It’s fairly obvious that those of us who oppose the EU (for political, not xenophobic reasons, before the tired old clichés are deployed) are likely to vote no in the upcoming EU referendum.
But here’s why those who are passionate advocates of the EU should vote no too. Assuming those of us who favour Brexit are correct, we have the following scenario:
Britain continues to maintain a good trading relationship with the EU (like the one the British public was deceived into voting for in the last referendum on the issue in 1975) and a friendly relationship with our European neighbours, but the country is able to open up to wider markets around the world and conclude trade deals with whom we please and on mutually beneficial terms; political decisions are made closer to the people by people elected by the people and removable by the people; political decisions can be made more quickly and expediently without having to seek agreement across 28 different member states, each of which has a different set of priorities from its neighbours; the net contribution we currently make to the EU is removed; the country can seek closer ties with nations across the Commonwealth countries, with whom we share a great deal in common; the country continues to cooperate and work very closely with our European neighbours on matters of global significance, such as issues around environmental concern, defence, human rights, and shared values.
But let’s pursue the alternative scenario and assume that following Brexit things take a turn for the worse and Britain nose-dives. We have no reason to suppose that this will happen at all. In fact, the objective views seem to suggest that in the short to medium term, there will be little economic effect, positive or negative, from Brexit. But let’s just humour the doom-mongers and run with the Domesday scenario, whilst bearing in mind that many of those who predict our ruin in the event of Brexit are the same people who predicted our ruin if we failed to join the euro.
In the worst-case scenario, we can simply apply to rejoin the EU. And here’s where things get really good for the serious pro-EU brigade.
Rejoining the EU would require that we adopt the euro, since that is a condition of accession, as is acceptance of the Schengen agreement, so we would have fully open borders with our EU neighbours. We would be very much the humbled, cap-in-hand country, and we would be in no position to play the former great power, but would have to accept the Commission’s decisions happily and with gratitude. We would revel in the benignity of the wise and impeccable decisions of the Commission. We would be the little player in the superstate that the EU fans would dearly like us to be… and we’d still have that massive 3.5% vote share at the ‘top table’ (or possibly less, depending on how many countries join in the interim) they keep banging on about.
So, what’s to lose? Pretty much everyone agrees that business as usual in the EU is no longer an option. The EU has been promising fundamental reform from back in the days when I was a big advocate of the then 12 member European Community, as it was then, around a quarter of a century ago… A mark of how piteously slow the mechanics of the EU operate.
If you’re an EUphile, and the UK leaves and ends up prospering, you win. If things go badly wrong following a Brexit and we apply to rejoin, you end up with the UK even more firmly integrated into the great United States of Europe project.
Either way, you’re a winner!