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Should Britain leave the European Union?

The Debaters: Jayanth Karuturi (Yes) and Ryan Lafferty (No).

Not familiar with Brexit? Read this neutral take from The Archive:


By: Rushil Yerrabelli  

For more than three years, the United Kingdom has been struggling to reach a deal to exit the European Union (EU). The struggle to reach a deal has caused great political divide in the British Parliament, over one of Britain’s most important decisions of the century. Click here to read a summary of the messy crisis that is Brexit. 



The year is 1957. After the horrors of World War Two, the nations of Western Europe band together in an attempt to promote cooperation and trade, instead of war and destruction. Together, they would form the European Economic Community, the precursor to the EU, as a tool for economic advancement and cooperation. However, as time went on, it would quickly become clear that this European institution meant to preserve peace, had instead created instability. By creating undemocratic regulatory institutions, sharply increasing regional tariffs, and creating a divergence between fiscal and monetary policy, the European Union failed in its noble goal to enhance democracy across Europe. 


As the EU expanded in its membership, so too did its powers. In particular, the formation of the European Council and the European Commission created serious questions about the EU’s democratic legitimacy. Whereas the EU Parliament, despite its flaws, is directly elected by its people, the European Commission and Council constitute “indirectly elected” offices, appointed by politicians rather than elected by the people. And yet, astonishingly, these unelected institutions, with far less accountability than the EU Parliament, hold far more power than the Parliament. In terms of regulation, trade deals, and the vast majority of daily business, unelected bureaucrats in the European Commission hold the power, rather than the EU Parliament, which does not even have the virtue of veto power. But this democratic deficit extends beyond the Commission. The EU Parliament itself, the one institution meant to be the closest to the people, consistently records low turnouts around 40 percent. In a true democracy where people feel institutions are accountable to them, it would make little sense to have less than half of the electorate participate in elections. Rather, it seems that the EU’s credibility as a democratic organization has little meaning beyond rhetoric.


In addition to the EU’s lack of democratic legitimacy, it has utterly failed in terms of economic advancement. Not only has the EU continued to shrink as a percentage of the world’s economy, meaning that it has become a form of an economic jail for the UK, but it also goes against its very principles on free trade. Fundamentally, the European Union is not an organization to advance trade. Rather, it serves to protect European companies and producers with sky-high tariffs on non-EU goods, providing a form of protectionism under the guise of regional cooperation. These protectionist tariffs end up making nearly everything more expensive for ordinary British consumers, from medicine to clothing, all of which could be reduced should Britain leave the European Union. More fundamentally, the issue of high tariffs comes back to the question of democracy, because these tariffs were implemented not by the democratically elected member states, but rather by the European Commission, creating a barrier between the people and the policies that impact their lives.


Finally, a major issue surrounding the EU is the inherent divergence created between fiscal and monetary policy. Put simply, although the Euro is produced and regulated as a currency by the European Union, its member states decide how these Euros are spent in the economy and government services. This divergence can often come with terrible consequences, as was clearly noted in the situation of Greece, wherein relatively stable European countries loaned Euros to Greece, and after Greece’s inability to repay led to a financial crash, European Union members, even those unaffiliated with the Euro, were forced to bail out the Greek government. This instability with the Euro is inherent to the system, and as long as the United Kingdom remains in the EU, it can expect to shoulder the financial pains of a currency that it isn’t even a part of.


Overall, when all the evidence is laid out, it is clear what the EU is. Instead of promoting democracy, it has allowed bureaucrats appointed by politicians to dictate policy. Instead of promoting free trade, it has set up a regional protectionist club that only hurts British consumers with higher prices and lower-quality goods. Instead of creating better financial conditions for its members, it has only served to create instability with the Euro.  The EU has failed Britain. It’s time Britain left.

In an increasingly globalized world characterized by economic interconnectedness and political interdependence, a global order entirely premised on sovereignty and sovereignty alone is unsustainable and insufficient. Britain’s looming departure from the European Union threatens not only the economic, social, and political stability of the United Kingdom, but fundamentally endangers the foundations of European stability as a whole.

Most critically, Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union will threaten the economic stability of the British economy, both now and in the future. Since the E.U.’s inception, a central tenet of the European Union has been the free movement of goods and people across borders. This is often known as Europe’s “single market” – that is, a market characterized by the principles of free trade, such as the reduction of tariffs – and its allowance for the free movement and settlement of E.U. citizens across Europe has allowed for sustained prosperity and long-term economic growth in and around Europe.

However, Brexit threatens these fundamental economic principles. Not only will Brexit make the flow of goods between Europe and Britain difficult – especially given the border between Northern Ireland, a country in the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, an independent E.U. member state – but will also cripple many British industries, including construction, agriculture, and healthcare, by potentially inducing a mass exodus of workers out of the United Kingdom. In the worst instance, under a “hard Brexit” – where no withdrawal agreement is reached between the E.U. and the United Kingdom – Britain could face massive shortages of food and medical supplies, as they are shut out of the European single market. Even under a “soft Brexit” – where the E.U. and Britain negotiate an exit deal to compromise on issues like the Irish border or British involvement in E.U. free trade – British companies will likely struggle to trade as effectively with continental European markets as they did before. And for that matter, there is not even a guarantee that the E.U. and Britain will ever agree upon an exit deal, especially under the tumultuous leadership of Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Moreover, many of Britain’s most successful industries are heavily connected to other European economies. Brexit threatens Britain’s ability to openly trade with E.U. members by (possibly) denying Britain access to the E.U.’s free, single market, and as a result, British financial and automotive industries – which, in many instances, operate extensively in continental parts of Europe – could struggle significantly in the instance where their access to the European market is restricted by tariffs or trade barriers. The Chief Executive of Airbus, for instance, has suggested that his company might consider moving away from Britain when Britain leaves the E.U., and similarly, Aviva, a British insurance company, has already moved nearly $10 billion worth of assets to Ireland in anticipation of Brexit. Perhaps most glaringly, several major British banks have already begun to shift away from Britain; Credit Suisse has relocated several hundred jobs to other European cities, and Barclays has moved over $200 billion to the Irish capital prior to Brexit. Empirically, Brexit is likely to be detrimental to the British economy: in 2015, a year prior to the Brexit vote in June 2016, the U.K.’s economic growth was 2.4% compared to the previous year, but in 2018, growth was a measly 1.5%. Indeed, according to a British report released in 2017, Brexit might lower British economic growth 6.7% over the next 15 years. 

Additionally, Brexit is likely to adversely affect British and European citizens. As a result of Brexit, Britain will lose its tariff-free trade status with other European countries. Consequently, British goods could be subject to tariffs in E.U. member states, which will harm British businesses by making their goods and services cost more. As a result, E.U. citizens will either have to resort to paying higher prices for higher-quality British goods, or will have to settle for lower-quality, non-British made goods. Moreover, many British citizens will be locked out of jobs as a result of Brexit. For example, while Germany is anticipated to have a labor shortage of nearly 3 million workers in the coming decade, British citizens will no longer be able to easily and freely move from country-to-country, thereby limiting their ability to access job markets elsewhere in Europe.

Ultimately, Brexit threatens the social and economic stability of Britain and the European Union. Withdrawing from the E.U. will not only engender economic unrest and political instability, but it will fundamentally undermine the foundations of the modern era premised on globalism and cooperation between nations – two objectives undercut by the primitive nationalism of Brexit.

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