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As President Obama prepares to travel to London later this week, campaigning began in Britain on whether it should leave the European Union. Britain will vote on the so-called “Brexit” referendum in June. Polls show voters are evenly split. But polling on the last British election was not reliable. Conservatives who support leaving the EU say it is the only way to control the borders. But Labour Party and younger voters favor remaining integrated with the rest of the continent. Diane Rehm talks with a panel of guests about what Brexit could mean for Britain’s economy, global markets, NATO and the migrant crisis.
- Edward Luce Chief U.S. columnist and commentator, Financial Times; author of "Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent"
- Frances Burwell Vice president, European Union and Special Initiatives, the Atlantic Council.
- Jacob Kirkegaard Senior fellow, The Peterson Institute for International Economics
- Karen Donfried President, the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. In June, the United Kingdom will vote on a referendum to leave the European Union. The International Monetary Fund warns withdrawal from the EU would harm British and global markets. Others say it could harm NATO and strengthen Russia's power. Here with me to talk about the implications of Brexit, Frances Burwell with The Atlantic Council, Edward Luce of The Financial Times, Karen Donfried of The German Marshall Fund and Jacob Kirkegaard with Peterson Institute for International Economics.
MS. DIANE REHMI do invite you to join us. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.
MR. JACOB KIRKEGAARDGlad to be here.
MS. KAREN DONFRIEDThanks.
MR. EDWARD LUCEThanks for having us.
MS. FRANCES BURWELLThank you.
REHMAnd Ed Luce, if I might start with you, how real a possibility is Europe -- is the Brexit movement?
LUCEIt's real and getting more distinct as the referendum approaches. It's about two months away now and the bookies, which I think are more reliable in these matters than opinion polls, which have been fairly volatiles, the bookies are showing a close to 50/50 possibility now of Brexit. So it's real and it's real enough to have disrupted a lot of investment decisions in the British private sector. There's a huge sort of shadow of uncertainty over the direction of the British economy because the two outcomes are so different from each other remain.
REHMHow did this discussion begin?
LUCEWell, this was in the buildup to the last British general election, which took place last year, in which David Cameron's conservative party won a thumping majority. But a year or two before then, it didn't look at all like it was going to be in the bag. His party was in trouble. It was being attacked from its right flank by the UK independence party, which is an anti-Europe party with sort of fairly Trumpian demographics behind it, sort of working class, blue collar people fed up with, you know, the sort of multicultural elitism that runs them from London and really sort of converged all their frustrations on Europe.
LUCEAnd so Cameron, in order to stop his party from splitting, said we will have a referendum on Europe and we will only -- I will only recommend or remain a yes vote to staying in Europe if it is a reformed Europe, which meant he had to achieve all these reforms, which he allegedly did this February. They don't really amount to a hill of beans, if you don't mind me saying, but that's the basis on which he got himself into this sticky mess.
REHMAll right. And Fran, Ed mentioned the polls. To what extent can we trust that sort of 50/50 alignment right now?
BURWELLNot very much, actually. The polls, when the prime minister was reelected, the polls were significantly in error going up into the election. They say that they've corrected it, but I actually think this is one of those issues where the -- a lot of people may not respond with total honesty or actually even know what they're going to do until they get into the booth and have to vote. So I think there's a great deal of uncertainty. There are some people who say they understand what happened in the general election and have fixed the polls and they're saying that it will be about a 24 percent chance leave.
BURWELLBut nobody really knows and I think that's the main thing is nobody knows.
REHMKaren, there has always been some discontent over this, but this has really reached a pinnacle of, you know, discontent, anger, hostility, as Ed says. What's going on here?
DONFRIEDSo this vote in the UK that will take place on June 23 is coming at a moment when you have a confluence of crises buffeting Europe and I think those making the argument to leave the EU are benefitting from that and they're saying if we leave the EU, that will protect us from these flows of refugees and migrants and from terrorism and from all of these negative things coming from the continent and it plays into Britain's sense of being an island, hearkens back to Britain's role as an empire.
