow it to do under the EU treaty. Put another way, the Commission can only propose EU laws in areas where the UK government and the House of Commons has allowed it to do so. Also, ‘proposing’ is not the same as ‘deciding’. A Commission proposal only becomes law if it is approved by both a qualified-majority in the EU Council (unanimity in many sensitive areas) and a simple majority in the European Parliament. ... Second, the Commission President and the Commissioners are indirectly elected. Under Article 17 of the EU treaty, as amended by the Lisbon Treaty, the Commission President is formally proposed by the European Council (the 28 heads of government of the EU member states), by a qualified-majority vote, and is then ‘elected’ by a majority vote in the European Parliament. In an effort to inject a bit more democracy into this process, the main European party families proposed rival candidates for the Commission President before the 2014 European Parliament elections. Then, after the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) won the most seats in the new Parliament, the European Council agreed to propose the EPP’s candidate: Jean-Claude Juncker."
Britain should vote to stay in the EU — FT.com "The positive case for Britain in the EU is easily made. To abandon the cause of constructive reform of an admittedly imperfect EU would be more than defeatist. It would be a gratuitous act of self-harm. ... The debate has been depressingly transactional. The economic costs of withdrawal are substantial; but the Remain camp has indulged in pocketbook scaremongering. The Leave camp has been superficially patriotic, at heart mendacious. Britain does not contribute a net £350m a week to the EU budget. Savings will not go automatically to the National Health Service. Turkey has about as much chance of joining the EU by 2020 as Istanbul being renamed Constantinople in a revived Byzantine empire. To be sure, Leave’s focus on immigration resonates with voters. This may account for a tightening of the polls, to the point where Brexit is a real risk. The influx of EU migrants, far greater than successive governments predicted, has stirred fears about jobs, public services and British identity. “Take back control” in the name of democracy is a seductive slogan in the age of globalisation."
Brexit Referendum: Five reasons the UK should stay: "The Eurosceptics of the Leave campaign stress the loss of sovereignty and the perceived erosion of democracy that EU membership entails. They view the referendum as a rare opportunity to vote for real change in Britain’s relations with Europe and avoid membership in “an ever closer union.” But the UK does not need to leave to avoid finding itself in an ever closer union: it already has won significant concessions from the EU, including a permanent opt-out from the Schengen passport-free area and from euro adoption, safeguards to protect the euro “outs” from the euro “ins,” a budget rebate, and firm commitments on EU deregulation and competition. Most of these concessions pre-dated Prime Minister Cameron’s renegotiation of Britain’s place in the EU, which culminated in an agreement reached at the EU Summit in February"
NYT staff editorial: Britain’s Dangerous Urge to Go It Alone: "There is no argument that the European Union is a flawed institution. Its dysfunction has been on display in its fitful handling of the Greek debt and refugee crises, its bureaucracy is pathetically slow to recognize or correct its failings and it often acts like an out-of-touch and undemocratic elite. Part of that is the inherent inefficiency of an institution of 28 member states with big differences in size, wealth and democratic traditions, and which participate to different degrees in the single currency and border-free zone. Yet the E.U. is an extraordinary achievement, a voluntary union of nations whose histories include some of the bloodiest wars ever waged. However flawed the bloc, it has replaced blood feuds with a single market, shared values, free travel and labor mobility."
The UK in a Changing Europe Initiative: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats of the UK’s membership in the EU
IMF’s Lagarde Says Being in EU Has Made U.K. Economy Richer - Bloomberg: "Acknowledging that refugee and migration issues play an important role in the Brexit debate, Lagarde urged British voters remain open to immigrants and the role they play in the economy and society. “I have always admired the United Kingdom for it openness to other nationalities and foreign cultures, and I find it hard to believe that attitudes have changed in such a short time,” Lagarde said. “Membership in the EU has made the U.K. a richer economy, but it has also made it a more diverse, more exciting, and more creative country. As in all countries, there are people who are struggling in this new environment, but for the majority of citizens, this has been a great success story.”" --- full speech in Vienna
InFacts Vote Leave = LOSE control : "If we leave Europe, we won’t be in the room when the other 27 nations decide what to do. Instead, we’d tag along, as a follower, becoming a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker. Our other allies would listen to us less and our government would have less power to do the things we want. Lead Europe, don’t leave Europe."
