Monday, June 13, 2016

Britain's choice on exiting the EU ("Brexit")

Britain votes in 10 days (June 23) on a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union or to leave.

In the political jargon, Britain leaving is known as "Brexit" (BRitish EXIT).

The vote has been running close in the polls. A Leave decision is very possible. (Paul Waugh, CM Opinion Poll Gives Brexit ANOTHER Big Lead: 53%-47% Leave to Remain Huffington Politics UK 06/13/2016; Yahoo! Finance/Reuters 06/12/2016)

The issue is ideologically muddy in that it is the more nationalistic rightwing in British politics, particularly the UK Indpependence Party (UKIP) headed by Nigel Farage. (Brexit campaigner Farage says UK, Italy to launch EU's disintegration Yahoo! News/Reuters 06/11/2016; Elizabeth Piper, Brexit needed to stop 'Orlando-style atrocity', campaign group says Reuters 06/13/2016)

Dani Rodrik gives his own view of the issue in his eponymous blog Brexit and the Globalization Trilemma 06/13/2016.

I have not written much on Brexit because I do not have a strong or particularly well-informed view of it. My personal hope is that Britain will choose to remain in the EU – but that is as much because of a belief that without Britain the EU will likely become less democratic and more wrong-headed as it is because of the likely economic costs of Brexit.

Yes, I do think exit poses significant economic risk to Britain (and possibly to the world economy), though I believe there are very large margins of uncertainty around the quantitative prognostications presented by the U.K. Treasury and many British economists. But there are also serious questions posed about the nature of democracy and self-government in the EU as presently constituted.
The "globalization trilemma" of his title refers to the construct he explains in the post, which basically says that we can have two of three things: hyper-globalization, national sovereignty, and democracy. But we can't have all three.

In the context of the EU Rodrik argues that the current combination of retained national sovereignty and hyper-globalization has constricted democracy excessively: "it is clear that the EU rules needed to underpin a single European market have extended significantly beyond what can be supported by democratic legitimacy."

This has been widely discussed for years as the problem of the democratic deficit in the EU. But under Angela Merkel's domination and her shared commitment with the EU One Percent to neoliberal economic policies, the democratic deficit has only grown bigger. See, e.g.: Greece, 2015. Because neoliberal economic policies can't be easily sustained in a functioning democracy over longer periods of time. See, e.g.: most of Latin America, 1970-2001.

Rodrik says of Merkel's accomplishment:

The manner in which Germany and Angela Merkel, in particular, reacted to the crisis in Greece and other indebted countries buried any chance of a democratic Europe. She might have presented the crisis as one of interdependence (“we all contributed to it, and we are all in it together”), using it as an opportunity to make a leap towards greater political union. Instead, she treated it as a morality play, pitting responsible northerners against lazy, profligate southerners, and to be dealt with by European technocrats accountable to no one serving up disastrous economic remedies.

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