Voting in the referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Union or break away (i.e. “Brexit”) is well under way in Britain as I write these words, though the results won’t be known until much later tonight or tomorrow morning. Floods. thunderstorms and huge queues (the two great nemeses of the British public) are hampering voting, adding to the excitement.
What are the pros and cons for each side of the debate? That’s not a question with one clear-cut answer. It very much depends on whom you ask. Here are some articles to help you decide, or at least to understand the points at stake. And I add some delightful cartoons from the Telegraph’s cartoonist Matt who pokes such gentle but pointed fun at the whole thing.
For a general overview, here’s the Times of Israel on Brexit:
A record 46.5 million voters were registered to decide Britain’s future in the 28-nation European Union, which was born out of a determination to unite in lasting peace after the carnage of two world wars.
Voters in Britain are deciding Thursday whether the country should remain in the European Union — a historic vote that has exposed deep divisions over issues of sovereignty and national identity.
The heated campaign has seen the nation take stock of its place in the modern world, even as it questions the direction it wanted to take in the future.
“Leave” campaigners claim that only a British exit can restore power to Parliament and control immigration. The “remain” campaign led by Prime Minister David Cameron argues that Britain is safer and richer inside the 28-nation EU.
Financial markets have been volatile ahead of the vote, with opinion polls suggesting a tight race. The pound has surged over the week amid market optimism that uncertainty over the vote would end with a vote to stay. The pound briefly hit $1.48 in overnight trading, the highest level since the beginning of the year.
Opinion polls have consistently shown an almost equal split amongst the British population on whether to Leave or Remain, while the Europeans are already sulking in advance:
EU leaders have warned Britons that there would be no turning back from a vote to quit.
“Out is out,” European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday, dismissing any talk of a post-vote renegotiation of Britain’s membership terms.
French President Francois Hollande warned an exit would be “irreversible.”
A British withdrawal from the EU would trigger a lengthy exit negotiation, leading to the loss of unfettered access to its partners in the EU’s single market and forcing the country to strike its own trade accords across the world.
In Europe, the referendum has raised concerns of a domino effect of exit votes that would imperil the integrity of the bloc, already buffeted by the eurozone and migration crises.
Though many voters fret over the financial consequences of a Brexit, others relish the prospect of taking back power from Brussels and reining in high levels of immigration.
For those of us (including myself) who can’t decide which way to vote (and for us foreigners, which way we’d like the Brits to vote), here are some articles to help you – or maybe confuse you further!
Harry’s Place recommends you look at the people who back each side of the debate, and make your decision based on that, in a letter addressed to the “Dear Undecided Voter“:
Consider the two key figures in the campaign, David Cameron and Boris Johnson. It’s down to you to judge the merits of their respective positions, but also ask why. For the Prime Minister, the decision to include an EU referendum in his party’s manifesto was to try and stem the electoral bleed to UKIP. For Boris Johnson, well, it’s all about Boris Johnson. How about other leading politicians? Jeremy Corbyn’s platform combines criticisms of the EU with a support for Remain. Why? Some has to do with party management (Labour is overwhelmingly pro-Remain while Jeremy is EU-critical), but there is also the view that the EU guarantees certain minimum protections the labour movement have fought for since its inception.
The writer admits that he’s a socialist and is pro-Remain:
I’m thinking about what it could mean for my brother who works for a large multinational with substantial plant based here. I’m thinking about my parents and what change could mean for them as they get older. I’m concerned about my friends who work at other universities, my friends from overseas who are terrified by the stirring up of the passions – to put it in an understated way – and I’m worried about the not insubstantial pot of money my city has managed to access from the EU in lieu of government funding.
In the Tory Telegraph meanwhile, the Leave campaign is more popular, as Fraser Nelson writes of his sadness at voting to leave “An undemocratic and decaying institution”:
When the eurozone imploded, I thought reform was inevitable – and that David Cameron’s renegotiation would be a triumph.
The EU would choose reform, I thought, as a means to survival. I was wrong. The Prime Minister’s 30 sleepless hours at that Brussels summit simply underlined the futility of the task.
If the EU was interested in discussion and reform, it probably wouldn’t conduct summits after a long dinners. Cameron had to force the issue with a referendum threat, and asked for sensible reforms.
They were rejected, and he was humiliated. And with the failure of his renegotiation, the option of a reformed Europe – the one I’ve supported for years – has been taken off the table.
