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2016年2月25日 (木)

英国民投票へ EU離脱なら不安定化を招く

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Europe to be unsettled if Britain opts to exit the EU in coming referendum
英国民投票へ EU離脱なら不安定化を招く

A referendum has been set for June 23 in Britain regarding whether the country should stay in or exit from the European Union.

Should the referendum comes out in favor of departure, there will be no turning back for the country. Britain is the second-largest economy in the EU and a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. If Britain leaves the bloc, it will inevitably have great impact on Europe’s politics and economy. The EU stands at a crossroads.

Calling to stay in the EU, British Prime Minister David Cameron has emphasized, “Britain will be safer, stronger and better off by remaining in a reformed European Union.” It takes into account a recent agreement reached at a meeting of EU leaders to adopt a package of reform measures aimed at keeping Britain in the bloc.

The deal promises to guarantee Britain “special status” as a concession to that country by the other EU members.

It acknowledges that Britain would not commit itself to further political integration. The agreement would enable Britain to restrict social security benefits given to immigrants and would also guarantee not to place a financial burden on Britain or other non-eurozone member states if an economic crisis erupts in the eurozone.

Cameron’s leadership will be tested over whether he will be able to persuade the British public to accept his calls for remaining a part of the EU.

Divisions over immigration

Since last year, the EU has been confronted with the serious challenge of dealing with a sharp increase in immigrants from the Middle East. Each EU country resorted to its own measures aimed at restricting the inflow of immigrants to its respective territory, which has added impetus to the anti-EU movement. If the current situation goes on, European integration could fall into a crisis.

In Britain, anti-immigration party has gained strength in recent years, against the backdrop of an increase in the number of immigrants from Eastern European countries that have joined the EU. Euroskepticism, the name given to skeptical views of the EU, has grown increasingly strong within the ruling Conservative Party, too. Pledging to settle the immigration issue through a referendum, Cameron scored a victory in a general election last year.

Half of Britain’s export destinations are other EU countries. If Britain exits the EU, it will be necessary for the nation to conclude new trade and other agreements with the union. It is certain that the British economy will face greater uncertainties.

The pro-exit camp has criticized the expansion of authorities given to EU and insists to restore sovereignty of Britain. London Mayor Boris Johnson — a prominent figure tipped as a candidate to succeed Cameron at the helm of the Conservative Party, with the hope of becoming the next prime minster — has said he supports Britain’s departure from the bloc. This will likely deal a blow to Cameron.

Johnson and others may expect that Britain will be able to achieve long-term economic development by having the City in London, an international financial center, freed from EU regulations.

Britain’s exit from the EU would lead to a decline in the EU’s presence as a huge single market. It would also weaken the EU’s voice in dealing with such diplomatic issues as the sanctions imposed on Russia and the fight against terrorism.

A number of Japanese corporations have bases in Britain for their business operations in Europe. They could be forced to reconsider their business strategy, depending on the result of the British referendum.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 24, 2016)


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