segunda-feira, 20 de junho de 2016

Remain or Leave: such an un-British campaign!

Remain or Leave: such an un-British campaign!
17 de jun de 2016

On November 15, 2012, I wrote my first post on LinkedIn with this headline "Brexit? You can't be serious". I had been alerted by English friends that the idea of Brexit was starting to make its way into the political agenda. The first thing I want to say today is that my thoughts are with Jo Cox's family and friends. It is a tragedy to see a generous, brave and brilliant Member of Parliament be assassinated. It is too early, as I am writing this post, to know exactly why a man committed such a crime, but if it is because of her pro-EU stance it is even more absurd.
Last weekend, I was with a group of more than a hundred British people celebrating a common friend's birthday in the beautiful lake district. Because of their background and occupations I naively thought that a majority of them would be on the Remain side. And I was surprised to hear one of the guests say that probably 50% of this rather sophisticated crowd would vote for Leave.
The coverage dedicated to the Brexit issue has been overwhelming. I read a lot of articles, and it looks like, very often, emotions have trumped facts. Which I find very un-British. The Leave camp arguments are crystallizing around two ideas:immigration and sovereignty. I don't understand how leaving the EU will resolve the immigration issue. We see everywhere that when people have decided to immigrate into a country and flee from a terrible situation, they are ready to risk their lives as they tragically do in the Mediteranean sea. No wall or ocean will stop them. It is unfortunately a lucrative business for various mafias.
The sovereignty argument seems also very hollow: I struggle to understand why Great Britain, a country that has been able to pick and choose what it wanted from the EU, thus benefiting from the best of both worlds, has a sovereignty problem. The UK has its own currency, its own central bank, can control its borders since it didn’t sign the Schengen agreement, has its own constitution, even if it is "unwritten", while enjoying the huge benefits of the single European market. A success of the Leave campaign would divide Ireland again, and might threaten the territorial integrity of the UK, if Scotland wanted to remain in the EU. What does sovereignty means in a multi-polar world made of huge blocs?
I am sure that David Cameron didn’t realize what he was doing when he launched the idea of the referendum, just to please some members of his party. If he did realize then it is even worse: a very selfish strategy turning soon into a disaster for him, whichever side wins. If the Leave camp wins, Boris Johnson will take his job. If the Remain side wins, the country and his party will be deeply divided and full of rancor. And what will Europeans think of it? I know, we shouldn’t interfere with this British debate, especially a Frenchman.
What are we left with, a week before the vote? Uncertainty. Nobody likes uncertainty. Markets hate uncertainty and are starting to react accordingly. I do hope that, in the end, British people will decide that, after all, it is still worth participating in the EU journey, building a more peaceful bloc of 500 million people who used to kill each other every now and then. I hope nationalism will not win, I don't want Marine Le Pen in France and Trump in the USA to enjoy the result of the vote.

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