Guy Verhofstadt writes: t is highly likely that David Cameron’s British referendum on membership of the European Union will take place at some point in 2016. Despite the fact that the respective “leave” and “remain” campaigns have yet to begin in earnest, a host of world leaders, including Barack Obama and those of most European and many commonwealth countries, have been privately urging David Cameron and his Conservative party against a “Brexit”.
Despite the economically illiterate central tenets of the leave campaign – that a Brexit will somehow enable Britain to “go global” – it is striking that very few countries, if any, have been campaigning for Britain to leave the EU. This is perhaps because a significant number of countries have committed time and resources to negotiating trade agreements with the EU, of which Britain is such an important part.
Thanks to the hard work of the many British civil servants in Brussels, the EU is now negotiating fully fledged free-trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the US. A deal with Canada is already concluded. The notion that these countries would relish the possibility of negotiating a separate trade agreement with Britain, or indeed that Britain would secure preferential trade deals by leaving the world’s largest common market, is absurd.
British people should reflect on the fact that the only leader who would stand to gain from a British withdrawal from the European Union is Vladimir Putin. There are several reasons for thinking this. [Continue reading…]