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Can the UK Survive Brexit?

The upcoming referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership in the EU, almost certain to be held this year, could turn out to be yet another major catastrophe to hit Europe. If, as seems increasingly plausible, British voters chose to leave, the result would be a profoundly destabilized EU – and a shattered UK.

LONDON – The upcoming referendum on the United Kingdom’s continued membership in the European Union, almost certain to be held this year, could turn out to be yet another major catastrophe to hit Europe. If, as seems increasingly plausible, British voters chose to leave, the result would be a profoundly destabilized EU – and a shattered UK.

The problem is that, with the EU seemingly mired in perpetual crisis, the case for “Brexit” carries significant intellectual and emotional allure. Even before the eurozone’s debt problems emerged in 2009-2010, it seemed clear to many British that, in order to be resilient to shocks, a currency union requires greater integration, in particular, some form of fiscal union. In other words, Europe would need to act more like a nation-state. And that is one arrangement that the UK has never been willing to abide.

And, on an emotional level, fear of large-scale immigration, from both within and outside the EU, has fueled a populist backlash, which the recent refugee crisis has intensified. The populist response relies on the bizarre but evidently resonant argument that Europe – or, more specifically, Germany – is encouraging the refugee inflows.

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