Opinions - 15.06.2016 - 00:00 

Will a Brexit sweep Cameron from office?

The fact that a large part of the UK’s power has been shifted to Brussels is no longer bearable for many British people. They want to leave the European Union. No matter what the result of the UK’s EU membership referendum will be: 23 June 2016 will change Europe. A guest commentary by HSG economics lecturer Markus A. Will.

17 June 2016. During the birthday celebrations for Queen Elisabeth, there was peace and quiet. Elsewhere “bombs” are exploding, “security fears” are rife and warnings are being issued against the “invasion of criminal migrants”. Thank God these are only verbal skirmishes taking place in the run-up to the referendum. Of course there are serious arguments and economic elaborations, but it is the emotional factor that is prevalent. There is no sign these days of the usual likeable composure and the British sense of humour.

Possible scenarios of a Brexit

PM David Cameron and the Remainers, in particular, have been gripped by sheer panic. If it were not so important, one could gloatingly tell him: serves you right. Only with the promise to conduct a referendum – which is an unusual feature in his country – did he manage to be re-elected in 2015. Now he is acting like a “sorcerer’s apprentice” who is powerless to rid himself of the spirits he invoked. Even if he wins the referendum by a whisker, the Brexit broom might sweep him from office. The Tories are completely at loggerheads.

In addition, Cameron did not only negotiate a bad deal but asked the wrong question – when and how can social benefits for new immigrants be limited? – as if this were the sole existential question. Fundamentally, the EU will have to examine its raison d’être anyway after the decision: what should be the Union’s responsibility, and what should the nations determine themselves? You could say that this is the only good thing about the Brexit debate.

How will it end? Difficult to say: sometimes “Remain” is ahead, sometimes it’s “Leave”. It will undoubtedly be an historic day for Europe, including Switzerland, since only in the case of a “Remain” will a brief time window open for Berne’s diplomats to be heard with regard to the immigration clause. Whether they will be able to manage to come to an agreement about it with the EU and to do justice to the Mass Immigration Initiative is a different kettle of fish. Why should Switzerland be granted more concessions than the UK?

Consequences for the EU and Switzerland

For Switzerland, the Brexit decision and its consequences for the EU are as fundamental as they are for the EU itself. Although people like to compare the Euro-scepticism of Switzerland and the UK (excluding Scotland), the countries cannot be compared: Switzerland is a successful, competitive and export-oriented nation which produces something that sells in the world and, above all, in Europe in spite of the strong franc – thanks to the bilateral agreements.

Apart from the financial centre, the UK is not very competitive. The adversaries of the EU, led by the colourful ex-Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, believe that once free of the EU’s fetters, they will be better off in global terms. The Leavers abominate “Brussels”, the EU’s inefficiency and the free movement of persons. Yet those who are familiar with British bureaucracy and infrastructure will not really describe them as role models. And with regard to the question of the free movement of persons, it is migration policy that is stirring up great waves. The Leavers believe that that their insular position will protect them from these waves. But these days, “Rule Britannia, Britannia, rule the waves” is only sung by English people in football stadiums. The rest is nostalgia!

Picture: Photocase / archimede

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