For Immediate Release: June 24, 2016
Contact: Tillie McInnis, (202) 293-5380 x117
Washington D.C. — Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, issued the following statement on the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union:
“Fear triumphed over fear as voters in the UK voted to leave the European Union. Fear of immigration and terrorism, as well as the fears felt by those whom globalization has hurt, beat the fears and threats of punishment from EU governments who tried to intimidate voters into staying within the European Union.
“Now it is time for European authorities to change their tactics and their policies: instead of trying to punish the UK in order to intimidate other electorates, they must begin to offer a positive vision for Europe, with more democracy, transparency, and most importantly economic policies that offer hope for the future.
“While the movement in the UK to leave the EU had right-wing, anti-immigrant and xenophobic leaders, in most of Europe that is not the driving force of the massive loss of confidence in European institutions. The driving force in most of the European Union is the profound and unnecessary economic failure of Europe, and especially the Eurozone, since the world financial crisis and recession.
“It has cost European citizens millions of jobs, trillions of dollars in lost income, and is sacrificing a generation of youth at the altar of fiscal consolidation and “structural reforms.” It has delivered an overall unemployment rate in Europe that is twice the level of the United States; more than seven years of depression in Greece; more than 20 percent unemployment in Spain, and long-term stagnation in Italy. In recent weeks French workers have been fighting against “structural reforms” that seek to undermine employment protections and the ability of organized labor to bargain collectively.
“If not for this profound long-term economic failure, and the continued pursuit of policies that reduce most people’s living standards, the exit of the UK from the European Union would not provoke fears of dissolution.
“Many people in Eurozone countries have very serious grievances against the unaccountable European authorities that have ruined their economies. If the EU governments could not intimidate UK voters into staying, they will be unlikely to intimidate people who have 2-4 times the unemployment rate as the UK.
“Instead of trying to punish UK voters, EU authorities should immediately pledge to help make the transition non-disruptive and as smooth as possible. To do otherwise would be to punish the rest of Europe as well, and to once again injure the global economy, in order to carry out threats made before the referendum. This would only create more discontent and more anti-European sentiment, and further weaken the European Union.”