IMF Executive Board Concludes 2016 Article IV Consultation with the United Kingdom: "The UK economy has performed relatively well in recent years, with economic growth consistently near the top among major advanced economies and the employment rate at a record high. However, growth has slowed somewhat in the first part of 2016, as heightened uncertainty ahead of the referendum on EU membership appears to be weighing on investment and hiring decisions. In a baseline scenario in which the UK remains in the EU, growth is expected to recover in late 2016, as referendum-related effects wane, and to average around 2.2 percent over the medium term. ... However, this broadly positive baseline scenario is subject to risks, including those related to the referendum"
‘Brexit’ Vote: Investors Go From Denial to Fear - WSJ: "If Britain votes to remain, it’s natural to expect a big snap back in everything that’s sold off, boosting sterling, the euro, peripheral country bonds and shares, and hurting safe bonds and the Swiss franc.And this is the problem facing investors. No investor should bet their portfolio on the toss of a coin, but diversifying between heads and tails amounts to accepting they will win nothing."
The Economist: The sleep of union Brexit will not kill European Utopianism. It was already dead
Britain’s E.U. vote could bring Cameron’s government crashing down: "Among the prime minister’s gravest misjudgments, Mortimore said, was that he could rely on the small clique of Oxford-educated politicians who with Cameron form the upper echelon of Conservative Party politics. Instead of loyalty, several have jettisoned the prime minister, and one — the shaggy-haired, populist former London mayor Boris Johnson — has all but declared his intention to topple the man who has led Britain for the past six years. ... But even if Cameron pulls out a close victory, he could still be in peril, with pro-Brexit Tories blaming him for undermining their long-awaited chance to break free of the E.U."
... under pressure from the euroskeptics within their party’s ranks, [ministers of the Conservative government] find it difficult to break out of negative terrain. For most of the campaign, they have defended European membership merely as the lesser of two evils. At times, this bitter and bad-tempered referendum resembles a battle between those who want us half out of Europe and those who want us fully out.
It is not too late to make the positive case for Britain’s future in Europe. The 2014 Scottish independence referendum is a stark reminder of the dangers of excessive negativity. Reaffirming Scotland’s status as part of the United Kingdom required a patriotic vision and a positive, forward-looking mission statement. The same holds true in this referendum.
Traditional patriotism and modern realities need not be at odds [emphasis added]. In an interdependent world, each country must strike a balance between the autonomy it desires and the cooperation it needs. In the European Union, Britain can play a constructive role without either subjugating its identity to a European superstate or lurching backward into a “Little England” mind-set.
It will almost certainly be the biggest economic and political decision the British people will make in our lifetimes.
It is a question about the sort of country Britain wants to be in the world, and will affect families, jobs and the future of our country for decades to come.
We know many people are sceptical about the EU. That’s why any government either of us is a part of will always keep Britain out of the euro and the EU’s free border area
As citizens of the United Kingdom take stock of their relationship with the EU, you should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values and practices – 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. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership. The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. So the US and the world need your outsized influence to continue – including within Europe.
In this complicated, connected world, the challenges facing the EU – migration, economic inequality, the threats of terrorism and climate change – are the same challenges facing the United States and other nations. And in today’s world, even as we all cherish our sovereignty, the nations who wield their influence most effectively are the nations that do it through the collective action that today’s challenges demand.
Martin Wolf: Britain’s friends are right to fear Brexit: "How do most informed Americans, Australians or, for that matter, other Europeans, react when they see the UK considering the end of a relationship that gives it a voice in the direction of the continent, while being free from so many of the burdens and mistakes of our partners? They think it mad. Nicely, but firmly, Mr Obama should say so."
