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Portfolio > Economy & Markets

Why HBO’s John Oliver Is Spot On About Brexit

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(Updated June 24: Now that the U.K. has voted to leave the European Union, in a larger than expected margin of 52% to 48%, it’ll be interesting to review what John Oliver had to say about the Brexit controversary before the vote.)

John Oliver, the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” on Sunday turned his comedic firepower on the drama that is Brexit.

Oliver delivered a funny and insightful breakdown, much like he did the previous Sunday on retirement advice and the fiduciary rule, highlighting the issues between the forces pushing for the British to leave or remain in the European Union. The vote on Thursday is called the “in/out referendum,” and is also, Oliver said, “what English people also call sex.”

He explains why those outside Britain should care whether they stay or leave the EU by adopting the viewpoint of a typical unconcerned outsider, saying that “honestly, as long those crooked-tooth scone goblins keep shooting out royal babies and episodes of Doctor Who, I don’t care” what happens there. Outsiders should care because the financial fallout for the world would be huge, Oliver says. He is squarely on the side of those that believe Britain should remain in the EU, thus avoiding a Brexit.

Oliver, who was born in Birmingham, England, says he sympathizes with the British who hate the EU because it is a “complicated, bureaucratic, ambitious, overbearing, inspirational and consistently irritating institution and Britain would be absolutely crazy to leave it. Especially because if it stays it can reap all the benefits while still being a total [jerk] about everything — and that is the British way.”

And to many economists, in particular one he cites on the show, he is on the right side of this issue. The costs to leave far outweigh any potential benefit in a global economy by such a large amount that it would really be nutty to “Brexit” the EU.


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