Liberal Euroskeptics Have Made Treacherous Pact

Michael Gove
British education secretary Michael Gove arrives at 10 Downing Street in London, England, March 10, 2015 (Shutterstock/Pete Maclaine)

Leaders of Britain’s campaign to leave the European Union seem to have momentarily forgotten their liberal principles to argue that an exit will enable them to nationalize industries and keep immigrants out.

Michael Gove, the justice secretary, Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament, and Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, have all argued that leaving the EU would unshackle Britain’s economy from centripetal forces that stifle growth. Their vision is of a free-trading Singapore on the Thames: cosmopolitan, nimble and proud.

So why have they spent the last few weeks deriding Brussels for blocking state aid for the Port Talbot Steelworks in Wales and talking about reducing immigration? Read more “Liberal Euroskeptics Have Made Treacherous Pact”

Middle England Finds Itself Between Blue-Red Divide

Bristol England
Aerial view of Bristol, England (Shutterstock)

Britain’s European Union referendum is turning into the perfect demonstration of two of the theories I’ve been promoting here about European politics: one, that there is a “blue-red” culture war going on over modernity; and two, that it are reasonable, middle-class voters who hold the balance of power. Read more “Middle England Finds Itself Between Blue-Red Divide”

In or Out, EU Exit Crowd Wants Cameron’s Head

David Cameron Matteo Renzi Justin Trudeau
Prime Ministers David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Justin Trudeau of Canada listen to Italy’s Matteo Renzi at the G7 summit in Shima, Japan, May 26 (Palazzo Chigi)

Advocates of a British exit from the European Union have ramped up their attacks on Conservative Party leader David Cameron with some threatening to topple him no matter the outcome of the referendum next month.

Andrew Bridgen, a lawmaker in Cameron’s party, told the BBC on Sunday that more than fifty of his colleagues are ready to move against the prime minister because he is at “odds with half of our parliamentary party and probably 70 percent of our members and activist base.”

Nadine Dorries, another Euroskeptic parliamentarian, said Cameron — who favors continued EU membership — needs to win the referendum by at least 60 percent or he will be “toast within days.”

The Sunday Times quoted another lawmaker, who had apparently come unhinged, saying, “I don’t want to stab the prime minister in the back. I want to stab him in the front so I can see the expression on his face. You’d have to twist the knife, though, because we want it back for [George] Osborne,” Cameron’s deputy and possible successor.

Michael Gove, the justice secretary, and Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, have also taken direct aim at Cameron in recent days, accusing him of eroding the “public trust” by promising to lower migration to Britain at the last election and failing to deliver. Read more “In or Out, EU Exit Crowd Wants Cameron’s Head”

Proponents of EU Exit Should Stop Disparaging Institutions

Cabinet Office London England
The British flag flies over the Cabinet Office in London, England (Shutterstock/Willy Barton)

The Financial Times is spot on when it warns that Euroskeptics risks doing serious damage to Britain’s political institutions before the referendum campaign is over.

In the last few days alone, the Bank of England, the Treasury and the head of the National Health Service have all been derided for pointing out the dangers of leaving the European Union.

The former have provided detailed analyses of what an exit would mean for Britain’s economy. They are, of course, estimates and sensible people can disagree about what the future would hold. Open Europe, a mildly Euroskeptic think tank, for example, argues that the Treasury may be overstating its case a little.

But that’s no excuse for the vitriol coming from hardened Euroskeptics, like Iain Duncan Smith, the former pensions secretary, who said the institution is “the worst thing we have in Britain.” Read more “Proponents of EU Exit Should Stop Disparaging Institutions”

Euroskeptic Fanatics Are Never Going to Give Up

United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015
United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015 (European Parliament)

Even if Britons vote to stay in the European Union next month, it looks like the outers will not give up.

Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, has told the Daily Mirror he would push for a second referendum if the first one produces only a narrow majority in favor of staying in.

“In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way,” Farage said. Only if the remain side wins by two-thirds “that ends it.” Read more “Euroskeptic Fanatics Are Never Going to Give Up”

Boris Johnson Drifts Closer to Euroskeptic Fringe

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson, then the mayor of London, visits Hampstead Heath, April 15, 2012 (i-Images/Andrew Parsons)

If Boris Johnson is trying to sabotage his chances of succeeding David Cameron as Conservative Party leader and Britain’s prime minister, he should keep doing what he’s doing.

