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What if Britain left the European Union?

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In 1973, the United Kingdom signed up for the EU in order to become part of a single economic market. Now, über-integrationists such as Germany, while delaying completion of the single market, push for all sorts of pooled power that proud English sovereignists believe they must resist. It’s a fundamental conflict of visions between the German chancellor and the British prime minister: Angela Merkel wants more Europe, Mr. Cameron wants less.

Even the Euro-skeptics show some understanding for Ms. Merkel, though. David Osborne, finance minister, identifies the “remorseless logic” of an ill-conceived currency zone without fiscal coordination as the key driver. It’s “integrate or perish” for the euro zone. This dictate makes it increasingly hard for the euro zone to hit the brake while the Brits mull further integration, even while it is increasingly hard for Britain to stay halfway in. As the euro zone builds up institutions to govern its currency and rein in debt, Britain will be ever more marginalized.

Some already envision a time when Britain will be freed from the shackles of European enslavement. The country, they assume, will celebrate its newfound liberty and go global alone. Yes, they admit, Britain will be less influential in Europe, but not in the world. No longer held back by the greying, over-regulated, sclerotic, and irrelevant continent, Britain could go its merry way, happily trading with India, China, Brazil, and the other giants of tomorrow.

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