Stiff upper lip, Britain. You'll need it.

Photographer: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

The Brits Have No Good Options on Europe Vote

Clive Crook is a Bloomberg View columnist and writes editorials on economics, finance and politics. He was chief Washington commentator for the Financial Times, a correspondent and editor for the Economist and a senior editor at the Atlantic. He previously served as an official in the British finance ministry and the Government Economic Service.
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U.K. voters face a momentous choice on June 23, when they’ll vote on whether to remain in the European Union. A decision to leave might badly hurt the economy, which relies on Europe for trade and investment -- but the repercussions would go wider than that.

Britain's Unsolvable Brexit Dilemma

The larger European project would also be in danger. An enterprise that secured peace on the continent after World War II, moved hundreds of millions of people toward greater prosperity, and helped entrench liberal democracy in Eastern Europe after the Soviet collapse would be gravely damaged.

QuickTake Will Britain Leave the EU?

The risks are huge -- yet recent polls show the Leave campaign is leading. Europe’s governments are waking up to the fact that Brexit might actually happen.

Britain faces an unsolvable dilemma. Its economic interests tell it to stay, especially since the U.K. has negotiated an advantageous status within the union: full access to Europe’s integrated markets, but without the single European currency, which has proved so detrimental to the economies of many other EU members.

Yet Britain won’t ever be comfortable with the EU’s larger political ambition to create an “ever closer union.” If they choose to stay, Brits will resent the steady erosion of their power of self-government, which voters see as the hollowing out of their democracy.

Whatever Britain decides on June 23, it’s sure to regret it.  

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Clive Crook at ccrook5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Christopher Flavelle at cflavelle@bloomberg.net