Dalibor Rohac: It is Mr. Obama’s job to talk about Brexit: "The concern about the EU’s transformation into a dystopian superstate is misplaced. If Europe is on a slippery slope, it is of a very different kind. Under the pressure of the EU’s own dysfunctions, the rise of populist and nationalist movements, and the Kremlin’s continuing interference, political order on the continent is becoming fragile. Or, as the former Conservative Party Leader and Foreign Secretary Lord Hague wrote earlier this week, “being dominated by Europe was a serious threat to us 20 years ago, but now, having seen off the euro and other flawed ideas, a bigger threat is the western world falling in on itself, splintered and divided.”"
Rohac also outlines his arguments in this video:
Council on Foreign Relations: The Debate Over 'Brexit': "Under the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, the UK would have a two-year period to negotiate its withdrawal. These negotiations would be extremely complex. The UK would need to determine numerous transitional procedures (PDF) for disentangling itself from EU regulations, settling the status of the millions of UK citizens residing in the EU, and deciding the future of UK-EU security cooperation. The final withdrawal deal must be approved by a supermajority of EU countries, as well as by the European Parliament."
A vote for Brexit is a vote against Toryism | Coffee House: "There is, I am sure, an entirely reasonable case to be made for leaving the European Union, it’s just that, for the most part, we’ve not heard it. Instead, the dominant feature of the Out campaign has been its anger. Many of these people really do seem to think this is some kind of struggle for national liberation."
The Sunday Times: Brexit’s happy morons don’t give a damn about the costs of leaving
Kirkegaard: Brexit Scenarios for June 24: "[if the UK votes to loves,] the EU—just as the euro area could afford to wait longer for a solution than Greece during the euro crisis—can afford to wait much longer than can the UK for a solution to be found. "
Reuters: Brexit would cost Britons a month's salary by 2020 - OECD: "He said official figures released on Wednesday showing Britain's economic growth slowed in the first three months of the year underscored how the possibility of a so-called Brexit was already weighing on confidence."
Jonathan Wadsworth, Swati Dhingra, Gianmarco Ottaviano and John Van Reenen: Brexit and the Impact of Immigration on the UK
Philippe Legrain: The Economic Consequences of Brexit
Peter Goodman: ‘Brexit,’ a Feel-Good Vote That Could Sink Britain’s Economy - The New York Times: "That Britain is even contemplating an exit speaks to the ferment shaping politics in much of the world ... With the vote, Britain is determining its place in the world. Yet an argument over British identity is masquerading as an economic debate."
Special relationship needs a European Britain, say ex-US treasury secretaries | The Times & The Sunday Times: In an open letter, eight former US treasury secretaries outline why they believe Britain should stay in the EU
“The European Union has helped reconcile countries which were at each others’ throats for decades,” Cameron said in a speech at the British Museum in central London on Monday. “Britain has a fundamental national interest in maintaining common purpose in Europe to avoid future conflict between European countries. And that requires British leadership, and for Britain to remain a member.”
Sajid Javid on why he opposes Brexit:
In the event of a Leave vote, a country can withdraw from the EU two years afternotifying the European Council of its intention to leave. However, leaving would still involve "complex and probably lengthy negotiations", a Parliamentary briefing paper concluded. Talks would be held on the future of the UK's relationship with the EU, including whether it could still have access to the single market. Resolving all this could take some time. [Does anyone expect that this the divorce would go smoothly?]
Boris Johnson putting his political ambitions ahead of his country. He'd be a natural in the US elections.— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) February 22, 2016
The modest reforms are described here.
Cameron Pushes for Tougher Welfare Curbs in ‘Brexit’ Gamble: "At the opening session of Thursday’s EU summit in Brussels, the prime minister made a surprise bid to extend a so-called emergency brake on welfare payments to non-British citizens for a total of 13 years, according to three European officials with knowledge of the meeting. He asked for an initial suspension of seven years that could be lengthened twice by another three years each, they said"
POLITICO: Central bloc demands rights for EU migrants settled in UK
Bloomberg Business - Euro Area Stalls Deal to Shield London Banks From EU Rules: "Envoys from euro-area governments balked at a draft European Union proposal to ringfence Britain’s financial industry, putting extra pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron before he meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hamburg on Friday."
