Just two months ahead of a referendum on the so-called Brexit, the prospects of a British exit from the European Union have sent any number of economists back to their computers to weigh how it would affect the country’s economy. Most seem to think that exit is a bad idea—at least that is the conclusion reached by more than three-quarters of the 100-plus economists polled by the Financial Times.
But the British public, as it prepares to vote, is hardly thinking about economics. Instead, matters of sovereignty and culture take precedence. The people want to protect the nation’s borders from unwanted migration and protect their constitution from interference by Brussels, where, many claim, there is no democratic check.
Sovereignty concerns have long been the United Kingdom’s main focus when it comes to the EU. When, more than 50 years ago, the country first sought membership in what was then the Common Market, then-Prime Minister Harold Macmillan argued that the decision should be based on more significant considerations than just the “price of prunes.” The decision on Brexit will likewise hang on more weighty matters than simple economics, though the outcome will certainly affect the price of prunes, so to speak, as well as jobs and Britain’s global trade relations.