Brexit: the View from the Prairie
May 4, 2016 20 Comments
I want to thank Jessica for sharing her views on Brexit yesterday, here. As I said then, mine differs somewhat, so let’s look at them.
First President Obama’s remarks in remarks while in the UK, were, or should have been insulting to any Brits who heard them, as well as to any American who values the UK as a partner or even an ally. Not to mention that he’s about the lamest lame duck of a president, ever. Ted Cruz had this to say:
“Instead of standing with our allies President Obama routinely hurls insults at them. Sadly, it happened in London last Friday, when the President of the United States informed the British people they would be at the ‘back of the queue’ for a US-UK free trade deal if they dared to vote to leave the EU on June 23,” said Cruz.
Cruz argued Obama’s intervention was nothing less than a slap in the face to British self-determination. “If Brexit takes place, Britain will be at the front of the line for a free trade deal with America, not at the back,” Cruz added. The Texas senator reaffirmed his commitment to the “special relationship” and slammed the president’s foreign policy priorities.
“The British people will shape their destiny, and we will stand with them regardless of the outcome of the referendum. As president, I will work to ensure that our special relationship is reinvigorated — and the Obama doctrine of coddling tyrants while castigating democratic allies will finally be at an end.”
Quite, and while we can’t be sure of what Hillary or Trump think (or if they’ve been told what they think yet) Cruz is correct. And yes, I found Obama’s remarks both shameful and insulting as well.
As far as the economics of staying or leaving go, I simply don’t know, and I doubt strongly anybody else does either. It is beyond doubt that London is one of a handful of ‘world cities’ along with New York, and perhaps either Singapore or Hong Kong, and yes, there is a telling point in that. All three or four of those, and there is at most 1 or two more, is by heritage and outlook founded on English values and common law. You might want to think about that. I note that if you know a bunch about this, The Conservative Woman, a British blog, has a contest for the best article about how Britain would function outside the EU. You can enter here. The best article I’ve seen is from The Spectator, and his conclusion is to leave.
The last time I looked, the UK economy is about the size of Germany’s, and larger than anybody else in the EU. I’ve also noted that Europe appears to need Britain a lot more than Britain needs Europe. The UK also has the highest energy prices and quite high food prices. Why? Well, I suspect that unlike much of Europe, the UK tends to obey the law, instead of looking out for the special interests. Both are something the New World can fix, but Europe can’t.
I would say that if Britain is to stay they should forget the half-measures and join the community and lead it, and quit the half in and half out nonsense. But be convinced you really want to be part of Europe first, because you will be leaving your heritage, all over the world, behind. I’m convinced that your future is better served with what has come to be called the Anglosphere, mostly Canada, the US, Australia, New Zeeland, and increasingly India. Also, the ‘Remainers’ tend to offend me with their fear-mongering, and they should you, too.
One thing that bothers me, as an American, a lot about this so-called ‘ever closer union’ is that the UK is the ally and friend that we are prepared to throw ourselves on the railway to save, and we have all seen that the UK has been the same way with us. Somehow, I don’t think the European Army will be such a good ally, and it’s something the US needs, another voice and perspective, sometimes to save us from ourselves.
But I don’t really think this will be decided on economics, it will be decided on sentiment, and patriotism. And here there should be little doubt. England, and by extension Britain, has always done better when it turned away from Europe, at least back to when Henry VIII turned his back on the Catholic church, established the Royal Navy, and started the first Empire – the results are astonishing, the US, Canada, The Commonwealth, much of Africa, and India, all from those little fogbound islands, about the size of Nebraska. You built the system we all revere, all the way back to Alfred the Great, the unique Common Law, the practical methods of getting along, capitalism itself, along with the free people that we all have fought so many wars about.
Where’s the French heritage to match, or the German one? For so many of us, our history starts with your history, and if you’re not proud of it, well I’m sorry, we are.
I commented yesterday that it had been 37 years since Maggie Thatcher became Prime Minister, and she, and you, along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II freed the Communist slave empire. You, every bit as much as us, or the Vatican, led that effort, as you did all through the last century to restore freedom to Europe, and the world. You, like us, have seen Brussels betray that legacy. In truth both Washington and Westminster have as well, but that is no reason to allow the EU to have prerogative powers that you took away from the King way back in 1688. And that is exactly what the EU is doing. So much of this looks like weak men, who nonetheless lust after power and wealth, passing the buck to other unaccountable people. Seems to me, that you, like us are learning the truth of that old Russian proverb, “God is far up high, the Tsar is far away.” That is not the British way, any more than it is the American or the Australian.
I think we’ll close with a few words from one of my best friends, Professor John Charmley, writing in The UK in a Changing Europe. He says this:
The problematic relationship between Britain and the European Union is rooted in an original sin which continues to shape the debate.
At its heart is “English exceptionalism” – a phrase that can trigger the sort of reaction which used to be reserved for heresy. Those who refuse to recognise that England’s history is different from that of her Continental partners will fail to understand how to convince so many of their sceptical or indifferent countrymen that ever-closer political union is something Britain needs.
For the original six members of what was then the European Economic Community, it was obvious. They came to the idea from the experience of defeat and occupation; it was an alternative to what looked like failed states.
Britain, as one of the “Big Three” World War allies, wished their troubled neighbours well and hoped it might finally solve the German question which had haunted them since 1871. But they saw no reason to suppose their history as an imperial people was at an end. England had been a state since the seventh century, and its history, after the Norman Conquest, was one of steady expansion; nothing in that history pointed to its ending in an “ever closer political union”. […]
If Britain had deigned to become a founder member of the Common Market, then she would have been able to have named her terms and helped create its structures. But coming in as she eventually did, in the early 1970s, those structures were set, and Britain’s negotiators were unable to strike the sort of deal they had wanted. This failure was compounded by the fact that the period after 1972 witnessed the first post-war economic crisis, which meant that the promised economic gains were far fewer than had been predicted. […]
Can the effects of this “original sin” be undone? Not if current portents are anything to go by. Again, with the honourable exception of the marginalised Liberal Democrats, we see no major political figures make the “high road” visionary argument. The main answer to the argument that we are in an “ever closer political union” seems to be that we have “opt outs”.
To an electorate which has failed to buy into the idea of “Europe” or to take much interest in it, that might just be enough to win the referendum campaign, when combined with some suitable concessions gained by a politically skilful prime minister. But it will not win many hearts and minds, and whatever the result, in the absence of a convincing deployment of a case for the vision of ever closer union, the arguments will continue.
You all know that I am fond of the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But there is a corollary to that rule, “If it is broke, and you can’t fix it, replace it, or do without it.” Europe is broke, you (or we or anybody else, I think) can’t fix it. Come on home, with those of us who with you built the modern world, and help us fix that.
And so for this small ‘c’ conservative American, of Norwegian extraction, who has found his place in the English-speaking world, it seems to me that the conservative position is to conserve the UK from being submerged into Europe.