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British Independence: The Case Against EU Membership

June 24, 2016

On June 23rd, 2016, British citizens voted to leave the European Union, a supranational cooperation between 28 countries that have existed for over 20 years.  The results of the referendum were instantly met with criticism from around the world, with many blaming xenophobia as the primary motivator. The full rationale for British separation, of course, is a lot more complicated than that.

Immigration
Members of the European Union follow what is known as the “Schengen Agreement,” which basically permits passport free travel within the EU states. This also allows citizens of the 28 member countries to live and work wherever their heart desires.  The United Kingdom never liked this agreement, opting to still require documentation for entry into the British Isles, but they are still obligated to welcome anyone that is part of the Eurozone.  This situation became increasing volatile when Germany and many other members welcomed in millions of Syrian refugees.  When these individuals are granted formal asylum and is issued a green card or eventual citizenship, they will be free to travel and live in Britain without consent.  Although xenophobia is certainly the biggest driving factor for some individuals in the leave vote, it is not entirely unjustified that others want the freedom to control their country’s own borders.  Would you be comfortable allowing anyone from North/Central America and the Caribbean to move into the United States without any legal restraints?  Should Germany have the power to decide who can live in The United Kingdom and vice versa?

To further perpetuate the problem, since the The UK has one of the strongest economies on earth, there is far more in-migration than out, meaning the Schengen benefits the other 27 more than it does Britain.  Some individuals complained that by leaving, they will lose the freedom to travel throughout Europe, but the reality is, there should be very little effect.  Neither Norway or Switzerland are part of the EU and they can just as easily travel throughout the neighboring states with valid documentation.

Politics
Within the European Union, member states gather in Brussels to collectively agree on policies.  Unfortunately, the system is based on the concept of “one country, one vote.”  Therefore, neither economics or demographics play a large role in the political process.  Is it fair for The UK, which has 64 million people, to have the same voting power as Luxembourg and it’s half a million residents?  Moreover, the EU is managed by a total of five presidents and various other bureaucrats, none of which are elected by the people.  When the British went to the polls to vote “leave,” they were simply asking for the return of representative democracy.

One of the fundamental pillars of the EU is military protection.  The 28 states agree to defend one another in a time of conflict.  When the organization was originally created, this was one of continent’s attempt (in addition to creating a European nationalism, as opposed to domestic) to bring peace to a land scarred by a history of ethnic warfare.  UK’s departure will not affect this since they are still part of NATO, which essentially serves the same purpose.  Residents will be just as safe as before.

Economics
In the short term, Britain’s economy will undoubtedly be damaged by their decision to abandon the EU, but to many voters, this is the price for the freedom to determine their own domestic financial affairs.  Being part of the EU means you have to abide by their regulations; certain standards might be satisfactory to British policy makers, but they might not be to EU politicians.  Regulations are important, but too many can hamper economic progress.

Much like their defiance to the Schengen Agreement, the British has always been against adopting the Euro currency, as well.  The reason the Euro is problematic is because for countries who formally adopt it, it strips away their right to print their own money.  This is a principal reason why Greece continues to struggle financially.  When the recession hit, Greece was not allowed to print since that is the responsibility of the European Central Bank.  If Greece was independent, they could over produce the drachma to inflate it.  This will make Greece’s top industry, tourism, more attractive to outsiders, thus bringing in revenue to stimulate the economy and create jobs.  The British obviously doesn’t have this issue, since they kept the pound sterling, but all trading within the European Union is done with Euro and the currency is still accepted domestically.  The ECB also controls interest rates and inflation that affect all participating members.

One of the reasons why so many countries want to join the EU is because of its collective financial support.  When Greece fell into a depression, the Germans, French, and British, along with many others bailed them out multiple times. For Greece, Portugal, or any other faltering economy, this is obviously a benefit, but if you’re a high performing society like the UK, then its residents are constantly forced to allocate tax dollars to other countries.  Even if by whatever accord, the British Isles fell into a recession and needed assistance, they will be at the mercy of austerity measures determined by EU bureaucrats.  Most economists now agree that the sheer volume of austerity that was imposed on Greece was counterproductive.  In order to revive an economy, it needs to encourage spending, not deter it (Google Keynesian Economics).  No matter how you look at it, EU’s collective agreements simply don’t benefit The UK as much as others.

The biggest question moving forward is whether or not Britain will be able to establish trade deals with the continent post abandonment, but considering how we are living in an age of globalization and with London being home to the world’s 3rd largest stock exchange, it is doubtful they will struggle to find suitors.

Epilogue
Poll statistics show that Millennials, in contrast to their older peers, where overwhelmingly in support of staying in the European Union; this is because many of them have never lived in a world without the EU.  The unknown can be scary, but by leaving, the country will now be able to offer them greater freedom, a more powerful voice in political affairs, and potentially a richer domestic labor market.  For the time being, things will certainly be grim, but Great Britain is a proud and resilient nation.  They ascended back into the global economy after the second World War and they will certainly do so again.  Nothing good ever comes without sacrifice; as the famous German philosopher Frederick Nietzche once said, “No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” – Ping Zhou

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 27, 2016 7:55 pm

    I can tell the author is not a politician. The will of the people has been heard on this decision. Being governed by non-elected leaders is the downfall of any society.

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