DONFRIEDAnd they also instrumentalized this special relationship with the U.S. and, of course, this is also the context in which President Obama will be making a stop in London. But when we think about how the vote is likely to come out, you also look at who are the personalities on each side of this debate and there's no question that the exit side has the momentum at the moment, in part, buoyed by the popular mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who decided earlier this year to campaign for an exit.
DONFRIEDSo you have a charismatic populous spokesman on the exit said and it's not clear that David Cameron has that same ability to mobilize his voters, particularly in the wake of the Panama Papers, which have recently broken and suggested corruption on the part of Britain's leadership.
REHMAnd Jacob Kirkegaard, the question of how Britain and Europe would be affected economically with Brexit. How do you see that?
KIRKEGAARDWell, I mean, as Fran already mentioned, I mean the key thing here is uncertainty. We simply don't know. The IMF, over the weekend, came -- or last week, came out with a report that mentioned the prospect of Brexit as essentially one of the sort of global risks to growth. And they reason they did that was, in my opinion, it's highly appropriate because they said, look, this isn't going to be an amicable divorce. This isn't going to be something that is going to be negotiated in a couple of months and then we can sort of, you know, keep calm and carry on.
KIRKEGAARDThis is going to be a very, very nasty breakup, if it comes to that.
KIRKEGAARDWell, I mean, if you believe what David Cameron has said, he said, well, the day after Brexit, he will launch the procedure to leave the EU under Article 50 of the European Treaty, which is a very nasty, actually, process. But I think we should also recognize that the incentives for the rest of Europe has dramatically shifted. In many ways, they have, I would argue, done a lot to keep Britain in. They negotiated a deal with David Cameron back in February and while Ed is, in some ways, right in saying that it didn't maybe fundamentally change the EU, nonetheless, it gave David Cameron a lot of what he asked for.
REHMWhat did he ask for?
KIRKEGAARDWell, he wanted opt-outs from certain elements of European regulation, working...
KIRKEGAARD...of working time regulations, in particular, other social issues. He wanted Britain exempt from the sort of generalized rule or treaty that says -- a part of the treaty that says -- calls for an ever closer union. He basically wanted to make it clear that the UK is not going to be part of European super state. It can stay outside the euro and outside any sort of political institutionalization in the euro area. And when viewed from that, I mean, the other leaders, with whom he's now going to have to negotiate, they will basically say, well, we gave you what you wanted and now you are coming back to us with a "no" anyway.
KIRKEGAARDAnd our incentive -- because we -- all the other leaders have a party like UK independence party in their own domestic political scene. And they're -- the only way that they can basically prevent them from benefitting from that is to take a very, very hard stance on this.
REHMKaren, you wanted to add.
DONFRIEDI think it's important when we think about the implications of a UK exit from the European Union that the implications go far beyond that relationship. There will be domestic political reverberations. It's not at all clear that David Cameron could stay on as prime minister. He very likely would have to step down. And then, you think about the United Kingdom. Scotland is the most pro-European part of the UK and there's expectation that if there were a "no" vote, when Scotland overwhelmingly would've voted yes, that it could lead to a breakup of the UK.
BURWELLI think that's actually -- it sounds farfetched, but it actually -- there is a possibility of that. I agree very much with what Jacob said about the nastiness of the process of divorce. There's a two-year window for negotiations and after that, if it's not done, Britain immediately is no longer within the treaties. So Britains will no longer have the opportunity to work and travel in the rest of the EU and there will be some real issues in terms of trade policy and the shipment of goods, et cetera. So there's a whole bunch of things that I think have not been thought through.
BURWELLOne of the other issues is the issue between the UK and Ireland. Ireland will remain in the EU and there has been a lot of work between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and now there will be a real border between those two.
LUCESo this is where the importance of President Obama's visit comes in. Those arguing to leave, for Brexit, are saying that, look, we might leave the European Union, but we'll get a big free trade agreement with the United States. They have a very Anglo-spheric vision of the world and all will be fine because we're a free-trading nation. Now, it takes a long time to negotiate a free-trade arrangement.
