Hey Scalzi, Do You Have an Opinion on Brexit?
Why, yes! Yes, I do!
Bear in mind that the United Kingdom is not my state, and there may be some subtleties to the arguments for and against the UK leaving the European Union that I don’t get. Nevertheless I’ve been following the back and forth for a few months, not only out of my own interest, but because a great number of my friends are British and it’s of interest to them as well — not to mention the UK moving out of the EU would have repercussions that would would likely reach to the US, primarily economically. So, just as UK folks might have an opinion on the US presidential race, so too do I have an opinion on Brexit.
And it is: Were I voting in tomorrow’s referendum, I would vote for the UK to remain in the EU.
Much of that vote, I would note, is based on negatives out of the leave camp, more than a great affinity for the EU. One, the leave camp seems to be playing rather fast and loose with facts, regarding the benefits of leaving, and it’s the sort of obvious lying and exaggerating that doesn’t even allow one to admire the craftsmanship of the effort. I dislike this both as someone who likes his facts truthful, or at least with effort put into their spin.
Two, while not everyone who might vote “Leave” is an appalling racist and/or low-information nationalist, it’s pretty clear that nearly every appalling racist/low-info nationalist is voting “Leave,” and that the people engineering the Leave vote are perfectly happy to leverage those folks to get what they want. If you find yourself on the same side as appalling racists/ignorant “patriots”, you might ask yourself why, and additionally whether you might be more appalling and/or ignorant than you’d like to admit.
Three, it seems to me that near the heart of the Leave vote is an internecine struggle for the soul of the UK’s Conservative party, which, while probably important to David Cameron and a few other folks, is also almost certainly not important enough to have created this particular referendum. The Brexit vote solidifies my opinion that Cameron is not especially canny as a politician; he’s likely to have to resign as Prime Minister if the “leave” vote succeeds, and it’s not entirely out of the question he could be made to resign even if “remain” wins, but only by a small margin.
Fourth, and most significantly, it does seem that even if the UK wants to extricate itself from the EU, it will still have to deal with the EU and conform to EU standards and practices if it wants to trade with the EU, which it will, because the EU is one of the largest single markets on the planet. So essentially the UK gains nothing with respect to the EU, and the EU still gets to dictate to the UK, with the only difference being the UK no longer gets a hand in making the EU policy.
There are other things to think about as well (the possibility of the UK breaking up as Scotland decides to stay in the EU, the Brexit encouraging other EU defections, possibly destabilizing Europe, what happens to the millions of UK citizens living in Spain, France, etc), but the sum up is: Leave seems dishonest, courts bigotry, and doesn’t actually appear to have any real benefit to anyone whose name is not Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson or Michael Gove. The fact that the latest polls show the UK population evenly split on it is a little frightening.
That said, Donald Trump is the presumed nominee for president for the Republican Party, so far be it from me to cast any stones.
And of course, both Trump and the “Leave” initiative seem to be two strains of the same virus, i.e., a few massively entitled folks harnessing for their own benefit the furious yawp of a group of people for whom things are not currently going well, who want to find someone to blame, and who just want things to go back to a time when they are certain things were better — if not in general, then at least for them. In both cases this larger group is very unlikely to get what they want, even if they get their way at the ballot box.
In any event: Remain would be my vote, if I got a vote, which I do not. Hopefully enough folks in the UK will vote that direction anyway.