Brexit could leave the UK staring longingly at Europeby Anatole Kaletsky / May 19, 2016 / Leave a comment
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“Shackled to a corpse” has become a favoured cliché among Brexiteers rationalising their aversion to formal links with the European Union. A variant of this grisly image among milder Europhobes has Britain delivering the mortal blow that will put Europe out of its misery. One way or the other, a diagnosis of EU terminal illness is now widely accepted by Britain’s dinner party consensus.
But what is the clinical evidence? Europe’s morbidity supposedly shows four main symptoms: populist politics; economic failure; geopolitical chaos on its borders; and inability to cope with immigrants and terrorists. But are these maladies connected to the EU?
Attributing populist politics to EU institutional failings becomes absurd once we consider recent political events in the United States or indeed Britain. However worrying the rise of the French Front National or Alternative für Deutschland, the possibility of Donald Trump as President is much more alarming and likely than any of these parties gaining power. And what about the prospect that Britain’s next Prime Minister will be either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn?
“Europe, far from staggering towards its death bed, is actually enjoying a growth spurt and now outpacing both Britain and the US”
The same goes for geopolitics and migration. Judging by the Trump campaign, many Americans are more incensed by multiculturalism and immigration than European voters. As for geopolitics, does anyone believe that American or British diplomats have been more successful than their EU counterparts in dealing with Iraq, Libya or Ukraine?
Which leaves economic failure as the only real intimation of mortality that can plausibly be connected with the EU. But focusing seriously on economics, we find that Europe, far from staggering towards its death bed, as portrayed by Brexit propaganda, is actually enjoying a growth spurt and by several measures now outpacing both Britain and the US.
In the first quarter of 2016, the eurozone’s 2.2 per…