REHMIndeed. And when we come back, we'll talk more about President Obama's visit with David Cameron, what he hopes to accomplish and, indeed, the importance thereof. Short break, stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about the prospect or even the possibility that the United Kingdom will vote to leave the European Union. The International Monetary Fund has warned that withdrawal from the EU would harm both British and global markets. Just before the break, we were talking about President Obama's visit to Britain later this week. Here's a comment posted on our website by Andrew, who says President Obama should keep out of the discussion. America would certainly not give up sovereignty to a group of unelected officials. Can you imagine the U.S. governed by Mexico? That's not quite what's happening here, is it, Fran?
BURWELLNo it's not quite what is happening. I don't find the analogy at all correct. But your commentator is correct in raising the sovereignty issue. It is very usual for a U.S. president to go and to make comments about a domestic, quote-unquote, topic, even though I would point out we have an enormous stake in this. So we have a stake not only in terms of economics, the trade, trading relationship with Britain through the EU but also because Britain has been one of our best partners within the European Union.
BURWELLNot only does it have a very sympathetic view to many of the open trading questions, open markets that we have hoped for, but also it has been one of those who, over time, has argued for a more active and unified European Union on a range of issues. And we no longer will have that partner to go to, to help us at the table where we don't have a seat.
REHMAnd Karen, one wonders where the invitation or the willingness to visit the Brits at this particular time, where would that have been initiated.
DONFRIEDSo President Obama has spoken during his presidency on the issue of the UK's relationship to the EU, and the mantra has been that the U.S. supports strong UK and a strong EU. He did an interview on BBC last fall, he's done other things, but I think he would not be making the stop in London had not Prime Minister Cameron suggested that it would be helpful to the Stay In Campaign that he stop. And as Fran said, we have a lot of interests at play here, too, but you see how carefully the White House is playing this.
DONFRIEDIf you look at the announcement of the stop last month, no mention of Brexit. If you look at the press briefing the White House did last week, this visit was cast in the broader partnership with the UK and the counter ISIL strategy was raised, terrorism and sort of Russia, no mention of Brexit. And what they're saying is we anticipate we will be asked about this, and certainly the president will acknowledge this is a decision for British voters, but as a friend he will share his opinion.
REHMBut is it pretty unusual for a U.S. president to get involved in a particularly domestic issue?
KIRKEGAARDWell now only -- absolutely it is, but it is also perhaps even more unusual for a British prime minister, who is, you know, basically putting an issue where nationalist sentiment is at the center before the voters to invite a foreign leader to come in and opine on it. But I think it's -- I mean, in some ways I can't resist saying that there is an element of President Obama coming her that actually is perhaps appropriate because part of the argument of the Leave Campaign is essentially that we will negotiate a better deal, that we will essentially get everything from the EU that we like, and we will leave everything we don't like on the side, and we don't have to pay for it.
KIRKEGAARDAnd this is of course an argument that we have heard from, you know, a significant contender in the U.S. presidential campaign because this is Donald Trump's argument. So in some ways it's almost appropriate that the U.S. president and only the U.S. president can do this credibly and say, well, these negotiations, at least with us, the United States, aren't going to be quite as easy as you think.
LUCEIt's a part of the Leave case is that Britain will take on the characteristics of countries like Norway and Switzerland, which are outside of the EU but part of the European single market. They're part of the free trade area. But of course they don't contribute to the rules. Norway in fact contributes to the budget and doesn't set the rules, and Britain, Boris Johnson, I think Karen mentioned, and others who are arguing for Britain to leave, as saying, well, look, we'll just a negotiate a deal like that.
LUCEAnd there are two problems with this. One is, if the whole point of this referendum is to reclaim British sovereignty, why are you withdrawing your voice from your largest -- from regulation shaping the rules of the largest market that you're a part of? That's the first problem. And the second problem with it, as Jacob just mentioned, is that attached to that is the idea that Britain will sort of essentially join NAFTA or have a very, very good access to the American market.
