If Britain were to leave the European Union, would it survive? Britain is one of the least enthusiastic members of the EU, but other more globally-minded countries are tiring of the protectionism and insularity in Brussels. Reformers in Sweden are aghast at the prospect of Brexit, seeing Britain as their main ally in trying to fight off protectionism (a recent study found an 89pc alignment of our interests, 88pc with the Dutch and Danes). But as many in Britain come to conclude that this fight is lost, and we’re better off out, many Swedes are coming to the same conclusion.
According to a poll by TNS Sifo, the largest polling firm in Sweden, 36 per cent of the Swedes would wish to leave the EU if Brits vote to leave, and just 32 per cent would stay. Remember, this is a Sweden that voted in defiance of its entire political class in 2003 against adopting the Euro. And, of course, a Sweden that has suffered more than most from the EU’s failure to respond to recent demographic challenges: it has ended up with more asylum seekers, per capita, than any country on earth.
This throws open a fascinating new line of argument for Leave. What if those voting to leave, far from being isolationist, are pioneers of a new globally-minded alliance of countries who are fed up with having to discriminate against non-European goods, services and people? Might a vote to leave put Britain at the forefront of a new internationalism: one based on genuine co-operation and respect for sovereignty?
And the Remain camp can, of course, say that Britain would be voting not just to leave the EU but to smash the whole thing. The collapse of the EU would be bound to bring horrid uncertainty: would we wish that upon our neighbours?
All told, Jean-Claude Juncker should – by now – be wishing that he had given David Cameron the deal that he wanted. The PM’s demands were modest, came with a firm democratic mandate – and one would have given him a valuable weapon to use in this debate. A deal granting a looser alliance with Britain and our northern European friends (imagined in Andrew Marr’s Brexit novel Head of State) would have made an ‘in’ vote a certainty.
Without a deal, Cameron was humiliated at home and has to resort to a type of virulent scaremongering which undermines his own credibility and the force of the ‘in’ argument. I always thought that refusing to grant Britain a deal was a big mistake. It may come to be the EU’s last big mistake.
Should Britain Leave the EU?
The Spectator returns with a second Brexit debate on Tuesday 14 June at Westminster’s Emmanuel Centre. As the referendum date looms closer, the polls are neck and neck and tensions are running high. As the campaign enters its final stages, join Andrew Neil for a debate with leading voices from the Leave and Remain camps. Hear from speakers including Suzanne Evans of Ukip, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan and former Conservative foreign secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind. For more information and to book tickets, click here.