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Brexit a step into unknown that would be bad for UK and Europe

Opinion Piece

The rising level of heated debate over the UK referendum on whether to remain in the European Union or Brexit, as the leave option has become known as, is attracting more attention here along with supposition about what a decision to leave would mean for New Zealand.

The June 23 referendum seems to be evenly poised. Latest polls show 40 percent of potential voters are in favour of leaving, and about the same level want to remain. The large number of those who are undecided makes it trickier to call which way this will go, but bookmakers put the odds of Brexit at about one in four.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson has emerged as the main spokesman for Brexit, but other backers might regret that after his comments at the weekend linking the EU with Hitler and Napoleon.

Johnson, who is angling to become the next leader of the Tory party, is becoming something of a Donald Trump character in this debate — with hairstyle to match. He is a smart operator and clearly sees this as his potential key to No 10 Downing Street.

Of most interest to this country is what Brexit would mean for our economy, which is something that is hard to judge.

While Britain’s original entry into Europe was traumatic for us, it led to a focus on Asia which has been a good development. But Britain is still New Zealand’s sixth largest trading partner.

One of the big arguments put forward by the Remain campaign is that Brexit could lead to a financial meltdown for the country.

While the Leave group portrays such warnings as baseless scaremongering, it is harder to argue with ratings agency S&P which says a Brexit would hit confidence and investment, making a lower credit rating inevitable. Also, the fact Russia’s propaganda machine supports Brexit indicates how such a move would weaken and divide Europe — which is much stronger with Britain as a member.

It is clear that Brexit would involve a massive step into the unknown for Britain and a diminishment of Europe. In this respect New Zealand has a keen interest in the final result.