LUCEIt takes years and years to negotiate a free trade agreement with the United States. It might -- it might take forever in the current political environment. There is no appetite for trade deals in America right now. And I think to the extent that that is pie in the sky or a fantasy, as critics of Boris Johnson call it, President Obama can factually, tactfully, respond to questions on this subject and set the record straight.
BURWELLI think the question is whether the president will persuade more of the undecideds by setting the record straight, as you say, Ed. And I think what you said is true, there will be no trade deal for a long time. But will he persuade more, of will he alienate more of the undecideds because this is a foreign leader coming in and an American leader. And sometimes the relationship or the attitudes in many -- among many Britons towards the United States and whether Britain should always follow what the U.S. says after the Iraq War, are very complicated.
REHMKaren, I want to go back to something that was mentioned earlier by Jacob, and that is the Panama Papers. To what extent do you think the revelation that David Cameron's parents had established this offshore fund, how are they working into the naysayers about staying in? Are they using that as one of the reasons to get out and to get Cameron out?
DONFRIEDIt may help David Cameron that the Panama Papers are breaking now rather than on June 1. There's always a concern with a referendum that issues that are not actually on the ballot paper affect the outcome. So I think it'll depend on the staying power of this. But it certainly wasn't a surprise to any Briton that David Cameron came from a wealthy family and benefitted from that. But just to follow up on a point that Ed made, which is looking at the example of Norway or Switzerland and what they negotiated with the EU, the Out Campaign, again, is making the case that only if Britain leaves the EU can it regain control over its borders when in fact other countries like Norway and Switzerland only were able to negotiate access to the single market by also accepting free movement of people.
DONFRIEDSo you are still going to have that issue for the UK, and to Fran's point about will President Obama be able to persuade people or not, I think it's very significant that he's having a town hall meeting with younger folks because what you see very clearly is that there is more support for European integration among the next generation than among the older generation. But the issue with the younger generation, of course, is will they get to the polls.
DONFRIEDSo if he can help mobilize that part of the British electorate, certainly it would be helpful to those wanting to stay in the EU.
KIRKEGAARDNo, I guess I just want to highlight another sort of interesting twist on the prospective UK-U.S. relationship post-Brexit. And it's basically one that relies -- that refers to the role of the city of London because there's no doubt in my mind that the situation we have today, which is that the city of London, London, is the undisputed financial center of Europe. It's where most of financial transactions in the euro currency is actually carried out. Well, that's going to change.
KIRKEGAARDThere's no doubt in my mind that the European -- the euro-area government will make regulatory changes to ensure that that is brought back, quote-unquote, onto the continent. And that is sort of -- it doesn't mean that London will not be an important financial center going forward, but is London going to be essentially a global financial center essentially at the level of New York going forward? I don't think so.
REHMFran, let's talk about what happens if the UK leaves the EU. What happens to NATO?
BURWELLWell, I think that's an interesting question because July 8 and 9, so about two weeks after the referendum, we have the NATO summit in Warsaw. And I think this will not disturb some of the things that are going forward on the NATO agenda, about reassurance of the Eastern allies in the wake of Russian aggression, et cetera. But I think the atmospherics around the summit will be pretty tense because this will be the first big meeting among the EU leadership. There's significant overlap among the I think it's 22 countries now that are members of both.
BURWELLSo this is where David Cameron will go and meet his European colleagues, and it will be tense. It will be very tense.
LUCEYeah, I think this is -- if you look at foreign leaders, do any of them wish Britain to leave the European Union? The answer is pretty none except possibly Vladimir Putin. And Vladimir Putin's, you know, been very much backing forces all over Europe that weaken the European Union, and Brexit, I think, would be, you know, like being handed a head on the platter in the Kremlin. It would be...
REHMSo he'd like to see that happen.
