The PIIRS "Brexit" Conference and its Speakers' Economic Insights

May 23, 2016

On June 23, the people of the United Kingdom will decide whether or not to leave the European Union. It’s a decision with considerable implications—not just for the UK and other EU countries, but for the world as a whole.

Earlier this year, faculty affiliate Harold James spoke to the Woodrow Wilson School’s “WWS Reacts” blog about some of the ‘what ifs’ associated with the UK referendum.  Among many enlightening comments, he had this to say about the UK in its global context: “There are big global challenges—the security issue in the Middle East and in Ukraine, the organization of energy supply in the face of global warming, the stability of the international financial system—that demand collective action. The Brexit campaigners—notably Michael Gove, a minister in Cameron's cabinet as lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice—argue that the UK has the most vibrant capital city and the greatest ‘soft power’ in the world, and that this soft power is diminished by the interference and the malfunctioning of the EU. But it is hard to see how ‘soft power’ is going to help Britain deal with any of the big global challenges.” Read the full WWS Reacts interview with Harold James >

Last month, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) organized a one day conference, “Europe and the Challenges of the BREXIT;” JRCPPF, the Program in Contemporary European Politics, and the Bendheim Center for Finance co-sponsored the event. The conference was designed to assess the ramifications of either decision in several realms, including political, historical, and economic.

Among those who spoke on the economic significance of the possible “Brexit” were:

  • Steve Redding (Princeton University), who presented on the economic costs and benefits, focusing on international trade, as well as migration, foreign direct investment, and industry location; Redding concluded that a “Brexit” would have a net negative impact on household incomes ranging from 850£ to 1700£ per year. (View his presentation by clicking here and advancing to minute 36:20)
  • Ashoka Mody (Princeton University), whose presentation argued that while there would be transitional costs to “Brexit,” these costs would not be particularly large; He also argued that the debate demonstrates that Britain is in the vanguard of a longer historical process of a reassessment of what the European Union means.  (View his presentation by clicking here and advancing to minute 2:08)
  • Sir Paul Tucker (Harvard University), who focused his presentation on answering some of the morning’s panelists, drawing in large part on his years of public service in the UK; He also said that the belief that Britain could regain autonomy over British affairs, and lower regulatory constraints without retreating from the world, was a myth to be avoided. (View his presentation by clicking here and advancing to minute 17:46)
  • Harold James (Princeton University), who delivered the conference’s concluding remarks. (view his remarks by clicking here and advancing to minute 32:50)

View the complete conference videos below:

Part 1 > 
Featuring Lord Lawson and Lord Owen

Part 2 >
Featuring Linda Colley, Steve Redding, and Andrew Moravcsik

Part 3 >
Featuring Jose Manuel Barroso, Jean-Pierre Landau, Christine Landfried, Charles Kupchan, and Paola Subacchi

Part 4 >
Featuring Sheila Lawlor and Sir Paul Tucker

Part 5 >
Featuring Harold James, David Marsh, and Ashoka Mody

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