5 April 2016

Britain is an indispensable member of the European community

By Frank Schäffler

Dear British friends,

One of the main reasons why you will vote on the Brexit this summer is that you are upset about the development the European Union has taken, if not even resigned. True, the EU is not in good shape. It also doesn’t live up to the aspirations it raised in the Lisbon Strategy 2000. It wanted to set an example of economic, social and environmental progress for the world. 16 years later the balance is devastating.

The overall debt of the EU member states is at an all-time high, growth is slowing down and unemployment rates in Southern Europe are increasing alarmingly. Officials are responding to this menace by implementing even more central planning and paternalism. This is becoming evident in view of the Euro and refugee crises. Both originate from the same problem. The European Union is no community under law. European treaties are fair weather law.  In stormy weather they are reframed, broken and razed.

But Europe still needs Britain to remain in the EU. Great Britain stands for the great traditions of law such as the Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights which prize the rule of law above the rulers. Pivotal pioneers of Liberty come from Great Britain: people like John Locke, David Hume, and Adam Ferguson. There are probably only few so inspiring literary monuments for liberty as John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty”. And in Great Britain groundbreaking insights on the market economy and free trade were found. Men like Adam Smith and David Ricardo represent this tradition.

Adam Smith published his “Wealth of Nations” in 1776 vigorously promoting free trade. In those days nobody, not even Smith himself, would have believed that the age of mercantilism would end in a foreseeable future. And yet, only 60 years later a free trade movement emerged in Britain and spread out quickly throughout Europe and the whole world which is the basis of the wealth we still enjoy today. Richard Cobden and John Bright literally inspired the entire continent.

Do not abandon the rest of Europe! Continue to inspire, provoke and change Europe! It would be a fatal signal if you withdrew. A Europe that falls behind because it does not rely on a market economy, the rule of law and liberty will also affect Great Britain. Europe would gravitate far more towards its southern parts. States such as the Baltic states, the Netherlands or Germany that still cherish the market economy to some extent would be further marginalized. States that hold a dirigiste tradition like France or such that benefit financially like Italy and Spain would align with the Brussels bureaucracy and set the agenda more than ever before. You would be affected by this agenda indirectly at the economic and the regulatory level. But you would be excluded from the decision making process. That would be disastrous.

Please, vote “Remain” in June and stay in the European Union. Do not leave the remaining Europe to the planners and technocrats but rather join the other friends of freedom in bringing about change. As the British-German politician and philosopher Ralf Dahrendorf once wrote: “Europe needs to embody, cherish and guarantee the rule of law and democracy. Else, it is not worth the trouble.”

Frank Schäffler is a German politician. From 2005 to 2013 he was a member of the German Bundestag, representing the FDP party. He is also co-founder of the think tank Prometheus - Das Freiheitsinstitut