On June 23, the United Kingdom will hold a referendum on whether Britain should remain in or leave the European Union. In the days leading up to the election, the public seems to be evenly split on whether to stay or go, raising questions about what the European Union would look like without Britain and vice versa.
It is almost certain that a British exit from the EU, referred to as a "Brexit," would have negative economic consequences for both parties, at least in the short-term. It would be a bureaucratic and administrative nightmare as the British government scrambles to recreate rules and regulations that would enable it to continue trading with the single market, as the EU trading zone consisting of 28 countries is known; and as half of British trade is with the single market, there is no doubt that trade must continue. In effect for example, a Brexit would require Britain to maintain the same standards and regulations that were in place when it was a EU member, but would take away Britain's ability to have a say in those regulations. This is directly contrary to the idea of increased sovereign freedom being pushed by the Exit campaign.
The flight of big business is another cause for concern. London is the financial capital of Europe and gives New York a run for its money in global importance. Making the transfer of people, goods, capital and services more difficult by exiting the single market would certainly give pause to the major corporations that call London home, with an eye towards relocating to continental Europe. I believe that less freedom would also make it harder for talented people to come to Britain, and compounded by a loss of businesses could lead to a brain drain that would handicap the UK for years to come, stifling economic activity and innovation with a single blow.
The ugly sentiment driving the exit campaign seems to come down to playing on base fears: fear of immigrants, fear of economic disenfranchisement, fear of change and a call back to a dark part of Britain's history. I believe that the strength of modern Britain has come in large part from the diversity of people and ideas that have found their way to its shores and its unity with the rest of Europe, and to undo that progress would be shameful indeed.
When I was just out of college, I worked for a time in London for a major consumer product company. I was able to operate within Britain without a visa because of the freedom of movement granted to EU citizens such as myself. This time helped me gain crucial experience that has helped my career while at the same time forging relationships with the interesting, talented, and diverse people that call Britain home. It is difficult for me to imagine a world in which Britain closes the door to their European neighbors. In my eyes, both the UK and the EU would be worse off.
In our global world the option no longer exists in which countries can break off and fend for themselves. We are all in this together, and strength and progress can be found in numbers rather than as individuals. I hope that on June 23 the British people come together and cast their votes in favor of a way forward that acknowledges the difficult road ahead while forgoing the easy path of slamming the door and trying to pretend the rest of the world and it's problems don't exist. A vote to remain in the EU would give the UK the tools they need to address the issues they have with Brussels while continuing to strengthen their own economy and that of Europe as a whole.