Wednesday, June 22, 2016


The vote tomorrow (June 23) in Britain on whether or not to leave the European Union is an issue fraught with complications.  While it's not the same thing as South Carolina seceding from from the United States, it's pretty close.

The British have always had an uneasy relationship with the Continent, and they've always had a sense of sovereignty that separates them from their mainland counterparts.  Their staunch self-recognition of independence is at odds, though, with the way the world works these days. If the British left the EU, goods imported from the Continent would be more expensive.  However, on the other side, London would have more of a say in its own trade policy and possibly look toward new markets, not so coincidentally in the lands where the U.K. once held colonies.  Also, a British exit from the European community would make it more difficult for non-Britons to work and live there.
It's this last point that has a lot of Brits eager to vote for a "Brexit" - fear of immigrants.  This is what's fueling Donald Trump's presidential campaign in the United States and unease over Arab refugee migrants in the rest of Europe.  The world is getting smaller, and many Brits seem to be pining for a time when their island was an impregnable fortress, standing tall and resolute against foreign invaders.  (The island was invaded only twice in the past thousand years - 1066, when William the Conqueror arrived from Normandy and established the modern English state after defeating King Harold in the Battle of Hastings, and 1940, when Hitler unsuccessfully tried to knock the U.K. out of the Second World War in the Battle of Britain.)  But if Europe is to remain vital after seven decades of relative prosperity, its countries will have to work together.
I understand the sovereignty issue, though, and if I were British and had to decide on what to vote for in the referendum, I'd probably toss a coin.  The fact that Britain still has its own coinage, though, and not the euro, should make the case for staying in the EU and still being able to maintain a general sense of sovereignty.  And the murder of Parliament member Jo Cox by an ultra-right nationalist should appall pro-exit voters as much as pro-EU ones. However the vote - now too close to call in polling - goes, I hope cooler heads prevail.

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