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In: the case for Europe

Britain should vote to remain part of the EU. Here’s why

The 23rd June referendum on whether the UK will stay in the European Union will be an immense jolt to the country’s politics and economics whatever the result. If British people vote to leave, they will deliver to the country one of the most momentous shocks since the Second World War. If the UK votes to stay, the resulting tumult within the Conservatives could lead to the end of one of the country’s main political parties as we now know it.

The campaign has unleashed tensions within that party and the nation that are the opposite of what David Cameron intended three years ago when he committed himself to a strategy of “renegotiation and referendum,” hoping to settle once and for all the Conservative rift over Europe. When Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, consulted his 27 counterparts in the EU last year, he found them agreed on only one thing: that Britain’s Prime Minister had been crazy to set the referendum in motion.

Some of the debate has been illuminating; much has not, and much has veered towards comedy as one side or the other has invoked Norway, Albania, or other countries which in few ways resemble Britain as a vision of the future. Much of the dialogue— particularly the claims to have the monopoly on truth in judging the economic impact—resembles the kind of accusation with which journalists are particularly familiar: “You’ve got your facts wrong. The facts are that I’m right.”

Nonetheless, I have set down here the reasons why I think the vote should be to “Remain.” This also represents the position formally taken by Prospect magazine, which occasionally does endorse a position ahead of a vote. However, I have not attempted a comprehensive rebuttal of every facet of the “Leave” campaign, as some publications have done. I have concentrated on the three main reasons, as it seems to me, why the “Remain” case is overwhelmingly stronger. They are the uncertainty that would follow a “Leave” vote, the economic impact, and the damage that Brexit would cause to Europe, to democratic values and to the west.

I acknowledge that an argument cast in this way does not answer all the challenges and passions of the “Leave” campaign. Indeed, one of the fascinating aspects of the debate has been how people—often from different political parties, and wielding very different arguments—have joined together to back one side. I took part in one panel in the House of Commons with MPs Kate Hoey (Labour) and Bernard Jenkin (Conservative) on the “Leave” side, and Nicholas Soames (Conservative) and Tristram Hunt (Labour) on the other; the argument was, as ever, deep into the economics when Peter Hitchens, the columnist for the Mail on Sunday, bellowed out: “I can’t see what economics has to do with it at all. This is about sovereignty, about liberty.”

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s June issue: Bronwen Maddox lays out the case for Britain to stay in Europe—the position taken by the magazine. Mikhail Gorbachev explains his hopes for Russia, suggesting that the claim democracy is bad for Russia is “balderdash.” Rachel Sylvester looks at the Conservative Party and explores what might happen to the Tories after the EU referendum. Also in this issue: Nicholas Shaxson and Alex Cobham unpick the world of hidden money and what Britain can do about tax havens. Neil Kinnock argues that Labour isn’t making progress under Jeremy Corbyn and Jason Burke examines Islamic State and the networks that underpin their attacks. Plus Stephen Bayley asks was BritArt any good?