Brexit or Bremain?

The debate over whether or not Britain should exit or remain in the EU is hotting up as it comes to the wire on Weds June 23.  That’s when the referendum that PM Cameron promised the British people in his last election campaign will take place.  After extensive negotiations Cameron claims that he has managed to obtain better conditions for Britain in the EU, and so he advocates that Britain stay in.  The Tory Party is split between so-called Euro-skeptics and Bremain followers of Cameron.  The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn is solidly for staying in the EU.  That is what cost the life of Labor MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a mentally unstable right wing extremist.  But, this is neither a left/right not a rich/poor divide.

The Labour Party is very left in its policies, but many Unions and their working members are solidly against the EU.  They fear further loss of British jobs to migrants from the EU, who have freedom of movement within the EU (note that these migrants are nothing to do with the Muslim migrants fleeing war, such as the Syrians).  In fact the number of EU migrants in Britain is far higher than the early estimates, it is  estimated that there are ca. 350,000 now living and working in Britain.  But, although this may be true it is pointed out that these migrants are mostly not on the dole, they are working hard, paying taxes and have indeed contributed greatly to the full employment and relatively high standard of living in the UK, compared for example to some other EU countries.

The wealthier class is also split, some thinking that EU migration cuts salaries due to competition and this is good for business.  They also fear that losing direct access to the EU market of some 500 million people will be bad for business.  At present the EU buys 44% of UK exports and this would drop drastically if the UK left the EU.  On the other hand, many upper class citizens are right wing in their views and are upset about the loss of control over British life and immigration to faceless bureaucrats in Brussels.

Polls show the two sides are neck and neck.  While Cameron as PM draws much middle class support, Boris Johnson, former Mayor of London and a Conservative who people think has his eyes on Cameron’s job, is a popular and effective Brexit campaigner.  If Brexit wins, Cameron might have to resign and Johnson’s star may rise.  But, if the majority vote to stay in then Cameron will remain PM and many think that a great economic uncertainty and possible disaster will be avoided.  For what it’s worth I think the UK should stay in the EU, mainly for the economic advantages of being part of a huge and border-less market. But, the EU certainly has its problems and the UK will have to shoulder its part of the economic costs of the poorer and economically unsound members, like Greece?  We’ll soon see.

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