Brexit would ‘condemn Britain to irrelevance’ – UK historians

Niall Ferguson,Simon Schama © Jonathan Ernst (Reuters), Frederick M. Brown
More than 300 historians have warned voters that leaving the European Union would “condemn Britain to irrelevance,” while Europe would be open “to division and weakness.”

The academics and writers, whose areas of interest include 20th century Germany and Britain during World War II, expressed their strong support for the ‘Remain’ campaign in an open letter to the Guardian.

As historians of Britain and of Europe, we believe that Britain has had in the past, and will have in the future, an irreplaceable role to play in Europe,” the letter reads.

On June 23, we face a choice: to cast ourselves adrift, condemning ourselves to irrelevance and Europe to division and weakness; or to reaffirm our commitment to the EU and stiffen the cohesion of our continent in a dangerous world.”

Some of Britain’s most prominent historians signed the letter, including Simon Schama and Niall Ferguson – both familiar to UK television viewers from their numerous documentaries.

Other signatories include Prof Sir Ian Kershaw, a specialist in 20th century German history, and Juliet Gardiner, who has written extensively on British wartime history.

Several of the academics attended a reception at Downing Street hosted by Chancellor George Osborne on Tuesday evening.

Osborne said the gathered historians “all argue that as a nation we are at our strongest when we are outward-facing and engaged in the world.”

The chancellor has come under fire in recent days after a Treasury report warned Brexit would spark a year-long recession, with up to 820,000 jobs lost within two years.

Vote Leave chair John Mills described the report as “grossly exaggerated,” while admitting there might be a “small blip” in the immediate aftermath of the referendum.

These wild claims we hear from the Remain side do nothing to help their cause,” he told BBC News.

Britain’s top universities are encouraging their students to vote to Remain in the EU, despite rules urging them to remain neutral.

Universities including Oxford, Warwick and Exeter have used emails and private lectures to show their support for Britain staying in the EU.

Vice Chancellor Steve Smith of the University of Exeter wrote an email to all undergraduates encouraging them to recognize the “benefits” that EU membership offers.

Euroskeptic Employment Minister Priti Patel described their actions as an “anti-democratic abuse of power.

Universities should be a place where free thinking is encouraged, but instead these people are acting to stifle debate - and encouraging a group think culture,” she said.