From War to Football: Seven Doom-Laden Arguments Against Brexit

  • Vacations to cost more, house prices to fall, `Remain' says
  • Premier League soccer clubs might face losing star names
Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

The U.K. risks becoming a poverty-stricken, war-torn wasteland beset by high mortgage rates if it votes to leave the European Union next month. At least that’s what “Remain” campaigners would have you believe if you take their warnings at face-value.

With just over six weeks until Britain’s referendum on European Union membership, the campaign to stay in has drawn constant accusations of alarmism from the rival“Leave” camp. Prime Minister David Cameron suggested on Monday that war might be more likely if the June 23 vote goes against him and the country quits the 28-nation bloc. That prompted one pro-Brexit group to dub him the “Prime-Minister-cum-In-Campaign-Scaremonger-in-Chief.”

So just what kind of a future does Britain face outside the EU, according to the “Remain” campaign?

Britons Will All Be Poorer

Ministers and organizations opposing a Brexit are falling over themselves to tell Britons how much a vote to leave will cost the U.K. Every household will be 3,200 pounds ($4,600) poorer by 2030, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Or maybe it’ll be worse. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s forecast is for households to be worse off by 4,300 pounds -- or even 5,200 pounds -- in 2030.

They’ll Be Less Safe From Terrorists

Cameron argued on Monday that authorities are better able to keep Britons safe from Islamic State terrorism because of the U.K.’s EU membership. In a speech two weeks ago, Home Secretary Theresa May mentioned terror, terrorism or terrorists 16 times. “Remaining a member of the European Union means we will be more secure from crime and terrorism,” she concluded.

Not to Mention War

Monday’s speech was laden with references to past conflicts, with the prime minister evoking the memory of wartime leader Winston Churchill before suggesting that renewed conflict in Europe would be more likely without Britain in the EU. “Whenever we turn our back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it,” he said.

Prices Will Rise

The Britain Stronger in Europe campaign circulated a list last week of "50 reasons to vote to remain in the EU." At least seven of those suggest prices would rise after a Brexit, making everything more expensive, from food and gasoline to vacations and mobile-phone roaming charges.

Except When They Fall

Osborne played on Britain’s obsession with house prices in a television interview on Sunday, warning homeowners that the value of their property would fall if there’s a Brexit. Good news for first-time buyers struggling to afford the country’s increasingly unaffordable housing, you might think. Not so, said Osborne: mortgage rates would go up.

The Environment Will Suffer

The EU has helped clean Britain’s seas and improved its air quality, and it leads the global fight against climate change, anti-Brexit members of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green parties said in a report last week. “If Britain leaves Europe, our environment, our wildlife and our global habitat will be starved of investment, bereft of protections and denied the leadership it needs,” they wrote.

As Will Soccer

Thought the national game was safe? Think again. Some players from EU countries might be prevented from joining clubs in England’s Premier League, the world’s most lucrative, if Britain left the EU, according to a Britain Stronger in Europe release at the end of March. “If the U.K. was not in the EU, Manchester United could have missed out on a total of 18 goals and 6 assists so far this season from the six players that could have failed to secure their place at Old Trafford,” the campaign group said. Good news for Manchester City fans, at least.

So Why The Scare Stories?

“This is a colossal debate and I can see an awful lot of bad things that would happen if we were out,” Mark Garnier, a member of Parliament’s Treasury Committee from Cameron’s Conservative Party, said Monday in an interview. “We’re deploying all this now because the reality is a vast majority of people will be voting on emotions and looking at immigration figures. We are beginning to make sure people understand it’s not just about immigration.”

And It Works the Other Way, Too

Of course, the “Remain” campaign doesn’t have a monopoly on scare stories. The Brexit campaign has also played on Britons’ fears, sometimes saying the exact opposite of the Stronger In camp. Brexiteers have contended that the country is more vulnerable to terrorism by staying in the bloc because of the EU’s rules on free movement of people. They’ve said Britons will be poorer by opting to remain. They’ve also nicknamed the Britain Stronger in Europe Campaign “BSE,” a play on memories of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, also known as mad-cow disease, the epidemic that devastated British farming in the late 1980s and 1990s.

And the anti-EU U.K. Independence Party said just last week the bloc threatens the existence of one of the nation’s most cherished institutions, the National Health Service. “LEAVE THE EU OR LOSE THE NHS,” was the block-capitals headline of their press release.

There are 45 more days of campaigning. The British should be afraid. Very afraid.

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