A post-ref­er­en­dum agenda for Bri­tain

The Pak Banker - - OPINION - Chris Pat­ten

The end of the wretched cam­paign to take the United King­dom out of the Euro­pean Union against the ad­vice of our friends around the world is less than a month away. The Brex­i­teers, as they have come to be called, deny all ev­i­dence of the eco­nomic dam­age that the UK would do to it­self by leav­ing. Their dis­re­gard for rea­son and facts re­sem­bles that of Don­ald Trump, the re­al­ity-TV star and Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, whose po­lit­i­cal style seems to have crossed the At­lantic on a cheap ticket.

If vot­ers choose to leave the EU, all bets are off; the UK will be tak­ing a leap in the dark. For­tu­nately, the book­ies are in­creas­ingly pre­dict­ing that vot­ers will de­cide to re­main. But even if san­ity pre­vails, the ef­fects of Brex­i­to­sis - a toxic com­bi­na­tion of manic am­bi­tion (on the part of for­mer Lon­don Mayor Boris John­son, in par­tic­u­lar), self-delu­sion, and men­dac­ity - will linger long af­ter the re­sult is an­nounced.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron will face the un­en­vi­able task of try­ing to pull his Con­ser­va­tive Party to­gether again. He will need to bal­ance mag­na­nim­ity with force­ful as­ser­tion of lead­er­ship. One thing that never works is to pay Da­negeld to dis­loyal mem­bers of par­lia­ment; give them one bun, and they will come back al­most im­me­di­ately for an­other. What will mat­ter most for Cameron's fu­ture is whether he can con­vince the losers to ac­cept the vot­ers' ver­dict, in­stead of slink­ing away to plot an­other in­sur­rec­tion.

It would be un­der­stand­able if Cameron were to con­clude that Europe was the last thing he wants to spend time on this sum­mer. But, for the sake of his coun­try, and of Europe, Cameron should take the lead in try­ing to put in place a cred­i­ble pol­icy for deal­ing with mass mi­gra­tion. This is not just a short-term is­sue, driven by the con­flicts in Syria and Afghanistan; it is a chal­lenge that Europe will con­front for decades.

Dur­ing the nine­teenth cen­tury, as Europe's pop­u­la­tion grew from one-fifth to one-quar­ter of the world's to­tal pop­u­la­tion, mil­lions left their na­tive coun­tries for other con­ti­nents. Be­tween 1815 and 1932, some 60 mil­lion Euro­peans em­i­grated. At the be­gin­ning of the First World War, al­most two out of every five peo­ple world­wide had Euro­pean an­ces­try.

To­day, the bal­ance has been com­pletely re­versed. Europe's pop­u­la­tion has fallen to well be­low 10 per cent of the global to­tal, and it will fall much fur­ther as pop­u­la­tions sky­rocket else­where.

Over the last 40 years, for ex­am­ple, Egypt's pop­u­la­tion has in­creased from 39 mil­lion to 93 mil­lion. Dur­ing a com­pa­ra­ble pe­riod, Ethiopia's pop­u­la­tion more than tripled, to 101 mil­lion. Nige­ria, now home to more than 186 mil­lion peo­ple, has fol­lowed a sim­i­lar tra­jec­tory; its pop­u­la­tion is pre­dicted to rise to a half-bil­lion by 2050. Dur­ing the first half of the 21st cen­tury, the pop­u­la­tion of Africa as a whole is ex­pected to grow from about one bil­lion to 2.5 bil­lion.

Fail­ing states, as we have learned, ex­port their prob­lems - and their peo­ple. The world's poor­est coun­tries are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the fastest pop­u­la­tion growth. They have the youngest pop­u­la­tions, and, all too of­ten, are among the most likely to see a break­down in gov­er­nance.

The re­sult­ing flows of peo­ple will put de­vel­oped coun­tries un­der ex­treme pres­sure - nowhere more so than in Europe. Erect­ing more ra­zor wire will not come close to be­ing an ad­e­quate re­sponse. The Mediter­ranean has be­come, trag­i­cally, a ceme­tery for some - but a bar­rier only for a few. Not even is­land coun­tries like the UK can meet the mi­gra­tion chal­lenge act­ing on their own.

What Bri­tain re­quires is a long-term pro­gramme dis­cussed and agreed upon by its neigh­bours and the US. It needs to co­or­di­nate its for­eign, se­cu­rity, and de­vel­op­ment poli­cies in or­der to pre­vent un­con­trol­lable, un­man­age­able mass mi­gra­tion - a phe­nom­e­non that will lead to many mi­grant deaths and stoke xeno­pho­bia in the coun­tries they try to reach.

Bri­tain needs to agree on how it deals with failed states and help to put them back on their feet. It has to use its de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance strate­gi­cally, to help poor coun­tries grow and pro­vide their cit­i­zens a rea­son for stay­ing at home. It also needs more ag­gres­sive poli­cies to tackle peo­ple smug­gling, sup­ported by United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions where nec­es­sary. And it has to de­ploy more naval re­sources in the Mediter­ranean and spend more on Europe's border se­cu­rity.

Such an ef­fort would be in the in­ter­est of ev­ery­one, not least the poor in Africa and West Asia. As Cameron sur­veys the bro­ken po­lit­i­cal crock­ery at the end of June, tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for such an ef­fort - at the helm of a coun­try that is an in­te­gral part of the EU - would be very much in his in­ter­est as well.

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