The ever-sensible Tim Marshall explains both sides of the vote and talks about The Day After the 23rd:
The global financial markets may still be a little jittery but should calm down as the overwhelming reaction in that world will be one of relief. In the short term the slight dip in inward investment to the UK should end. There will also be a collective sigh of relief in capitals from Washington to Warsaw, but not in Moscow.
However…. The EU still may not survive in its current state.
The global financial markets are likely to be extremely volatile for at the least several days as confusion reigns amid much scratching of heads as to exactly what the ramifications will be. Eventually, when they realize the sky has not collapsed, there will be some settling down, but the voyage into the unknown will continue to affect the markets. Both sides are guessing how badly the UK and EU economies would be affected by Brexit and, depending on which is right, the effects will either be severe, or, minimal.
Leaving the EU would take up to 2 years during which time the UK would still be officially a full EU member, bound by its laws, albeit being simultaneously semidetached from the club. At the end of the process the deal thrashed out would be put to the European and British parliaments for approval.
The UK would try and negotiate a trade deal with the EU something which could take much longer than two years. There are various models including one which would mean the British could still benefit from the single market, but would remain bound by some EU laws including those on the free movement of peoples. Other models include a free trade deal trying to remove regulatory barriers and protectionist policies. This would be very complicated although its likely several European states would push the EU to accelerate the deal in order to facilitate efficient trading with the world’s 5th largest economy.
The thorny issue of immigration would also have to be sorted out within two years. If London did not allow EU citizens complete freedom to live and work in the UK Brussels would retaliate in kind.
SHAKEN ALL ABOUT?
The above is why our politicians tells us this is an epoch making vote. Whatever the result the effects, other than on the financial markets and on politician’s careers, will not become clear for months, possibly years. But they will be of great consequence.
And how can we talk about politics anywhere without asking “Is it good for the Jews”? Again, the answer is not clear-cut. The Times of Israel reports that British Jews are viewing the vote with trepidation:
A Jewish Chronicle poll conducted in May showed that 49 percent of British Jews wanted to remain in Europe. Just over a third of those balloted (34%) backed Brexit, but 17% said at the time that they had not yet made up their minds. Age made a great difference to responses, as younger voters — who have, of course, never known a Britain not in the EU — were keener to remain, while older people, many of whom may have taken part in the 1975 decision to join the European Union, were more supportive of leaving.
…Jews in Britain have traditionally been nervous of appearing to speak with one voice on UK politics. But when the campaign really got underway in February this year, many Jews were horrified to see their nemesis, the vituperatively anti-Israel politician George Galloway, join UKIP’s Nigel Farage on stage to back the Brexit argument.
Privately, many Jews felt that a campaign backed by both men was something from which they wanted to distance themselves as far as possible. This has continued to be the case despite the involvement of some “Jew-friendly” politicians in the Leave camp such as the outgoing mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the Justice Secretary, Michael Gove.
For Jews there are three big questions regarding Europe: the attitude to Israel, and the future of shechita (ritual slaughter) and circumcision. Britain’s membership of the EU has allowed this country’s Jewish community to take a leading role in defending all three positions. Though there are 27 member states of the EU, only Britain, France and Germany have significant Jewish populations and the expertise to deal with these challenges. European Jews would feel a cold wind on many fronts without the support of their British cousins.
And British Jews, in the last several months, have had even more reason to wonder about the impact of Brexit, as thousands of French Jews, fleeing anti-Semitism, have made their homes in London. The French Jews are boosting once moribund UK synagogues and giving a new tone to Jewish education — some Jewish primary schools now have near 60% French Jewish children. And what would happen to French Jews in the UK if Britain votes to leave?
The European project has brought post-war peace to the continent and relative peace of mind to its Jews. British Jews, buffeted by depression at the anti-Semitic convulsions in the opposition Labour Party, and with a naturally “conservative” with a small “c” bent, are perhaps more likely to stick with what they know and vote to stay in.
However, in Israel, an advocacy group that is allied with the West Bank settler movement is urging British-Israelis to vote in favor of leaving the European Union in Britain’s referendum this week.
Regavim says the European Union is biased against Israel and says voters should oppose the 28-nation bloc and try to weaken it by encouraging Britain to leave. (The EU considers settlements to be illegal.)
Regavim claims that European aid money to the Palestinians has reached terrorists, and that the EU is funding illegal Palestinian construction in the West Bank. It also alleges an EU rule labeling settlement exports to Europe is anti-Semitic, and that the EU funds hostile anti-Israel groups.
So there you have it. Stay tuned for news of the results. If we hear too close to Shabbat I will post about it after Shabbat.
Good luck Britain!