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Geopolitics

UK Elections: Britain And Europe Stare Down The Brexit Trap

A view from France of Thursday's high-stakes election across the Channel.

We're out of here
We're out of here

-Editorial-

PARIS — This is no longer political fiction. The threat of Britain leaving the European Union could very well become reality soon. During the campaign for this Thursday's general election, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has said time and time again that, if he's reelected, he will organize a referendum by 2017 on the country's EU membership. And polls suggest that three-quarters of the electorate support this initiative, even though it's still unclear how they would actually vote if given the chance.

In any case, there's already a name for a potential decision to leave the EU: "Brexit." And it has many supporters too, especially inside the Conservatives' ranks. Despite Cameron’s personal wish to remain in the EU, his party, which was formerly pro-Europe, is now dominated by Europhobic backbenchers convinced that Brussels flouts Westminster's sovereignty and that it's in the UK's best interest to move away from a limping continent to preserve its own economic recovery.

What's more, Cameron sees himself forced into outdoing Nigel Farage and his virulently anti-EU UK Independence Party. The prime minister is thus making a point of renegotiating Britain's membership and hopes to be able to opt out of the treaties that he believes undermine his country's interests.

Help from across the Channel

The stage seems set for a worst-case scenario: a British exit from the EU, almost by accident. Day in and day out, tabloids denounce to the point of absurdity the unbearable cost of EU membership, EU rules and Brussels' meddling in British matters.

European subsidies for infrastructure projects and agriculture are ignored, as are the advantages of the single market. Of course, those in favor of remaining inside the EU are making their voices heard, starting with Ed Miliband, the Labour leader campaigning to succeed Cameron as prime minister, who has been warning the electorate against the "disastrous" consequences of an EU exit. But the support of the business sector, which used to be a given, is crumbling.

It has therefore become urgent to help the British escape from this Europhobic trap. Great Britain obviously belongs in Europe, so much so in fact that over time it built itself a special status within the EU, in line with its specific island identity: It's neither part of the Euro single currency nor the Schengen Area of common borders.

A "Brexit" would mean a considerable loss of influence for London. But it would also have terrible consequences for the European Union. Without Britain, Europe wouldn't really be Europe.

Its economic and financial might, its standing in all ongoing commercial negotiations, as well as its influence on the world stage, would be badly damaged. Moreover, its precious post-War stability would be questioned. Without the UK, Germany's supremacy inside the EU would be even greater, and France would find itself further isolated and lacking a precious diplomatic and military partner.

To avoid this worst-case scenario, we need to negotiate amendments that could swing the public opinion in the EU's favor. But we must also help those who defend Europe across the Channel to show what the European Union can achieve in terms of freedom of movement, employment and peace.

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Ideas

Making It Political Already? Why Turkey's Earthquake Is Not Just A Natural Disaster

The government in Ankara doesn't want to question the cause of the high death toll in the earthquake that struck along the Turkey-Syria border. But one Turkish writer says it's time to assign responsibility right now.

photo of Erdogan at the earthquake site

President Erdogan surveys the damage on Wednesday

Office of the Turkish Presidency
Dağhan Irak

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL — We have a saying in Turkey: “don’t make it political” and I am having a hard time finding the right words to describe how evil that mindset is. It's as if politics is isolated from society, somehow not connected to how we live and the consequences of choices taken.

Allow me to translate for you the “don’t make it political” saying's real meaning: “we don’t want to be held accountable, hands off.”

It means preventing the public from looking after their interests and preserving the superiority of a certain type of individual, group and social class.

In order to understand the extent of the worst disaster in more than 20 years, we need to look back at that disaster: the İzmit-Düzce earthquakes of 1999.

Because we have before us a regime that does not care about anything but its own interests; has no plan but to save itself in times of danger; does not believe such planning is even necessary (even as it may tinker with the concept in case there is something to gain from it); gets more mafioso as it grows more partisan — and more deadly as it gets more mafioso.

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