Brexit: What if the UK left the European Union? | WHAT IF?

Brexit: What if the UK left the European Union? | WHAT IF?

David Cameron: “We are approaching one of
the biggest decisions this country will face in our lifetimes.” Dalibor Rohac: In late June, British voters will decide whether
they want the UK to remain a part of the European Union, or whether they want the UK to leave. The consequences of Brexit would potentially
be enormous and would go well beyond its effects on the British economy or on the European
economy. It is therefore time to ask the question:
What if the UK left the European Union? So let’s assume British voters on the 23rd
of June decide to leave the EU. What are the options for the United Kingdom? First, if the UK wants to retain its access
to the European single market, it could become a member of the European Economic Area like
Norway, or Liechtenstein, or Iceland. By doing that, the UK would still have to
apply a bulk of European legislation. If you look at the example of Norway, you’ll
see that Norway still applies three-quarters of the existing EU legislation, has to contribute
into the common European budget, and has absolutely no say over the content of the European legislation
it has to apply in order to comply with the rules of the single market. And many Norwegians, therefore, argue that
by staying outside of the EU, the sovereignty of their country has been weakened, not strengthened. The other option for the UK would be to negotiate
a series of bilateral agreements with the EU, guaranteeing its access to the single
market. But that would not solve the fundamental issue,
either. The EU is the world’s largest economy and
it is fairly obvious that it is therefore in the better negotiating position vis-à-vis
third countries than the UK would be outside of the EU. Furthermore, the UK would still be required
to follow a large part of the European legislation, namely that part that pertains to the single
market. The British could also decide not to be part
of the single market. It could decide to negotiate a trade agreement
with the EU that would give them some form of access to the single market. Maybe be part of a customs union with the
EU without being part of the single market. That comes at a cost. Most customs agreements—even the agreement
that’s being negotiated with Canada and the EU—do not cover services. And services are an important and growing
part of the British economy, especially in the area of finance. The city of London is one of the most important
financial capitals in the world. Its appeal to large banks, hedge funds, venture capital
firms, stems from the fact that it serves as a gateway for operations throughout the
European Union. A single set of financial regulatory rules
applies throughout the EU. And if the UK were to leave, it’s unclear
that the city of London would still have that same appeal if the UK decided to extricate
itself from European financial regulations. Therefore, many of these businesses, many
of these banks would probably find it much more interesting to operate from, say, Frankfurt
than from London. The critics of the EU sometimes contrast the
European Union with a Europe of sovereign, democratic nation-states that they want to
return to. Obviously, we could go back to a Europe of
sovereign nation-states. But we should realize that Europe, as it is described by Eurosceptics,
is a completely ahistorical fantasy. A Europe of sovereign nation-states of the
end of the 19th century or early 20th century was a Europe of rising protectionism, economic
nationalism, authoritarian regimes, and ultimately of recurrent conflicts. The regime in the Kremlin has also been actively
actively supporting nationalists and Eurosceptics, and anti-establishment movements across Europe. The more Mr. Putin undermines European unity,
the more he weakens European resolve to confront Russia’s expansionism in Eastern Europe, the
more Mr. Putin has to gain. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that on all
the Kremlin-connected propaganda networks, including Sputnik or Russia Today, we’ve been
hearing praises of Brexit for months and months— trying to dismantle the EU, which has been
historically the most successful attempt to bring peace and economic openness to the European
continent, would likely jeopardize many of the achievements that we’ve seen and that
we are now taking for granted in Europe. Nobody’s arguing that the UK’s exit from the
EU, in and by itself, would be a geopolitical catastrophe. We’ve seen many friendly, amicable divorces
of political unions in the past. One example comes from my own home country of Czechoslovakia
that disintegrated in 1992 on very friendly terms, keeping many of the existing political,
economic, social, and cultural ties intact. However, at a time when Western unity comes
under unprecedented stress, Brexit would give ammunition to the enemies of free societies
across Europe and beyond. It would strengthen Vladimir Putin, it would
strengthen nationalist movements, and could lead to a whole range of unpleasant, unintended
consequences going way beyond its immediate impact on the British or European economy. I have more to say about Brexit, about the
EU, and about European reform in my forthcoming book, “Towards an Imperfect Union” which is being published with Rowman & Littlefield
in May. But what are your thoughts on Brexit? Please
do let us know in the comments section. Also, let us know if you’d like us to cover
any specific topics in AEI’s “What If?” series.

