Sir Michael Leigh discusses possible ‘Brexit’ with BYU students

Sir Michael Leigh addresses students at the Kennedy Center. Leigh discussed Europe’s modern challenges and the possibility that Britain will withdraw from the EU. (Theresa Davis)

Sir Michael Leigh, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, D.C., spoke to BYU students and faculty at the Kennedy Center on Wednesday Sept. 30, 2015. Leigh discussed the possibility of a British exit from the European Union with the upcoming referendum.

Leigh discussed Europe’s four concurrent crises: the economic peril of the Euro, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the mass of refugees from the Middle East and the potential withdrawal of Britain from the European Union, known as the “Brexit.”

“A ‘Brexit’ could lead to a breakup of the United Kingdom and ultimately the European Union,” Leigh said.

He said political alliances were not the only standard at stake with a possible Brexit.

“The psychological impact of this secession would most likely affect the European continent in ways that we cannot predict,” Leigh said.

He admitted that many conservatives in Europe are skeptical of Britain leaving the European Union. These politicians claim that a Brexit is unlikely simply because there have been no proposed alternative futures for the UK. Leigh added his voice to the opinion that Britain is unlikely to leave the EU.

Leigh also addressed Russia’s recent controversial annexation of the Ukranian territory of Crimea. He said that the tumultuous political and military aftermath and the potential for a mass flood of Ukranian and Middle Eastern refugees to other European nations should be a major concern for the EU.

“There have been over 500,000 refugees fleeing the Middle East to Greece and Italy,” Leigh said. “These numbers are straining the European Union’s resources to the breaking point.”

Leigh proposed several solutions for the EU’s migration crisis.

“First, there needs to be a tackling of root immigration causes through conflict resolution,” Leigh said.

He then suggested that the EU handle the mass flow of refugees by strengthening the EU’s core system for handling migration and those seeking asylum. Leigh also called for a global resettlement effort for the refugees.

“The seriousness of this crisis should force the EU to seek active solutions,” Leigh said.

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