LUCEHe would, and Marine Le Pen, of course, leader of the Front National in France, would like to see a Frexit, and she's of course pretty close to -- pretty close to Mr. Putin, as we've been suggesting that her party's received funding from the Russians, which I think keys into the point that Fran, Karen and Jacob have all made, which is that if Britain leaves the EU and conducts two years of negotiations to -- for a new relationship, the price that people like Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel will impose on Britain to discourage the others, to discourage Frexit, et cetera, will be extremely high. It will be a very, very big price Britain will pay for this economically.
BURWELLI agree, and I think that one of the first things we will see, if there is a vote to leave, is that the Eurozone heads of state will get together and will make clear that they are moving forward, perhaps with the Five Presidents Report, and perhaps looking at new places to put the financial center of Europe. Jacob is right about London, and we've already seen in the -- we've already seen real estate prices start to soften in London and people talking about renting rather than buying before the referendum.
REHMAll right, let's open the phones, first to Alicia in Cincinnati, Ohio. You're on the air.
ALICIAYes, ma'am, thank you for taking my call.
ALICIAI believe one of my questions was already answered as to whether President Obama would press Cameron to please hold the line and keep Britain from exiting because the atmosphere from free trade deals in the United States is not good at all. But I had a secondary question. How do the people who are pressing for exit in Great Britain, how do they believe they can negotiate any of these trade deals when they're effectively shutting themselves off from the source, so to speak? I mean, would...
REHMAll right, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Jacob?
KIRKEGAARDWell, I mean, basically, as I think I said before, I mean, they're relying on the Donald Trump argument, which is trust me, I will negotiate a better deal, even though, Ed mentioned it, there is no appetite for it in the United States. When President Xi Jinping was in the UK last year, for a Chinese leader, he quite unusually said we would actually like for the UK to stay in, as well, in the EU. Prime Minister Modi of India has said it. I believe Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada has also said it.
KIRKEGAARDSo who these willing partners that the No Campaign is going to engage with are is simply not clear.
REHMAnd Mike Froman, the U.S. trade representative, actually said in London earlier this year that the U.S. doesn't tend to negotiate free trade agreements with single countries. So it's much more attractive to negotiate with the EU. But I should out that Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, who is supporting an exit, is famously known to have said that he likes to have his cake and it, too. So it is that argument.
REHMAll right, let's take a caller here in Washington, D.C. Rebecca, you're on the air.
REBECCAGood morning, Diane. I've listened to you for many years, but this is the first time I feel so incensed that I have to call in. One of your guests this morning made the sweeping statement that Brits will have great difficulty traveling and working in the EU, and I think that's scaremongering. I would like her to clarify that.
REBECCAAnd the other thing that -- can I just add one comment?
REBECCAThe thing that bothers me is that I have been in favor of the EU exiting for years. I've had all my family and many other people, long before the immigration issue because tragic, absolutely tragic situation. And this is because we do not have representation, adequate representation in Brussels, and we feel the extent of their laws in our country and find this very, very problematic.
REBECCAAnd that is a major reason that people want to be out.
REHMAll right, Fran, do you want to speak to the issue of free travel?
BURWELLSure. So the European Union is based on free movement of people. That's one of its fundamental tenets. And as an EU member, the UK, UK citizens, are allowed to live and work anywhere within the Union. This has made it easier for British executives to work in Paris or wherever. It is one reason that there are so many French in London right now, is because it's reciprocal. It also makes it a lot easier for British retirees to live on -- in the Spanish coast.
BURWELLSo a lot of that is going to come into question. Certainly the automaticity with which this happens will end and unless there is another agreement, which I think is going to be extremely difficult.
LUCEI would agree entirely with what frank said. I mean, it's certainly not a given that the exit negotiations would result in any restriction in anybody's movement, but it's a question of whether the right to work and study and claim benefits in other parts of the European Union. One of David Cameron's big negotiating goals was to get Britain a partial opt-out from the idea that other Europeans could come to Britain and claim benefits. And -- because there's this general sense that there are all sorts of Poles and Hungarians draining the budget. It's actually not borne out by the numbers.
