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Brexit: the case for leaving

Amid the refugee and eurozone crises plaguing continental Europe, Britain is deciding whether or not to remain in the European Union. But migrants and economics are only part of why many are pushing for Brexit. The crux of the issue, supporters say, is sovereignty -- namely, whether other European nations should have the right to dictate British law. Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    As we heard, Britain was stunned today by the killing of a member of Parliament. Jo Cox was a strong supporter of saying the country should stay in the European Union.

    In one week, Britain votes on that very question. Both sides in the argument suspended their campaigns today out of respect.

    Before the latest, our economics correspondent Paul Solman was in Oxford hearing the arguments.

    Tonight, the case for leaving the E.U.

    It's part of his Making Sense series, which appears every Thursday on the "NewsHour."

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    The Oxford Union, perhaps the world's most famous debating society.

  • ALEX SALMOND, Scottish National Party MP:

    Mr. President, I am delighted to be here at the Oxford Union, the pinnacle of university debating in England.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Capping off the spring term last week, the year's most hotly anticipated debate, the E.U. referendum, better known as Brexit, British exit from the European Union, coming up for a real vote one week from today.

  • MICHAEL HOWARD, Former Leader, Conservative Party:

    We have a long and illustrious tradition of democratic self-government. We are as entitled to rule ourselves as are the people of the United States of America. This is your birthright. This is your heritage. This is your future. Reclaim it and vote leave.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • ALEX SALMOND:

    Let's make the case for immigration as a sign of success of this country, and let's celebrate the magnificent achievement of those who've come.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    This is Mansfield, one of Oxford's 38 colleges, where some 400 of Oxford's 22,000 students live and learn.

    Mansfield is known for its nonconformity, its openness to students from all countries and classes, not just from upper-crust prep schools. Small wonder its faculty want to remain in the E.U.

  • WOMAN:

    Sometimes, I talk to my colleagues over lunch, and they cannot imagine that anybody would vote leave.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But at the entry point to Mansfield, Terry Greenwood, who helps run the Porter's Lodge, will vote to vamoose.

  • TERRY GREENWOOD, Deputy Head Porter, Mansfield College:

    I have no confidence in the basic ability or competence of anybody in the European Parliament, whatever.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But it's going to cost the United Kingdom to leave the union, is it not?

  • TERRY GREENWOOD:

    So what? 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 telling us to do. It's telling us how to conduct our lives.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Somerville was one of Oxford's first colleges to admit women, in 1879. Indira Gandhi lived and learned here. So did Margaret Thatcher. The faculty want to stay in Europe, but Olga Smith, a so-called scout who helps keep house for the current head of college, doesn't.

  • OLGA SMITH, Scout, Somerville College:

    Well, I think we have lost control of the borders.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Do you think that the people who are coming in are driving down wages?

  • OLGA SMITH:

    The wages and unemployment, yes, yes, because there's a lot more foreign people doing all that, doing all sorts of jobs.

  • DAVID TOWNSEND, Assistant Gardener, Somerville College:

    I feel that we should leave.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    David Townsend is assistant gardener.

  • DAVID TOWNSEND:

    I have always regarded myself as English first, then British. I have never regarded myself as European. As an island nation, I think it's inborn, I think.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But the Brexit vote isn't just a class conflict, town against gown. Consider this excerpt from a feature film gone viral making the case for leaving.

  • NARRATOR:

    We the people are being cajoled, frightened, and bullied into surrendering our democracy and freedom. This film is a rallying cry. We must fight for our independence, for the right to determine ourselves the laws under which we live, and for the freedom to shape our own future.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    The politician often compared to Donald Trump here, former London Mayor Boris Johnson, makes the economic case for leaving.

    BORIS JOHNSON, Former Mayor of London: Why are we sending 10 billion pounds a year net to Brussels, some of which is spent, my friends, you know, some of which is spent on Spanish bullfighting?

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And though almost half of Oxford students are foreign-born, a few are pushing Brexit vigorously. Harrison Edmonds is one of their leaders.

  • HARRISON EDMONDS, Student:

    For Britain to be viable in the future economically, it has to be where the market is. And the market increasingly of the next century is not going to be in Europe. It's going to be in Asia. It's going to be in America. It's going to be in South America. It's not going to be in Europe. And that's where we need to be looking. We need to be looking outside of the European Union for those markets.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Meanwhile, says Peter Saville, commonwealth nations like Australia or India become second-class trading partners.

  • PETER SAVILLE, Student:

    If trade agreements localize to one area, that is effectively a protection racket. They disadvantage the world community towards the European one, that accident of geography.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But this is a protectionism racket, not a protection racket. Protection racket is when you extort somebody because you're going to hurt them if they don't do what you say.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • PETER SAVILLE:

    If you're a member of the club, and you vote to leave that club, and that club threatens you to stay inside, that's not a group of friends. That is a protection racket.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And in the end, says Oliver Shore, the E.U. will come round and trade with the U.K. anyway.

  • OLIVER SHORE, Student:

    Can you really see Angela Merkel going to all the German car manufacturers and saying, look, you're going to have to cut your jobs because Britain's been bad and we're going to have to put big tariffs up and stop you selling cars to Britain, and even though I'm a very unpopular prime minister in Germany at the moment, I'm going to become even more unpopular by cutting manufacturing jobs?

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But the nub of the argument, says Sam Slater, is sovereignty.

  • SAM SLATER, Student:

    A big point is about British elected — elected representatives making our own laws, not the unelected commission handing down laws to the kind of elected European Parliament, who kind of give them an agreement, and then maybe it will become law. It's rubbish.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Case in point, a Scottish tax passed a few years ago, in part to combat alcoholism.

  • SAM SLATER:

    It was passed by the Scottish Parliament, which is elected by the Scottish people, and they have a mandate to pass laws, and it was blocked. It was blocked by the European Union because of this technical standards directive. What has it got to do with the other 27 member states what Scottish people want to do in their own country? It's a disgrace. It's an utter disgrace.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Well, disgrace or not, Scottish voters turn out to be strongly in favor of remaining. And we will explore that side of the debate, to remain, in our next piece.

    Until then, reporting from Oxford, England, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman.

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