You’re So Vain: Americans and Britain’s EU Referendum

Barack Obama
American president Barack Obama speaks on the phone in the Green Room of the White House in Washington DC, March 18 (White House/Pete Souza)

There is a tendency in the United States to make Britain’s EU referendum all about America. Commentator wonder what effect it will have on transatlantic relations, given Britain’s “special relationship” with the United States. They speculate what it will mean for Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions, given that his nativist platform isn’t too dissimilar from the leave campaign in the UK.

Some of this is self-indulgent, some of it makes sense.

The best reflections can be found in The American Interest. Walter Russell Mead writes that the island nation’s exit is a blow to the West as a whole. Read more “You’re So Vain: Americans and Britain’s EU Referendum”

EU Referendum Splits Britain Along Blue-Red Lines

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011 (Ben Sutherland)

The way Britons voted in their EU referendum on Thursday confirms there is a deep “blue-red” divide in the United Kingdom.

I argued in February that the question of whether to leave the European Union or stay was splitting the country along the lines Andrew Sullivan described as Europe’s “blue-red culture war over modernity.”

“Blue Europe,” according Sullivan, is internationalist, metrosexual, multicultural and secular. It is concentrated in the major cities. Hence London’s overwhelming support for “remain”.

“Red Europe” is patriotic, more traditional, more comfortable in a homogenous society, more sympathetic to faith. In England, these are the postindustrial heartlands and small towns. Read more “EU Referendum Splits Britain Along Blue-Red Lines”

Britain Votes to Leave EU: The Day After

Parliament London England
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011 (Ben Sutherland)
  • The United Kingdom has voted 52 to 48 percent in a referendum to leave the European Union. The difference is more than one million votes.
  • England and Wales strongly supported Brexit while Scotland and Northern Ireland largely voted to remain, raising the specter of further constitutional upheaval.
  • London and other metropolitan areas voted to stay in, revealing a deep split in British society. Read more “Britain Votes to Leave EU: The Day After”

The Day After: What Happens If Britain Leaves

David Cameron Dalia Grybauskaitė
Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom speaks with President Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania during the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC, April 1 (State Department/Ben Solomon)

What happens if Britain votes to leave the European Union on Thursday?

Reuters suggests this could happen in the days after:

  • There would likely be a negative reaction from financial markets on Friday.
  • The European Commission would convene over the weekend to discuss what to do next. It would be responsible for negotiating Britain’s exit.
  • The idea is to have a basic plan in place before markets open again on Monday.
  • Then European leaders meet in Brussels on Tuesday. Assuming David Cameron is still prime minister by then (and a Euroskeptic coup would be hard to organize in a few days), he should invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty and trigger a two-year divorce procedure.

Longer term, the EU will have to fill a Britain-sized hole in its budget and reassure millions of EU citizens living in Britain and Britons on the continent of their future rights. Read more “The Day After: What Happens If Britain Leaves”

Brexit or Not, the World Curves Toward Union

Leaders of the G20 discuss the war in Syria at a summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, September 9, 2013
Leaders of the G20 discuss the war in Syria at a summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, September 9, 2013 (Bundesregierung)

Brexit has been a fascinating, uniquely British ride: from David Cameron offering the vote in exchange for reelection in 2015 to the rise of the maddeningly irrational United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the whole process has been full of half-truths, fearmongering, cultural smears and, most horrifyingly, assassination.

For the people of Britain, Brexit matters: it will change bank accounts just as much as the power of the British passport. For geopolitical libertarians worldwide, it is a rare chance to roll back the growth of an supranational state. But no one thinks the exit of Britain will end the EU and so the change of relationship may well not matter much when all sums are calculated.

Yet from the broader scheme of things, they matter even less than often stated. Despite the backlash against them, the world is curving more towards organizations like the EU, as the rational response to humanity’s needs will force many of us to live underneath them. Read more “Brexit or Not, the World Curves Toward Union”

Half of Leave Voters Believe British Referendum Rigged

Bideford England
Bideford, England seen from the River Torridge (Shutterstock)

Britons who want their country to leave the European Union are four times more likely to believe that Thursday’s referendum will be rigged than those who plan to vote “remain”.

A YouGov survey found (PDF) that 46 percent of leave voters believe the plebiscite will be rigged. 75 percent of them also suspect that the EU is withholding plans for further integration or enlargement until after the referendum. 28 percent are total nutjobs and believe that MI5 is conspiring with the government to prevent Britain from leaving.

The figures for remain are 11, 25 and 16 percent, respectively. Still a little disconcerting, but there is clearly a stronger correlation between favoring an EU exit and accepting conspiracy theories.

It’s mostly United Kingdom Independence Party voters who entertain such nonsense, although 60 percent of Conservative Party voters also suspect the EU is secretly working on closer integration schemes while 22 percent of Labour’s think there is something to the MI5 plot. Read more “Half of Leave Voters Believe British Referendum Rigged”

A Liberal, Realistic European Union Needs Britain

Flags of the United Kingdom and the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29
Flags of the United Kingdom and the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29 (European Commission)

France and Poland team up to block a trade pact with South America, fearing cheap agricultural imports. Opposition to a trade agreement with the United States grows in Germany and Italy, possibly dooming the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Countries in Central Europe feel squeezed in between their former occupier Russia and an accommodating Germany.

It’s as though the last few weeks have been a preview of what the European Union might look like without the United Kingdom.

The British vote in a referendum next week whether to stay in the EU or leave. We hope a majority will vote “remain”, which is the better option for everyone. Read more “A Liberal, Realistic European Union Needs Britain”

Euroskeptics Cry Wolf, Allege Attempt to Rig Referendum

British parliament London
Aerial view of the Palace of Westminster in London, England (iStock/Robert Ingelhart)

Speaking of sore losers.

Yesterday we had Austria’s Freedom Party launching a legal challenge against the presidential election result because their candidate lost by a whisker.

Today some of the campaigners for Brexit say they might ask for a judicial review of a last-minute decision to extend voter registration by two days. Read more “Euroskeptics Cry Wolf, Allege Attempt to Rig Referendum”