Next week, the United Kingdom votes on whether or not to leave the European Union. More important than a general election, the outcome of the referendum will influence Britain's political and economic fortunes for a generation. As the long and increasingly bitter referendum campaign nears its conclusion — and with opinion polls showing the result too close to call — British voters face an onslaught of progressively more preposterous claims from both camps.
A vote for "Brexit" would have huge political and economic ramifications for the U.K. and its former partners in the EU. Britain's exit threatens to amplify demands for similar referendums in other EU states, where insurgent anti-EU parties are gaining ground, boosted by public anger at the political establishment after almost a decade of economic insecurity and intermittent crisis.
Victory for the Leave campaign would usher in years of protracted exit negotiations, with uncertainty negatively effecting financial markets, investment and the value of the pound. The inevitable weakening of the EU following a British withdrawal would be detrimental to the world. The EU's emphasis on "soft power" diplomacy, social democracy and human rights, makes it an important counterbalance to the United States' neo-liberalism and China's authoritarianism in today's multipolar and interdependent world.