OPINION: United Europe key to everyone’s safety – Daily Record

6 months ago Comments Off on OPINION: United Europe key to everyone’s safety – Daily Record

A spot of tea with Queen Elizabeth might have given President Obama one of many openings during his two-day swing through London to push a top item on his agenda: Please Britain, don’t abandon Europe.

Europe is on the verge of coming unglued — a process that should concern Americans and Europeans, most immediately the British, with equal urgency.

The most immediate hurdle is a curious campaign called Brexit, the British exit from the European Union that has bound together the continent and the island kingdom off its northwest coast for more than 40 years. It’s a dangerous concept from the point of view of both Americans and the other 27 members of the EU. On June 23, citizens of the United Kingdom will vote on whether to stay or leave. Right now, the outcome is too close to call. And rhetoric from America’s presidential campaign is only inflaming matters across the sea.

A Europe with a single front to the world — and single-minded attention to problems, challenges and opportunities as well — is all that stands between us and chaos. We would be looking at broadening terror attacks and a shredded trade and economic system that can only cost jobs and profits on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world.

The problem is not even Brexit alone — though that would spell no end of trouble. It’s the centrifugal forces such an action might cause. Already, polls show that a majority of the French want the chance to vote too, and the sentiment in favor of an exit is equally powerful in a host of other member states. Yet the EU, with Britain as a member, is perhaps the only bulwark that stands between order and all but unthinkable upheaval.

First, take terrorism. Even with a solid EU, the Belgians and the French were unable to mount a sufficiently coordinated effort to prevent horrific terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris within months of each other. Pro-Brexit Brits believe that by erecting walls to the rest of Europe, they’ll be a whole lot safer. Hardly. Britain never has been a part of the borderless Schengen system that allows free travel from Greece in the far southeast to the northern coast of France without passing a single border checkpoint. Yet Britain has itself been subject to terrorist bombings. A further splintering of Europe would only give greater comfort to an enemy that values mayhem and division.

Then there is the colossal refugee problem. A united Europe has managed to parcel out carefully the quota of refugees from wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who can be admitted and resettled. With no central authority, refugees will be seeking to break down barriers across the continent. Efforts to control or monitor their goings and comings would be all but futile. Brexit proponents point to the 3,000 Europeans who’ve traveled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State terrorist group and whose return to Europe could be more closely monitored by a Britain acting independently.

Indeed, Sir Richard Dearlove, a former head of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, notes that “European defense and security policy has proved to be little more than an aspiration. A European Rapid Reaction Force has not matured into an effective expression of Europe’s aggregated military power.” But a fragmented Europe can hardly be a safer Europe.

The biggest concern, though, is trade and tariffs. U.S. trade representative Michael Froman recently swept through London to prepare for the 13th round of talks designed to produce a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement before the end of the Obama administration, and before contentious national elections in France and Germany could push any such pact into 2018 and beyond. Imagine the turmoil should Britain pull out of the EU, and other countries use this precedent to spin off their memberships.

Suddenly, Britain would be negotiating new trade agreements with the United States and dozens of other countries that have pacts with a united Europe at the very moment Europe would need to start negotiating its own new agreements without a Britain. Not to mention a possible Trump presidency that would seek its own new pacts with the world. Such a recipe for chaos could send prices for everything from basic farm goods to imported T-shirts through the roof.

In 1987, President Reagan threatened to raise tariffs on British gin, Dutch gouda and French cognac to 200 percent of the price to the importer, which promised to triple those products’ prices in a single stroke. Forces of reason prevailed. But that was without the chaos a Brexit could cause.

Absent our own personal tea with the queen, what can America do to pull the British back from the brink? First, make sure that the trans-Atlantic trade pact, still on life support, is resuscitated and that Congress moves quickly to ratify it. Second, tone down the rhetoric that suggests America is better served on its own in a splintering world than as part of an increasingly united world — if only in terms of security and trade. Such moves would tilt the scales against Brexit. And allow us all to breathe freer.

David A. Andelman, a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors, is editor emeritus of World Policy Journal and author of A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today. On twitter: @DavidAndelman.

OPINION: United Europe key to everyone’s safety – Daily Record

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