WARSAW – British Prime Minister David Cameron has lately begun to speak out about the importance of European Union membership for the United Kingdom’s security. That is probably the most compelling argument for remaining in the EU that Cameron could present to British voters ahead of a referendum on whether the UK should withdraw. But is Cameron, who has promised to hold the vote by the end of 2017, making the security argument too late in the day?
Many claim that, because NATO ensures the UK’s defense, a British exit from the EU (“Brexit”) would not undermine the country’s security. But security and defense are not the same thing. True security entails the expectation that a country will not have to call upon the defense alliances to which it belongs – and that is what membership in the EU, as it stands today, provides.
Between World Wars I and II, America’s defense did not depend on its membership of the League of Nations. But the country’s decision not to join the League of Nations – based on sovereignty arguments much like those now being used to promote Brexit – led to the League’s collapse, severely weakening US security.
Today, the UK enjoys an unprecedented level of security. Despite instability and violence in countries like Ukraine and Syria, the UK does not face even a remote strategic threat. And EU membership virtually guarantees cooperation against the tactical threat posed by the Islamic State.