12 May, 2016
Many political and business leaders are arguing against Britain leaving the 28-nation European Union.
Thirteen former United States officials have urged Britons to reject calls to leave the EU. In a letter, they wrote that such a move would weaken Europe and harm Britain's position in the world. The former officials once served as secretaries of state or defense, or as national security advisers.
Another letter, from five former heads of NATO, warned that Britain would lose influence if it left the EU.
British voters are to decide in a special election June 23 on whether to leave the EU. Opinion studies suggest that Britons are evenly split in opposing and supporting calls for Britain's exit, or what is being called "Brexit."
British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke about national security Monday. He linked the "Brexit" question to security and economic well-being.
He said, "Can we be so sure that peace and stability on our continent are assured beyond any shadow of doubt? Is that a risk worth taking? I would never be so rash as to make that assumption."
The prime minister said isolationism had never served Britain in the past. Cameron also said the economy would suffer if his country chooses to "turn its back" on the EU. He said, "The evidence is clear—we'll be better off in, and poorer if we leave."
Former London Mayor Boris Johnson is a Conservative member of parliament and supports Britain leaving the EU. Johnson said the alliance had changed, not Britain, according to the Reuters news service. He denied Cameron's claim that leaving the EU would make the island nation less safe.
Political and business leaders speak out against a "Brexit"
If Britain exits the EU, many business leaders worry that London would lose its position as a major world financial center.
Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama said Britain would gain little by leaving the EU. Obama used an example of negotiating trade deals. He said that if Britain were outside the EU, it would not be able to negotiate a trade deal with U.S. officials more easily.
"The UK (United Kingdom) would not be able negotiate something with the United States faster than the EU," Obama said.
Nearly 80 percent of Britain's economy is related to service industries such as finance and insurance. Lloyd's of London is a provider of insurance services around the world. The company's chairman, John Nelson, said staying in the EU is good for his business.
Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned that his country may not be able to invest as it has in Britain if it leaves the EU. He said, "A vote to leave would make the UK less attractive as a destination for Japanese investment."
Abe said about 1,000 Japanese companies are doing business in Britain, and they employ 140,000 people. He added that many companies do business in Britain because it is a gateway to the EU.
I'm Mario Ritter.
Joshua Fatzick reported this story for VOANews. Mario Ritter adapted his report for Learning English. His story includes additional material from Henry Ridgwell and Amanda Scott. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
assure – v. to make something sure or certain
assumption – n. something that is believed to be true or probably true, but not known to be true
isolationism – n. the belief that a country should not be involved in agreements with other countries
exit – n. something that is used as a way out of a place
insurance – n. an agreement in which someone makes payments to a company and the business promises to pay money if the person dies or is injured
destination – n. a place to which someone is going
gateway – n. an opening in a wall or fence
NATO – n. short for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization