Brexit decision must be considered carefully

Britain's former prime minister Gordon Brown, hoping his country would remain in the European Union (EU), has urged his countrymen to "(recognise) that in an increasingly integrated and interdependent world, each country needs to strike a balance between the national autonomy that it desires and the international cooperation that it requires" ("Leading, not leaving, Europe"; Wednesday).

He outlined a long list of important roles that Britain can participate in within the EU on major international issues - from energy to terrorism and a modern European-led Marshall Plan for North Africa and the Middle East.

Some polls show that the number of Britons who favour leaving the EU has surpassed the number of those who want to remain in the bloc.

Both "Leave" and "Remain" proponents played on fear elements, said Mr Brown.

The episode holds lessons for us. We, too, sometimes, have to decide to what extent we should globalise, which arenas should be protected, or how big a role we should play on the international stage.

Political parties in Britain are greatly divided on the issue. Regardless of the outcome of next Thursday's referendum, the people have to respect the majority decision and pull together to tackle the resulting impacts.

Fears of Britain leaving the EU have brought down stocks and commodity prices worldwide in the past few days. Amid these uncertainties and anxieties, the ugly fan violence that erupted during the Euro 2016 tournament last week has dampened the reputation of the EU and Europe as a whole.

If Europe, collectively or as individual nations, aims to play a bigger leading role in world affairs, it has to perform better in crowd or mob control at least.

The referendum will be a very tight contest. Let us hope people in Britain make a well-thought-out decision for their country's destiny.

By next Monday, whether England gets into the semi-finals of Euro 2016 may be known.

Let us hope that no more scuffles will erupt. Any more ugly violence may affect the mood or the thinking of some voters, especially the unsure ones, when they vote in the June 23 referendum.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2016, with the headline 'Brexit decision must be considered carefully'. Print Edition | Subscribe