Thursday, June 23, 2016

Voting Leave

It's a bright and sunny June day and British voters are determining our future in Europe. For all but the first two years of my life, the United Kingdom has been a part of the European community and there is no question that a decision to leave will fundamentally alter the way in which our affairs, domestic and foreign, are conducted.

While the Leave and Remain camps have both striven to prove the economic benefits of their stance, the truth is that neither side really knows what the final outcome of leaving the EU will be. If the European Union is not the Leviathan that some believe, neither is it the harbinger of an ever more harmonious Europe. Since the end of the Cold War, as continental Europe has sought to promote a more perfect union (to use the phraseology of our American cousins), it has become increasingly insular in its ability both to look beyond its borders and to handle political crises on the periphery. What began with the tragedy of the Yugoslavian civil war has come full circle with the Syrian refugee crisis.

Despite the populist backlash that has enveloped France, Germany and Eastern Europe, the enthusiasm for greater federalism in both Brussels and Strasbourg seems unabated. The only action that may engender greater realism at the political centre is for a nation state of significant economic weight to take the decision to withdraw. My vote to leave the European Union is thus predicated neither on the purported economic benefits nor on the supposed ability to control our borders (my wife and I still had our passports checked while entering France by train two weeks ago), but on the faint hope that it will concentrate the minds of those who set the policies of the EU. There are no guarantees, of course.

Italy, the Austrian statesman Clemens von Metternich once famously remarked, is a geographical expression and "Europe" is no less. The drive to shoehorn European nation states into a "United States of Europe," often in despite of the wishes of ordinary electors, has done more to promote the revival of the less attractive forms of nationalism than the rabble-rousing of the Far-Right.

And so . . . I vote Leave.

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