46 comments on “Brexit: What if the UK left the European Union? | WHAT IF?

  1. It's sad that the most compelling reasons for us to remain in the EU aren't about the benefits of staying, but about the disadvantages of leaving. I doubt we'll ever be the sovereign state we want to be.

  2. "EU will bully you if you leave", is not a fucking good reason to not leave. It's a symptom of a corrosion of the originally democratic nature of the EU, and is an indicator that the EU should be dismantled entirely. It's like an abusive lover – you don't stay just to avoid getting punched at kicked by said person, you leave to avoid that happening more in the future.

  3. the biggest obstacle of British economy is the nationalism. Germany managed to enhance German vision with European vision. British identity is always isolated. the outcome of the referendum will not fix this problem, British cannot integrate or evolve or at least face the reality of 2016.

  4. OMG we have audio of soldiers dying on the Western Front to support the Bremain argument. Ironic that the overwhelming majority of continental EU members fail to meet their NATO obligations.

  5. At 3:45, the EU is an authoritarian regime, highly undemocratic and it's poking the Russian bear expecting not to start a war (despite already having caused a civil war in Ukraine). Seriously. Fuck the EU.

  6. Also nationalism isn't bad by definition. There's nothing wrong with being proud of your country and your ancestry. Just don't turn it into supremacy etc.

  7. Czechoslovakia split without a referendum after the velvet wars, how does that represent the peaceful democracy ur selling?

  8. You don't consider the effect of the UK adopting unilateral free-trade which is the best option in regards sovereignty. Further many advocates of Brexit do not suggest returning to 1914. In fact they support many secessionist movements. In fact many Brexiters would rather see many, many smaller countries for example Basque, Catalonia and Madridian) rather than for example the Austro-Hungarian Empire returning. Also you ignore the great boon the classical gold-standard was to the world economy prior to the First World War – it wasn't perfect but significantly better than paper currency. Also the UK made great moves towards free trade in the late 19th century. If it hadn't have been for the 1st World War it could have been significantly different. Further, you need to make the case why the EU has brought peace and prosperity rather than just show that it has correlated with it. Similarly, what incentives were in play that leads sovereign, nation states to tend towards protectionism.

  9. The EU was supposed to boost the economy of the european countries (which it has), but it has become somewhat of a tyranny as well. I guess in technical terms you could say the confederation wants to be a federation…

    Which is perhaps not too bad, but the democratic theory does not cover a international level like this. The EU needs a reform, but figuring out how to create the europe of the future is not a easy task

  10. Not only did i just watch a video campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU but for Norway to JOIN. Let's start with Norway – everyone needs to stop bullying and nagging Norway to join. They dont want to. Opinion poll after opinion poll shows this.

    And Brexit would strengthen nationalist movements elsewhere in Europe? GOOD. Nationalism is only a dirty word in Europe. From Latin America to Asia to Australia and so on, national sovereignty is valued. And contrary to this video does not equate to us being 19th century despots. Indeed, the Asia-Pacific is carving out free trade agreements without the unnecessary inclusion of political union.

    And while you can ask what will happen if Britain leaves. You could also ask what if it stays in this undemocratic behemoth. Which for example will ignore the recent Dutch referendum, right?

    As for Putin – I don't like him. But no Russian leader would be fine with a United States of Europe superpower slowly emerging on its door step for a century or more of regional tension (so much for that peace you say the EU creates). As for keeping an aggressive Russia in check? That's what NATO is for.

  11. One Eurosceptic video (kind of token at this point) and like five or such Europhile videos? It's clear that AEI is pro-EU. Which is fine, it has a right to be if it wants. But its veneer of being undecided or neutral on this issue is not working.

  12. yeah the European Union's argument consists of sacrifice your sovereignty or sacrifice your economy. or sacrifice your economy and your sovereignty. the EU is a fundamentally undemocratic system and because of that it must die.

  13. An intelligent piece by a highly articulate economist, who instills hot debate with refreshing, coolheaded logic from several vantage points. Rohac looks like one to watch. And his book one to read. Brex-takeyourcoatoffandstayawhile.

