Editor’s Note: On June 23, the United Kingdom will vote to stay in the European Union or to leave. Known as “Brexit,” the referendum has the potential to upend Europe’s economy as well as Britain’s. In a two-part series airing tonight and tomorrow, economics correspondent Paul Solman explores both sides of this debate that has embroiled Britain’s case for leaving the European Union and the case for staying.
Terry Greenwood, who helps run the Porter’s lodge at Oxford University, told Paul that he simply doesn’t trust the competence of the European Union Parliament, pointing to the European Union’s admittance of Greece. Read that conversation below, and tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e for more. The following text has been edited for clarity and length.
— Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor
Paul Solman: Leave or remain?
Terry Greenwood: Leave, definitely.
Paul Solman: Why?
Terry Greenwood: I have no confidence in the basic ability or competence of anybody in the European Parliament. And I think my evidence for that is all of the expertise, all the effort, all the propaganda that was put out just before Greece joined the European Union — it was going to be the finest thing to turn Greece into a modern economic country, etc. And lo and behold a few months later, the country is bankrupt. You cannot tell me that all of the expertise that these people could drum up can actually count for anything. So I think I want out of the European Union. It is a very expensive talking shop.
Paul Solman: But Greece was hiding its numbers. Even people in Greece didn’t know the extent to which it was cooking the books.
Terry Greenwood: Anybody knows that money in, money out. They knew what they were paying in pensions. They knew what the country was earning. And yet, people are quite willing to accept anything that the European Parliament or European Council says. I’m not going to accept it.
Paul Solman: But it’s going to cost the United Kingdom to leave the union, is it not?
Terry Greenwood: So what? We’ve been there before. I remember running down the shop and getting my three-pence coupon for a couple of sweets, and if they didn’t have any, I went without. So what? We are English. We can take it. We have done it before and can do it again. If people don’t like it, they can move on.
Paul Solman: But we are more and more in a cosmopolitan, international, globalized world. Don’t you think England should be a part of that world rather than opposed?
Terry Greenwood: I totally agree, however, we should be in charge of our own country. We, not some unelected Parliament. You wouldn’t have your next-door neighbor come in and tell you what to eat at your table.
Well, that’s precisely what the European Union is trying to do. It’s telling us how to conduct our lives, and I think that’s wrong. I wouldn’t dare go into a German country and tell them how to run their lives, and yet people are quite pathetically just accepting this large institution telling us, “This is what you should do.”
Paul Solman: What are you being restrained from doing? What are they telling you to do?
Terry Greenwood: Me, personally, not a lot. But they start frightening by saying if we move out, we’ll all lose our pensions. This is all so rubbish. For goodness sakes. We are one of the strongest economies in Europe, and they’re saying it’s going to affect us. I’m sorry, I think it’s going to affect them. I think they want us in, because we are the gold chip. I don’t care what they say. I don’t believe anything or any of their numbers that they’re coming out with.
Paul Solman: So for you it’s really a matter of pride more than anything else?
Terry Greenwood: No, not necessarily. People say immigration is a problem. I work here with Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Spaniards. I’m quite happy. They are good at their job, and they don’t stand at the bottom of the road asking for welfare. They do a good job, and they work, and they pay their taxes, end of story.
But there are a lot of subsidies about. When anything crosses a border, it gets a subsidy. You drive up the road. You come back across the border. You export it again, you get another subsidy. This is just a crazy way to carry on.
I don’t trust their systems. I don’t trust their competence, and basically, I’m all for leaving the European Union. I mean, if it were tomorrow, I’d be a very happy man.