REHMAll right, we'll get to our caller's second question regarding immigration and no representation in Brussels, but firs we've got to take a short break. We'll take more of your calls, your comments, when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. As we talk about an upcoming referendum in the UK on whether to exit the European Union. And just before the break, our caller from Washington posed a second question regarding immigration and the fact that there's no UK representation at Brussels. Jacob.
KIRKEGAARDWell, I mean, starting with the second part, it's certainly the case that the European Union works through a system of voting weights and that the UK, therefore, doesn't have a majority. It only has a weight that is sort of a weighted average of population and gross domestic product. So yes, absolutely, the UK doesn't have full say over large parts of its politics because these are EU rules, and they need to be negotiated in Brussels. So you have, I mean, this is the whole idea of pooled sovereignty inside the European Union.
KIRKEGAARDYou may not like that. You may wish to go at it alone and that's a perfectly legitimate, political position to have. In my opinion, you should just be clear that there are political costs associated with that.
REHMAnd what about the issue of immigration?
KIRKEGAARDWell, on the immigration, I mean, I think Ed has already mentioned it. There's no doubt that under the -- since 2004, the UK was one of the few countries, in fact, the only large country in the EU that did not impose temporary restrictions on the free movement of labor from Eastern Europe. And a significant number of Eastern Europeans, therefore, moved to the UK. But I think it is also the case that the UK has had consistent, for many years, and also accelerating in recent years, inflows of migrants from outside the European Union.
KIRKEGAARDAnd it is coming back to the question about what happens, you know, the day after potential Brexit. The UK will then have to decide, what does it do with its national immigration policy?
KIRKEGAARDAnd, you know, one of the ironies is that those sort of forecast to -- that suggests that maybe the economic negative effects of a Brexit won't be so large. The all rely on basically the UK maintaining very, very large inflows of migrants, which of course, goes against a key part of the Brexit platform.
REHMAll of which, coincidentally, is being debated here in the United States before the Supreme Court today. Here's an email from Susan, who says she spent the weekend with an English couple from New York. They're angry about the way their tax dollars go to support health and family benefits for any EU citizen who moves to England, gets a job, and then gets support benefits for their family back in less wealthy EU countries. They are angry, as are, I suppose, most other UK middle class and poor citizens as their local schools and hospitals are getting less and less.
LUCEYeah, I happen to feel very strongly about this, because this has been one of the most studied issues, in terms of the economic impact. And the results that these studies come up with is that the dollars that you take out of migrants from other parts of the European Union, in tax revenues from the work that they've come to seek, which is what overwhelmingly pulls people into Britain. It's a faster growing economy than the rest of the continent, most of the rest of the continent. The dollars, dramatically, by factors of five, six, seven to one.
LUCEDepending on the study outweighs whatever benefits they draw. So there is this urban myth that the whole of Europe's trying to come to Britain to take advantage of its inverted commerce, generous social benefits. And A, they're not very generous and B, there is a booming labor market, which is why they're there.
BURWELLI was going to say, though, studies also show that those who put in less, in terms of tax dollars and get more benefits are the British citizens.
BURWELLSo, but I would also say on -- when Jacob was talking about migrants earlier, the inflow of migrants from non-EU into the UK is largely commonwealth and what we have seen in this debate is an almost hysterical approach to the prospect of Syrian refugees. The refugee flows that we've seen on Greek shores and then in Calais, et cetera. Almost hysterical press reaction in the UK to the prospect of these hordes of people arriving in the UK. And yet, the UK has almost the lowest percentage, when, when it's looked at in terms of the British population -- related to the British population verses Sweden or Germany or Austria.
BURWELLOr almost any other European country for accepting these most recent groups of migrants who've been coming, migrants and refugees.
REHMLet's go to McLean, Virginia. Charlotte, you're on the air.
CHARLOTTEHi, thank you for taking my call.
CHARLOTTEI'm actually a duel citizen. I was born in Britain. My family is British, but we came to the United States. What I hear from friends and family in Britain is that first of all, they've never really trusted the decision making, the historic decision making of the rest of Germ -- of Europe, particularly Germany, Italy and France. So they have a problem with that, but also culturally, I'm talking about the immigration, that culturally, the people that are coming into Britain now do not respect the culture that is Britain. Especially Americans.