The outgoing mayor of London took a risk when he joined the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union earlier this year, but that should not in itself have undermined his ambitions. He is likely to end up on the losing side but could have justified his holiday from the political mainstream as an idealistic, if quixotic, indulgence.

The way he has conducted himself since reveals Johnson to be something of an anti-EU fanatic, however, and that could very well ruin his career. Read more “Boris Johnson Drifts Closer to Euroskeptic Fringe”

Britain’s “Remain” Side Doesn’t Need More Passion

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
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)

This is starting to get old: the notion that those who want the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union need to show more “passion” to persuade a Euroskeptic electorate that staying in is the better option. The Financial Times argued as much recently. So did the news agency Reuters, citing pollsters and political scientists.

Don’t these people ever learn? Read more “Britain’s “Remain” Side Doesn’t Need More Passion”

Britain Urged to Remain in European Union

Whitehall London England
View of the Houses of Parliament from Whitehall in London, England (Shutterstock/Alan Copson)

It seems just about everybody wants Britain to stay in the European Union.

Eight former American treasury secretaries wrote to The Times of London to urge Britons to stay in.

“A strong Britain, inside the EU, remains the best hope in our view for securing Britain’s future, creating a more prosperous Europe and protecting a healthy and resilient global economy,” they argue.

President Barack Obama is expected to make a similar argument when he visits the United Kingdom this week.

It’s not just the Americans. A TNS poll conducted for France’s Le Figaro found that 78 percent of Germans, 67 percent of Spaniards, 59 percent of the French and 54 percent of the Poles want Britain to remain a member of the bloc. Read more “Britain Urged to Remain in European Union”

There’s No Satisfying Some Euroskeptics

London England
The sun rises over London, England (Uncoated)

Euroskeptics in the United Kingdom turned on each other on Wednesday when the group Vote Leave was designated the official campaign for an exit from the European Union.

The Electoral Commission’s decision allows Vote Leave to spend up to £7 million to make the case for leaving the EU and gives it free media and £600,000 in public funds.

Leave.EU, a group affiliated with the United Kingdom Independence Party, said the decision “smells of political corruption.” Vote Leave’s application, the group’s Arron Banks alleged, was “full of lies and misrepresentations.”

The now-official exit campaign is backed by prominent Conservative Party figures, including Boris Johnson, the outgoing mayor of London, and Michael Gove, the justice secretary.

Britons are due to vote on whether or not to stay in the European Union in June. Polls suggest they are evenly split. The right-wing government of Prime Minister David Cameron is campaigning for membership, as is the opposition Labour Party. Read more “There’s No Satisfying Some Euroskeptics”

British Proponents of EU Are Right to Appeal to Fear

Whitehall London England
View of the Houses of Parliament from Whitehall in London, England (Shutterstock/Alan Copson)

Proponents of a British exit from the European Union have taken to accusing their opposite numbers in the referendum campaign of appealing to fear for the consequences of leaving.

It’s not as though the out campaign is a ray of sunshine. It is after all predicated on the notion that belonging to the EU is unbearable. But let’s tackle this criticism of the “in” side, because their appealing to fear is actually perfectly justified.

There isn’t a joyful case to be made for membership, unless you’re an ardent federalist. For many Britons especially, the status quo isn’t terribly satisfying but it’s not unacceptable either. Being in the EU comes with obvious benefits, like ease of travel and doing business, and some disadvantages, like restrictive agriculture policies and fishing quotas.

On balance, it will probably seem a tolerable arrangement to most — especially when Prime Minister David Cameron’s renegotiation did give the United Kingdom a few additional prerogatives.

The alternative, exit, is an unknown. There is no template for it. No other country has ever left the EU. Would Britain be able to negotiate a better deal outside? Or would it join the ranks of Norway and Switzerland, being forced to follow most EU regulations without the power to help write them in exchange for staying in the single market? Read more “British Proponents of EU Are Right to Appeal to Fear”