Having a referendum on whether or not Britain should exit the European Union (EU) is one of the dumbest political ideas in years.
It was David Cameron’s idea – who is not normally this stupid. But his zeal to be reelected in 2015 got the better of him. His ambition to win drove him to promise his own restive Conservative Party that if he remained as Prime Minister, such a referendum would be held.
Now, to his obvious dismay, the increasingly likely outcome is that he, and Europe, will lose. Contrary to what Cameron wanted and intended, the indicators are that on June 23 Britain’s electorate will vote to leave the EU.
There are all sorts of reasons this is a bad idea. A miserably bad idea. They are political, economic, and social. But above all to quit is to forget. It is to forget that during the 20th century the bloodiest continent by far was the European continent. It is to forget that the EU was stitched together, slowly and painfully, primarily, precisely, to preclude this sort of bloodshed from ever happening again. It is to forget that whatever its deficits, the EU has been among the most heartening political accomplishments of the last seventy-five years.
In their fear and loathing, especially of immigration, increasing numbers of Brits are planning to vote to Leave. If they end up winning, if they vote for Britain to ditch the EU, not only will Cameron’s name be sullied, they will give democracy a bad rap.
Assuming the Brits vote to leave the EU, the short term concern will be about the serious, deleterious impact on markets. But, assuming the Brits vote to leave the EU, the long term concern will be about the serious, deleterious impact on politics.