On Thursday, June 23, Britain will hold a public referendum to decide if the isle nation will remain a member of the European Union. The British population is split quite evenly: in a recent poll, 53% of respondents favored Britain leaving the EU, while 47% want to stay.
The EU is a coalition of 28 member states that operate through a cluster of institutions in Brussels, forming the largest transnational economy ever created (worth over €14 trillion). Since its creation, the EU has attempted to heal the continent’s bitter national divisions through increased economic cooperation. The supranational entity has created a neoliberal banner for Europe to unite under that is resilient to advantages possessed by the larger American and Chinese markets.
In theory, the EU should create a “single market” in Europe, with each member state using a common currency and enforcing a standardized system of laws. Those laws are designed to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital as though Europe did not have barriers to trade. With a single market and less domestic state interference, EU companies can cut expenses, disperse investments, and create jobs across Europe with far fewer obstacles. According to a study by the UK Department for Business, the EU’s “single market” has boosted the EU’s GDP by €588 billion from 1992 to 2002, or an additional €5,700 per household.
Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been spouting “single market” rhetoric for months in preparation for the vote. The Conservative Party leader insists that multinational companies would be unwilling to invest in Britain without EU membership.
Cameron may be correct: President Obama’s April trip to Britain signaled his agreement with Cameron’s pro-EU stance, illustrating the Western order’s commitment to laissez-faire global markets. In part, Obama stated:
“[At] some point down the line, there might be a UK-U.S. trade agreement, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon, because our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union.”
However, the average British citizen isn’t concerned with grand financial discussions. In a poll conducted by NBC, immigration easily prevailed as the average Briton’s most important issue facing the country. 63% of respondents believed the number of immigrants needed to be reduced to some degree.
The British public believes in the Western-led economic integration of their Prime Minister; however, they are tired of the EU forcing their doors open with a ceaseless crowd of job-hunters. In October of last year, Cameron admitted that his effort to curb immigration “hasn’t worked so far.” Unable to reach a favorable resolution, the British public has lost hope in Cameron’s efforts to renegotiate with the EU.
Desperate to maintain the ability to enact democratic change within its own borders, Britain is left with no choice but to leave the EU.