At a mid-January conference of the British Chamber of Commerce in Berlin, a German partner of an American law firm began to list all of the laws and regulations that would have to be changed if Britain left the European Union.
As the list went on, the next speaker – Lord (David) Owen, Britain’s former foreign secretary – pulled the partner up, proclaiming that Britain’s relations with Europe could never be reduced to an inventory of laws.
Both sides in the debate over Britain’s continued membership of the E.U. appear to be increasingly overlooking the obvious logic behind this statement. Supporters of “Brexit” argue that the U.K. is being smothered by a Brussels bureaucracy that, if not throttled, will destroy the British character. As if a few hundred Brussels bureaucrats could ever stifle the British lion’s roar.
The anti-Brexit crowd is painting all sorts of doomsday scenarios, beginning with the catalogue of laws and ending somewhere south of Britain’s decline into a nation of sheep farmers. An OMFIF commentary by Jacques Lafitte and Denis MacShane on February 9 appeared to suggest that, without the benefit of E.U. membership, Britain and Europe would become increasingly isolated from one another.