There has been a great deal of negativity directed at the idea of a British exit from the European Union. The campaign against Brexit headed by Prime Minister David Cameron, in conjunction with the Labour Party leader and the chief Liberal Democrats serving in Parliament, has been dominated by dire warnings of falling living standards and economic calamity at home, to predictions of greater instability and even war in Europe, should the United Kingdom leave the EU.
Would Britain gain or lose by leaving the European Union? Is it possible the consequences would be neutral, with the costs and benefits of Brexit cancelling each other out?
Britain votes on whether to leave the European Union in a month. If I were a British, it would be a difficult decision, but on balance I would vote against Brexit. The benefits of free trade outweigh the costs of the EU’s regulatory regime.
From its birth classical liberalism has been dedicated to free trade among nations. Trade allows nations to specialize at products and services and which they excel, enriching them all. It creates a larger market, providing incentives for innovation and it is innovation that ultimately transforms the standard of living. This latter benefit is particularly important in this era of technological acceleration. More generally, free trade signals an openness to the world and a tolerance of foreigners. It is a moral as well as economic good.
EU is the largest free trade zone in the world and that counts heavily in favor of staying. But the free zone comes bundled with other more controversial requirements. For instance, membership carries with it the requirement to let citizens of other EU members work in Britain.
In modern democracies, public discussion of the most momentous matters is bound to be reduced to what the political and media elites believe is the lowest common denominator.
On Saturday, after what seemed like interminable haggling in Brussels with his European Union counterparts, followed by a specially convened meeting of his cabinet, David Cameron went to the steps of 10 Downing Street and told Britons that a referendum would be put to them in June on whether Britain should stay in or leave the EU.