CHARLOTTEAmericans don't understand it, because they're a very transient population, and they don't understand they don't really have the same kind of culture that the rest of Europe does. But I think many of the British family that I have is very fearful that their race and culture are going to be decimated.
LUCEWell, I know that that sentiment is there, that there are people that there is, essentially, if the caller will pardon me, a sort of xenophobic undertone to a lot of this. But the fact is that London is an extraordinarily successful multicultural city where there's not been race riots for generations. Well, for decades. And where the rates of racial intermarriage, if we're talking about non-white immigration, is remarkably high. So, I mean, you know, there are different -- Britain's a big country, relative to other parts of Europe. Not to the United States.
LUCESo, there are different parts of Britain which have different experiences.
LUCEAnd there's a complex story to be told there.
KIRKEGAARDNo, I mean, again, I just want to highlight that the sort of drawing an equation between immigration and European Europe, for the UK, is entirely misguided. I mean, a very significant part of migrants coming to the UK are because of domestic UK regulation that actually, as Fran mentioned, tie all ties to the commonwealth et cetera, that really has next to nothing to do with the European Union.
REHMAll right. To Wilmington, North Carolina. Martin, you're on the air.
MARTINGood morning. Excuse me, it seems like a couple of things I was going to mention are being alluded to earlier. But I believe a great many of the British are deeply concerned about the loss of sovereignty to the European Union. Whereby the European courts can mandate situations or laws in Britain and Britain has no control. I believe even one situation, a little while back, the EU was mandating the prisoners had to have votes. I'm sure there's a great many other situations where hackles are being raised intrusion by the EU.
REHMTell me how Martin, how you feel about Brexit.
MARTINI'm all for Britain leaving the EU. I've been deeply concerned, though I'm a US citizen now, I still keep track of what's going on. But there's altogether too much meddling by Europe in British business.
REHMVery interesting. Fran, your comment.
BURWELLWell, I think that the caller has made a good point. There is, within the EU, European law is superior to national law and there are court cases like the ones that he mentioned where the equivalent of the European Supreme Court has ruled judgments against some of the national policies. But I would say that this is a choice. Jacob mentioned earlier about the pooled sovereignty. This is a decision that countries have made in order to be more effective in the world, to have a bigger economic market. Britain is treated no differently from any other country within the EU.
BURWELLAnd I think that's important to remember, because sometimes when you listen to these debates, you feel like the British are saying that they are being particularly discriminated against, and that's not the case.
DONFRIEDI do think the underlying concept behind European immigration is important to remember, that yes, you are giving up some aspects of sovereignty, but the belief to date had always been that the benefits you were accruing from that were greater. And so, the question for British today is do they still see that? Do they believe that they get more out of being one of the 28 EU member states than not? And I just want to remind our callers that there are options for how deeply you integrate into the EU.
DONFRIEDAnd the two projects that normally people point to is the great successes of the European Project. The creation of the single currency, the euro and Schengen, open borders, where you don't show your passport. Britain has opted out of those two projects.
DONFRIEDSo, there is this opportunity to have different amounts of pooled sovereignty within that greater union.
BURWELLI would say also, it depends a great deal on whether you decide to engage as a member of the European Union. Germany has always taken the perspective that it needs to be central, within the EU, and to play leadership roles. David Cameron is in the room when many of these decisions are made. Or, the British Prime Minister, whoever it is at the time. And they do have strong delegation in the European Parliament, so Britain could be a much stronger player in making these decisions, rather than simply pointing to Brussels and saying Brussels is making those decisions.
REHMHere's a tweet from Lydia. Jacob, she says, my Greek cousin runs a multimedia company out of London. What happens to businesses like his in a Brexit situation?
KIRKEGAARDWell, first of all, such a business will be associated with acute uncertainty. Under the assumption that this is a business that sells beyond the UK's borders, to other European markets, the ability of such a business to conduct such business, under the European internal market, will be highly uncertain. There may be a whole host of other type of issues of what type of media, if it is a Greek business, maybe they hire Greeks living in London and these types with their labor issues that they will be associated with.
