The British referendum on the Great Britain's exit from the European Union has been highly controversial and a subject of widespread manipulations by politicians and media. "Objectivists" say this has been done on both sides, which is not true. Only a government can manipulate people. The referendum is presented to the British, European and world public as a crucial step of global significance, the result of which (meaning YES) can threaten not only the future of the European integration project, but also world peace and prosperity.

These assessments and these forecasts make no sense and are fully unjustified. They are aimed at intimidating British voters (and the European public) as well as making pressure on them to make sure they would vote “correctly”. The same purpose is being pursued with public opinion surveys, which have recently indicated that membership opponents have been gaining prevalence against membership supporters, which should probably mobilise the latter. In the era of omnipresent manipulation, public mood is very hard to estimate and public opinion surveys have become part of the election game for a long time. Britain is no exception.

The significance of the British referendum rests more on a symbolic ground than a practical one. It does not seem likely that a majority of the Brits would say "yes" to leave the EU. The governing parties, opposition parties and the majority of the political and economic establishment do not wish it either. The Scottish people also do not wish it. Britain's partners in Europe do not also wish that, there is not even a wish of the USA. The most likely option is that the referendum will end up in the NO outcome, but it will be soon forgotten, waters shut over it and nothing significant inside the EU will happen – except for "lessons learnt from brexit". EU elites will be taught to use all possible means to eliminate any political groupings in individual member countries that are critical to the current integration model. And on the top of that such referendums shall not be organised any more.  

Some years ago, many people trusted naively the Prime Minister Cameron that the referendum, advocated by him, was a manifestation of his healthy euroscepticism. That was however, from the very beginning, a trap intended by him. As we could have expected, he joined (only for naive observers unexpectedly) the camp of eurofederalists. His intention was to make silent the opposition inside his political party as well as to steal this topic to Nigel Farage’s UKIP, strong brexiteers. Deep trenches have been dug. The British public, the local political scene and Cameron's Conservative party itself will remain sharply divided after the referendum. It does not appear to be an original Cameron’s intention.

Naturally, there is possible to make different hypothesis on possible consequences of the improbable YES, but we profoundly refuse to accept that such a result could have (except for a short-term psychological shock for governing elites) any disastrous impacts as predicted and with a grave face formulated in British, but even more in  continental "analyses". Such an outcome would make free Great Britain from Brussels's extremely etatist policies in many respects.

It is unclear what a possible brexit would mean in practical terms, which changes would occur and within what time horizon they would happen. Everything would certainly become a subject to long negotiations, transitory periods and different special modes, with the aim to preserve the status quo of the maximum possible current degree. We refuse unreliable claims spreading that all this would threaten the European economy or even the Czech exports. Great Britain would certainly remain a member of the European Economic Area like Norway, or it would negotiate similar status to Switzerland. Nothing would, from the economic point of view, probably happen – or just very little unless we regard immediate panic reactions on financial markets.

The success of the referendum would have a high symbolic significance. It would more distinctly expose the defeat of the current European integration model, which has drawn us into the current desperate marasmus. This outcome would confirm, on the example of one important member state, how much alienated Brussels's policy is from citizens and would prove that the current European integration does not make sense without democracy.

The YES would be a slap in the face of Brussels-based and Berlin-based elites. It would be a call for a change of their policies. Nothing else, nothing disastrous or scary would happen. Let's not become intimidated. Notably, there are the British voters themselves who should not let got intimidated. The victory of pro-Brussels elites can however prove only a Pyrrhic victory. It has become more and more obvious that the public in EU countries is awakening – and this is something that cannot be stopped in the long term.

 

 June 20, 2016

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CATO INSTITUTE
INSTITUT VÁCLAVA KLAUSE
Václav Klaus