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Why the Remain Campaign’s Arguments Fall Flat

John Browne exaggerates the consequences of British withdrawal from the EU:

Leaving the European Union would leave Great Britain diminished on the world stage. Where once we were a world leader in trade and global diplomacy, an exit vote would see the U.K. reduced to the level of a second- or third-tier nation [bold mine-DL].

Warning against the loss of Britain’s international status is one of the odder arguments from the Remain camp. If Leave wins and Britain withdraws, the U.K. would still be a permanent member of the Security Council, one of a handful of states with nuclear weapons, and one of the top five or six economies in the world. It is very unlikely that any of that will change. Regardless of how Britain votes on Thursday, it will remain a major power for the foreseeable future. No one could seriously call a state like that second- or third-tier, then there seems to be no claim too ridiculous for this referendum. Britain will have less clout with remaining EU members, and it will not be party to EU negotiations with other states, but it will also not be limited by the need for consensus within the EU when it makes its policies and it may be able to strike deals that are more in line with its particular interests. There is no question that there is a trade-off in British withdrawal, and in the end it may be a trade that the voters don’t want to make, but it is not nearly as one-sided as the Remain camp claims.

The argument is even stranger because Remain needs more than anything to win over disgruntled voters unhappy with the political class’ neglect of their interests at home. That isn’t going to happen by warning about the possible danger to the EU or the decline in British power, which are primarily the concerns of pro-EU elites. Neither of those things is likely to matter very much to people that think their government has ignored them and their complaints for decades. Even if the warnings are correct (and that’s questionable), the possibility that a “Brexit” vote might lead to the break-up of the EU isn’t going to worry voters that already view it with disdain.

The referendum polls have once again tightened, and Remain may end up prevailing after all, but the margin will be so close that it is unlikely that this campaign is the last we have heard about a British exit from the EU.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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