KIRKEGAARDAnd then, as I said, I believe that there will be, part of the things that we will see in the months and weeks, is a continuing decline in the pound. So, there is an exchange rate issue that may also affect...
REHMAnd Ed, would banks likely leave London as well?
LUCENone of them, none of them have threatened to do so. I mean, Deutsche Bank, amongst others, have said that they would reconsider their London operations.
REHMWell, wouldn't that frighten a good many citizens in Britain about voting for Brexit?
LUCEI think, my hunch, and I can't back this up with numbers, is that that large chunk of the British electorate that are undecided, if they were going to want to leave Europe, if they were going to want to disrupt the status quo, they would have come out for exit by now. So, my hunch is Britain will narrowly vote to remain, as happened in the Scottish referendum. When push came to shove, but can I mention one thing that we haven't dealt with?
LUCEThat's the geopolitics of this, is that there's a reason why the European Union existed in the first place, was created by the Treaty of Rome in 1956. Backed by Britain from a distance. And that is that Europe had been perpetually at war, and that this was the creation of institutions that wanted to transcend Europe's very bloody history. And I think it's a missed opportunity on the part of those who are arguing for Britain to remain, not to put it in this context.
LUCEThere's a very, sort of, narrow, budgetary arguments are being made about, you know, would we gain, would we lose? The broader context of what Europe is for and why Britain is part of it, is not being put. And I think that's a missed opportunity.
REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Ed, you mentioned Scotland. Here's an email from Kathy, who says when Scotland voted on whether to leave the UK, I believe many people voted to stay because they wanted to remain in the EU. Would Scotland vote again on leaving the UK if it's no longer a part of the EU? Jacob.
KIRKEGAARDWell, I mean, the Scottish Nationalist Party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, I believe came out yesterday and said that if the poll were to show that there was a majority in Scotland for staying in the EU, but that the UK itself, as a whole were to leave, well then, she would regard the situation as such being that yes, Scotland would -- or, she would push for another Scottish vote.
BURWELLAnd then, if she succeeded in getting a yes vote for Scottish independence, then the scenarios of that independent Scotland would seek to join the EU.
LUCEIt should be mentioned, though, that the case last time for leaving the UK was that oil prices are high and we get lots of revenues because we have the most British oil. Oil prices are low now, so they wouldn't be able to make a fiscally rosy case for a Scottish exit.
REHMWhat is the strongest argument that those who favor Britain leaving the UK, what is the strongest argument that they can make? Jacob.
KIRKEGAARDIn my opinion, that fundamentally, the European Union is good for the UK. It's good in geopolitical terms and it's good in economic terms.
LUCEFor leaving, for leaving...
REHMNo, I want for leaving.
LUCE...I think it's an argument of the heart, that we should control our own destiny. This is a complex, globalizing world and we need to just remember who we are and this is the best way of doing that. That's essentially...
REHMHow do you see it, Fran?
BURWELLI see the same. It is the sovereignty argument, it is controlling our own destiny. And the question is, will that win out over the economic arguments that the government is using to argue to remain?
REHMAnd right now, the polls show 50/50, Fran. Sorry, Karen. Do you think that -- what do you think is going to happen?
DONFRIEDI think it is incredibly difficult to predict the outcome of a referendum, because it's so time dependent and event dependent. And things could happen the week before the referendum that would have a profound impact on it. Which is why, I think, you see everyone, including the White House, take this very seriously.
KIRKEGAARDNo, I believe, and I think Ed has already alluded to it, that in the end, the late deciders in these type of referendums, typically break for the status quo. And therefore, they, I believe, also that there will be a not very large, but a majority to stay in.
REHMAll right, we will be watching that and waiting to see the outcome. Jacob Kirkegaard, Karen Donfried, Ed Luce, Fran Burwell. Thank you all so much.
DONFRIEDThank you, Diane.
BURWELLThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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