The EU has shaped Britain’s cultural and political landscape over the last 30 years. From being home to one of the lowest proportions of people from other European nations within the EU in the 1980s, Britain has opened its doors to a comparably greater number of Europeans than other EU countries – including both Germany and France. Understandably, within this period, Britain has transformed itself from an insular island into one of the most liberal and cosmopolitan countries within the EU. Consequently, Britain’s acceptance of a multi-ethnic society and openness to immigration has created a sense of diversity, as well as being emblematic of a progressive and confident society.
In spite of the rhetoric repeatedly being voiced by Brexiters, a vote to leave the EU will be a rejection of economic stability. With the rise in foreign workers from EU countries, it is unsurprising that the gap in the labour market has been reduced and that increased integration has allowed for a striking improvement in Britain’s relative economic performance. EU membership increases Britain’s trade in goods by around 30%, with an exit potentially endangering exports. Moreover, the thinktank “Open Europe” has also warned that a unilateral UK exit is likely to lead to a permanent dent in the country’s GDP of 2.23% by 2030 (accounting for £56bn annually). Data from the IMF in 2015 has placed the European Union as the second leading world economy, closely following China but, nonetheless, surpassing the United States. Why would the UK vote to leave the EU, one of the world’s leading powers of economic development?
Brexiters defending the leave campaign have argued their cause by suggesting that an independent Britain will be able to match immigration to skill shortages. Inevitably, this raises the question as to why Britain will suddenly attract skills from the rest of the world if, because of Brexit, it fails to pull in the 1.4 million largely English-speaking Eastern Europeans within the UK.
It is widely accepted that the idea of opposing EU immigration derives from the desire to protect British workers and ensuring that British people are given priority over EU migrants. Arguably, this logic could be applied to free-trade too; free trade, of course, is one of the fundamental arguments to support Brexit.
Brexiters have fuelled the debate by arguing that exit from the EU would allow Britain to form trade-agreements with non-EU countries (namely the Australasian countries, as well as Canada, China and India) while at the same time strengthening Britain’s “special relationship” with the USA. Nevertheless, key US leaders have attacked this assumed opinion, laying out the big geopolitical case for the UK remaining inside the EU. Barack Obama’s plea for the UK to back the remain campaign should have furthered concern about the fantasy of Brexit as he so passionately cautioned that Britain will become “at the back of the queue” in any trade deal with the United States if the country votes to leave. Additionally, in the event of Brexit, Britain would be left with no trade-agreement with the world’s second-largest market – the EU. Ironically, this is the very market we would have just voted to leave.
Likewise, Hilary Clinton, whom is currently the favourite to win the Democratic nomination in July, has illustrated the political blow Brexit will cause for the UK, Europe and the global economy. Furthermore, she explained that, if she enters the White House, she will seek for the UK to lead the debate within Europe and become further engaged in EU politics. At a time in which it is pivotal for the UK to sustain a strong transatlantic relationship in order to tackle global inequalities and combat the spread of ISIS, we should be striving to achieve a strong liaison with America, rather than weakening it.