Associate Dean at the LKY School of Public Policy Donald Low gave a great rebuttal to those who drew parallels between Britain leaving the EU and Singapore leaving Malaysia in 1965.

So, the Straits Times ran an opinion piece written by a Singaporean who voted “Leave” during the recent Brexit referendum.

In case you are unaware, Commonwealth citizens (of which Singapore is part of) residing in UK are allowed to participate in the referendum.

The author, Charles Tan, argued that he was struck by a “number of parallels between the Britain-EU relationship, and that of Singapore and Malaysia prior to Separation.” He asked himself how he would vote if Singapore were in this situation.

He also cited billion financier and prominent Leave supporter, Mr Peter Hargreaves, who noted how Mr LKY “turned from a mosquito-infested swamp into the best economy in the world… it shows what a small country with limited resources can do… and we (Britain) are much bigger and have more resources.”

But Donald Low, Associate Dean at the LKY School of Public Policy, had a brilliant response to those who drew parallels between Britain leaving the EU and Singapore leaving Malaysia in 1965. While Donald wasn’t replying directly to Charles Tan, what he said made a lot of sense when contrasted with Charles’ opinion piece in the Straits Times.

Donald posted the following on FB earlier this morning:




Here’s a summary of what Donald said:

View that Britain can succeed post-Brexit in the same way Singapore succeeded post-Separation is completely wrong for at least four reasons.

(1) Malaysia federation was nothing like the EU. Singapore being in Malaysia had all the costs of being part of a federation but none of its benefits. But Britain enjoyed European federalism, albeit with some small costs.

(2) The view suggesting that Singapore succeeded in spite of separation is inaccurate. If joining Malaysia was a bad idea, then leaving Malaysia was a blessing. But for Britain, it means having to negotiate access to Europe and other markets again, and while regaining control of immigration might become a Pyrrhic victory if Britain loses its reputation as a free-trading, talent welcoming and multicultural society.

(3) The political-philosophic basis of Singapore’s leaving the Malaysia was different from the case in UK. For Singapore, being part of Malaysia would mean an increase in racial tensions, ethnic chauvinism and race-based politics. In contrast, the Brits who voted “Leave” are motivated in part by a racism and aversion to foreigners.

(4) The British people need more than a messianic leader, someone like LKY, if they want to create a prosperous, dynamic Britain after Brexit.

Kudos to Donald for helping people understand complex issues in a simpler manner.

And woe to Charles Tan, who probably wrote the stupidest opinion piece featured on The Straits Times this year. Luckily for Charles, the year hasn’t ended yet. So there’s still chance that someone else will write an even lousier piece.


On a separate note, we are wondering if Charles Tan should have voted in the Brexit referendum even though he is eligible. After all, he can pack up and come back to Singapore should his optimism about leaving the EU ends up being unfounded. But the average citizens of Britain might not have that option, and have to live with the consequences of a decision that Charles voted for.