A ‘BREXIT’ SUPPORTER holds a Union Jack at a Vote Leave rally in London earlier this month..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With the UK poised for its fateful referendum on Thursday to decide whether to stay in the European Union or leave the continent to its own devices, political commentators from the Jewish community have weighed in both for and against Brexit.
The upcoming vote has dominated the public debate in Britain for weeks if not months now, with the “Remain” camp led by Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron, arguing principally that leaving the EU would cause severe economic damage to the country, while proponents of Brexit have claimed that only by leaving the union can the country gain control of its borders and halt immigration.
None of the major Jewish institutions of Anglo-Jewry have made any public comments on Brexit at all, and most Jewish leaders have also refrained from coming down in favor of one side or the other.
Two prominent progressive UK rabbis, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner of the UK’s Movement for Reform Judaism, and Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism in the UK Rabbi Danny Rich, did however sign a public letter together with other faith leaders and published in The Observer in favor of remaining in the EU.
Several prominent Jewish political columnists have though strongly backed Brexit.
Melanie Phillips, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and for The Times, has been vociferously in favor of leaving the EU’s political and economic union.
In an article for the Post in April, Phillips said she was in favor of Britain leaving the EU “so that it can become once again a democratic, self-governing nation,” arguing that the UK had joined the ECC, the precursor of the EU, in 1973 out of economic despair.
In an even stronger article in The Times on Tuesday, Phillips said that the EU had “metastasized into a full-blown superstate project” which restrains the democracy of its members, made it impossible for the UK to control immigration and thereby generated much public anger.
Some 330,000 people migrated to the UK in 2015, 184,000 of whom were from EU member countries of the EU. Member countries of the union are obliged to accept immigrants from other members in line with the EU’s fundamental principles of freedom of work and movement.
Geoffrey Alderman, a well-known columnist for the Jewish Chronicle, also took a similar line when he said in the paper in March that “The United Kingdom is now governed in large and ever-expanding measure by unelected apparatchiks in Brussels.”
Daniel Finkelstein, associate editor for The Times who worked as an aide to former Conservative Party leader William Hague, said that despite his Euro-skepticism he said the UK should stay in the EU for economic reasons.
“I can see the arguments for leaving the EU, but the costs will be great and I don’t think the benefits will come,” he said on LBC radio station on Tuesday.
“I don’t think we’re going to get the control on immigration that the leave people want,” he continued, adding that the UK was well positioned within the EU by not being committed “to ever closer union,” and not being required to bail out some of the sickly economies of southern Europe.
“To throw away the economic advantages of being in a big single market which all businesses are saying will be economically damaging for people’s jobs and incomes. If we damage our prosperity we damage everything.”