One of the central criticisms levelled against the Leave campaign is that Brexit would constitute a leap into the unknown. The Remain campaign say that leaving the EU would be too much of a risk – especially since advocates of Leave can’t articulate what Britain’s future would look like outside the EU.
What kind of trade deals would we strike? What would happen to inward investment? These are important points, and it’s true that the Leave campaign struggles to provide definitive answers.
However, those insisting that Britain’s best interests lie in remaining part of the EU should also be expected to answer concerns about the project’s political and economic future. What will happen to Europe’s economy? How will the migrant crisis be resolved? It’s not just the Leave campaign facing unanswered questions.
Helpfully, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) will today publish its five-year outlook for the EU, in a report entitled Europe Stretched to the Limit. Those looking for the optimistic case for EU membership should look away now.
According to the EIU, the next five years will be the same as the past five: “a messy process of muddling through” – characterised by “suboptimal policy solutions and suboptimal growth”.
An ongoing productivity crisis, an over-reliance on central banks, massive pressure from the migrant crisis and an inability to manage the implications of populism will leave the Europe of 2020 “a troubled place”.
Faced as it is with such economic and political difficulties, the EIU concludes that Europe “would need to integrate much more substantially to find solutions to the crises it is facing”. Just as the Leave campaign has a responsibility to acknowledge the risks of Brexit (and to make the case that the prize is worth it) so too must the Remain campaign recognise and confront the risks of continued membership.
Their task is to demonstrate that the UK would be better off in the EU regardless of the uncertainties and difficulties that the project faces. Despite the best efforts of the Remain campaign to paint itself as the risk-free option, the public must recognise that there is no risk-free option on the ballot. When that’s understood, the real debate can begin.