"Don't turn inward": Bill Clinton urges Britain to stay in the European Union

The former US president, writing exclusively for the New Statesman, says that Europe is strongest when it is united.

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The decision on Europe is one for the British people, and the world will respect their judgement.  They should know, however, how much America and the rest of the world have valued - and continue to value - a strong United Kingdom playing its full part in a strong European Union. Transatlantic co-operation is essential, and that co-operation is strongest when Europe is united.  

In a tumultuous world, marked by slow growth, excessive inequality, massive refugee flows, and sectarian violence, it’s tempting to believe we can reduce our exposure and increase our personal and economic security by turning inward and keeping the world’s problems out. We’d all like to have the benefits of global interdependence without the burdens. However, because there are disruptive forces we cannot escape, co-operation and collective action are much more likely than withdrawal and isolation to produce prosperity and security. For a nation as large, diverse, and successful as the UK, there is no escape from the growing pains and contradictions of the 21st century world. 

It is also important not to minimise the benefits of EU membership to the UK. For example, I was honoured to support the peace process in Northern Ireland. It has benefited from the UK’s membership in the European Union, and I worry that the future prosperity and peace of Northern Ireland could be jeopardised if Britain withdraws. 

In the end, the decision is yours. As someone who has felt great admiration and affection for your nation for almost 50 years, and who has worked with you in office and through my Foundation for more than two decades, I have seen the difference your leadership has made both within the EU, and as a leading representative of Europe throughout the world. I hope you will stay.

To read the other articles in the New Statesman's special issue about Europe, guest-edited by Gordon Brown - including pieces by Amartya Sen, Michael Sandel, Enda Kenny, Stephen Hawking and more - please visit our subscription page.