  14. If the European union was simply about trade I would want to stay. I am voting leave because I don't want frau Merkel to do to London what she has done everywhere else in Europe.

  15. What a dishonest load of horse shit. Give the enemies strength, the rise of fascism, and even trying to use fear mongering. The 4th Reich needs to fall. Anyone notice they didnt post any pics of Turkeys president?

  16. Eu also support (corrupt) foreign country Look at Ukraine, europe send tons of money, they replace a billionaire by another, and the new billionaire supported by europe is in the panama papers….

  17. According to the Guardian, a Brexit would cost British households 1 monthly salary / year before 2020 (£ 2200), see According to the Guardian, a Brexit would cost British households 1 monthly salary / year before 2020 (£ 2200), see

  18. propaganda, brought to you by globalists……. fear mongering seems to be the preferred method of control.

  19. Vote Brexit, the European Central Market and Bank are undemocratic anyways. Why fold to fear mongering from politicians and others who know that if the 5th largest economy in the world leaves the EU, then America would have to save the EU from impeding bankruptcy bc the UK will no longer be contributing to the European Central Market and get a net loss for a return from it. Common sense alone shows we should leave, if the best arguments are fear mongering what ifs, the answer is to not give in to fear and vote for true sovereignty

  20. fuck the EU

  21. What he's really trying to say is "please don't leave, if you leave the rest of Europe will collapse and I won't get my 300k a year"

  22. 03:40 : "protectionism, economic nationalism and authoritarianism" – you pretty much describe the EU there mate.

  23. If we leave, european union wont back us,
    And if trump becomes president, britain will be abandoned by america. We will become little britain with less security lets not mate that happen

  24. It proved to be a propaganda that destroys UK. You have already lost hundreds of billions after the first day of BREXIT (that is UK contribution in EU for 100 years). Good for you, this is a ugly lesson for the UK people that you should not listen to all well made propaganda documentaries 🙂

  25. Ok the EU is not ushering in sharia law and an islamic invasion mentioned below. Listen to this researcher speak, it is true that the EU is a very successful historical feat. The fear coming from nationalists spurred an ill-informed vote that now caused Britain to lose jobs and putting them back decades of rebuilding. The EU is a loosely tied union that protects the majority of people in Europe under a peaceful roof. Europe has seen a century of war and it is unfathamable that nationalists want to end this two decade long respite of peace in favor of divisional poltics spearheaded by far-right leaders. Democracy spoke in Britain and led to an unfortunate result, but their decision needs to be respected. However the European Union is a force for good especially compared to what would fall out if it were to fall apart in Europe.

  26. He makes the extreme assumption that Britain needs desperately link up with the EU rather take the opportunity to link up other countries whereas EU bucreacrats desperately need Britain to shore up their stinking mess. Which London sited bank wants to move to the continent with its bankrupt banks- goodbye profits as they bail those out- rather take the opportunity to link more with the US or India.

  27. If a country is utterly dependent on submission and only capable of agreeing to all terms, then that country needs to take in the fact that it already does not have essentials of sovereignty. So if the entire country is completely dependent on EU for trade the question is not of Brexit but of trade and direction of trade.

    I am told some countries like India have a considerable ability to operate within its borders and can be relatively self sufficient. Other successes like Japan cast a huge net trading world wide and aren't dependent on a single trade route. Wait though there is Germany who also has this world wide trade hitting America and China pretty hard. Not all countries can have this wealth but even countries like Italy, France, Sweden and Poland hit the markets of America. Success in the EU, is use of the trade within the EU, to make the trade outside the EU happen.

    Choice for an independent England? First if the video is true you aren't independent and need to accept it in order to change. Second consider the debt loads of the EU and the possible protection from the falling dominoes. Third accept that a single road way of trade is suicide, at any cost that has to change. Consider it as much as an imperative as the times during the world war. Fourth until considerable trade world wide is established you are part of the EU no matter what you vote.

    I live in a country who is dominated by its superpower neighbor. We don't operate independent and if we try military force will adjust us. We don't have an option, England does but it a tough road.

  28. Ironically, I was more sure that Britain would leave the EU when this video was released than I am now, a year and a half after the positive Brexit vote.

  29. he started off good, kinda took a hard left turn near the end there. The EU corrupted and more countries need to follow suit and exit

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