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英国与欧盟: “Brexit”? UK and EU: “Brexit” or No?

A “Grexit" (Greek exit from the European Union), it seems, has been one of the trending topics for so long. With the general elections coming up in just over a week in the United Kingdom, it might be worth investigating another crucial question to the fate of the EU: What about a “Brexit” (British exit)? 

Prime Minister David Cameron, who leads the Conservative Party, had promised in January 2013 that he would renegotiate the UK’s EU membership and hope and in/out referendum before the end of 2017, if he wins the elections on May 7th. This promise had been opposed by the Labour and Liberal Democrats, who argued that the referendum should be held only if the UK sees further transfer of sovereignty to the EU. Opponents to the potential “Brexit” focus their arguments on the interdependence between the UK and the EU. Back in 1988, Margaret Thatcher famously said that “Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community”. Whilst being part of the EU may dwindle the sovereignty in its independent decision-making process, the UK has enjoyed significant benefits. For instance, the UK avoids tariffs that it would otherwise face had it not been part of the EU. As a result, according to the International Monetary Fund, Britain’s trade with the EU is 55 percent higher than it otherwise would have been. Currently, single-market rules, competition policy and environmental policy in the Great Britain are mostly European, instead of solely national. After all these years of stability, is it worth risking everything to exit from the EU to follow Switzerland’s successful model?

Those who announce that they do not fear a potential “Brexit” in the slightest way accuse others of a “lack of self confidence”, vehemently dismissing suggestions that leaving the European Union could jeopardize British employment and put the UK at serious economic risks. UKIP (Independent Party) leader Nigel Farage was quoted by the BBC, “We’re told we’re not strong enough….[This is] a collective lack of self-confidence that our political class has in this country, in this people, in its entrepreneurial flair, and its businesses.” Further citing examples including Switzerland’s free-trade agreement negotiations and Iceland’s tariff-free deals with China, both of which were successful despite that neither countries were part of the EU, Farage confidently labeled the EU as an “ageing, declining, ailing part of the world economy”. This statement can be backed up by the undeniable amount of red-tape burdens and increasing number of immigrants, both of which are prices that the UK has to pay for its EU membership. The UK, therefore, would “do better as an independent nation”. Although the UK has significant trading partnerships with other EU members, it is simultaneously noticeable that Asia and America have formed increasing closer economic partnerships with the UK.

The heated debate is still ongoing on both sides. The UK’s relationship with the EU is often described as “interdependent”. In historical terms, exit from the EU has been extremely rare. Yet, a “Brexit” has become more of a “real” concern to many, not just in the UK, but also among EU member states and worldwide, since our world has grown so interconnected in economic and political terms over the decades. “Brexit” is a complicated question that involves a range of political questions and economic tradeoffs. With an unpredictable future ahead complicated by Greece’s new party Syriza and uncertainty about the UK’s commitment, perhaps only time will tell what will happen to the EU. 

Works Cited:

http://www.bbc.com/news/election-2015-32465547

http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21647594-longer-term-britains-discomfort-eu-may-turn-out-be-bigger-risk

http://money.cnn.com/2015/04/24/news/economy/uk-election-europe-brexit/

 
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