Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Toomas Karmo: Contribution to Brexit Debate (Diplomatic-Leverage Question)

Ordinary European voters even outside the United Kingdom are this month obliged to ponder the Brexit Question. UK citizens alone get to vote. But other Europeans have to think. 

This is, to be sure, a civic duty difficult for those of us with little time to spare for the reading of editorials. 

I myself have an obligation to say something, while being obliged to make my remark brief. My twin duties stem from my position in Europe, as an individual intellectually and legally inside, and yet just barely inside. I am an Estonian national, born in Canada in 1953, residing for much of my life in Canada (in the UK for just the period  from 1974 September through 1978 August), and residing in Canada now. 


There is some temptation to frame the Brexit Question in economic terms. Is the economic interest of the UK (one is tempted to ask) better served by Being In or by Being Out? 

Economic terms are, however, superficial. At a deeper level, the question is one of European political responsibility. 

It will be conceded by all sides in the Brexit Debate that the UK has an obligation - now as at all previous points in its history - to contribute to the communal European political culture. If British civic values are to mean anything, they mean at any rate this much. No side in the Brexit Debate will find it morally admissible for the UK simply to wash its hands of Europe. All sides in the Brexit Debate will deplore the 1938-09-27 broadcast of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain - the broadcast in which the then Prime Minister regarded then-pertinent affairs on the Continent as "faraway", involving "people of whom we know nothing". 

My sole point in the Brexit Debate, then, is this: UK voters must decide whether their nation can best discharge its admitted responsibility of contributing to the European polity from a position outside or, on the contrary, from a position inside the European Union. To put this same question in different words, in an effort to maximize clarity: Which position has, on the balance of probabilities, the greater political influence; i.e., the greater diplomatic leverage; i.e., the greater potential for achieving communal European goods? 

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