Alexander Stubb: Without UK, there is no EU: Finland Fin Min
NYTimes editorial: Everyone Loses if Britain Exits the E.U.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told the European Parliament on Monday that “a less than clear framework for negotiations with the U.K. would have implications of systemic nature” for the European economy.
The ECB president also declared that “the unfinished status of the monetary integration may become a source of fragility” in Europe and that an agreement with the U.K. “should not hamper any further integration [of the monetary union].”
The international context presents three main challenges for the UK: the opportunities and pressures from economic globalization; a range of evolving security risks and crises, particularly in Europe’s eastern and southern neighbourhoods; and the decay in the international institutions that have long amplified Britain’s voice in international affairs. The UK must rethink how it interacts with the world if it is to remain influential in the face of these and other challenges.
Bloomberg: East European Leaders Signal Gaps in EU Draft to Avert U.K. Exit
- Poland, Hungary indicate concern over benefits discrimination
- Bulgaria critical, Czech Republic supportive of Tusk's plan
The Czech Republic was the only country to cheer Tusk’s proposals, which forced Cameron to give ground on some key demands. Having pledged to stop people claiming welfare payments for children living abroad, the British premier has conceded that such claims will continue, and instead of a complete ban on non-U.K. workers getting in-work welfare payments for four years, he has secured an emergency mechanism that tapers them.
FT: EU referendum: Tusk releases outline reform deal for UK
Mr Tusk’s paper is detailed, including a total of seven decisions and declarations, and written in dense legal language. One British minister said: “It is not the Gettysburg address. There will need to be some work done on the drafting before the summit.”
One crucial British demand is left open to negotiation: whether the substance of the UK package is incorporated into primary law when the EU treaties are next changed.
Under the deal on migrant benefits, the European Commission pledges to propose an emergency brake that “can and will be used” to “act as a solution to the UK’s concerns about the exceptional inflow of workers from elsewhere in the EU that it has seen over the last 10 years”.
[Timeline / expectations]
Feb 12 Mr Cameron is to deliver a speech in Hamburg on Britain’s place in Europe. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, also in attendance, is expected to give the British deal her blessing
Feb 18-19 European heads of government summit in Brussels
Feb 22 Mr Cameron is expected to endorse the deal in the Commons. Crunch cabinet meeting could take place on the same day to support the deal but some ministers will signal their opposition
Rachman: David Cameron has struck a flimsy deal with the EU
Originally, Mr Cameron wanted an emergency brake on immigration itself. When it became clear that Britain’s European partners would regard that as unacceptable, he switched the subject to welfare, asking for a ban on the payment of in-work benefits to EU migrants. (The fear being that these are generous enough to cause a surge in immigration.)
When this too was rejected, Mr Cameron fell back on the idea of an emergency brake on welfare benefits.
... In truth, Mr Cameron’s effort to secure a new deal with Europe was launched to appease the sceptics in his own party. It will probably fail to achieve that goal. [emphasis added]
Rachman: Brexit is no way out of a Europe in crisis; quotes a German official who complains: “The European house is burning down and Britain wants to waste time rearranging the furniture."
Letter by President Donald Tusk to the Members of the European Council on his proposal for a new settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union: "To be, or not to be together, that is the question which must be answered not only by the British people in a referendum, but also by the other 27 members of the EU in the next two weeks.This has been a difficult process and there are still challenging negotiations ahead. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. I am convinced that the proposal is a good basis for a compromise."
Declaration of the European Commission on issues related to the abuse of the right of free movement of persons
David Cameron's November letter with proposals for reform. Several "principles" are listed in the letter, including:
Taxpayers in non-Euro countries should never be financially liable for
operations to support the Eurozone as a currency.