Can countries truly escape injustice? Well, Great Britain is trying. In case you haven’t heard, Brexit has happened. Seven weeks ago, a historical event took place on par in significance with the fall of the Berlin Wall, man landing on the moon, and the end of World War II – the kind of history one sees so rarely in a lifetime. I watched all eight hours of the BBC coverage on election night and witnessed the shock and disbelief in the faces of the alleged “intellectuals.” They sat with mouths agape, muttering things like “uneducated” and “grievance-driven” when describing the voter majority – heck, they even blamed the weather. It seems that any trivial excuse made more sense to them than the idea of actual knowledgeable voters understanding that the European Union has failed, and that Great Britain needs an exit strategy, an escape of sorts, to maintain its unique cultural identity and economic future.
One must first understand the history of the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom’s relationship with it, to truly appreciate this vote. Starting out in the early 1950s as the European Coal and Steel Community (designed by the Treaty of Paris to foster continent-wide economic integration, and to prevent the rise of another singularly dominant Germany), the coalition soon evolved into the European Economic Community (aka “common market”) in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome. This, in turn, lead to the EU in 1992, with the Maastricht Treaty on European Union. The Euro currency was then adopted in 1999 by most EU countries (Britain being an exception). The Lisbon Treaty in 2009 made further amendments. As for the British, the UK joined the “common market” in 1973, which was overwhelmingly ratified by UK plebiscite in 1975. Thus, we are looking at a 43-year history which has been reversed in the blink of an eye. But why?
A brief understanding of British history is needed to truly appreciate the significance of this vote. Remember, Britain was forcibly conquered in 1066 by William the Conqueror of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings. Since then, Britain has been of contrasting minds when it comes to its relationship with “the continent.” Continental threats from Spain (1588 Spanish Armada), Holland (the Dutch Golden Age of the 1600s, which saw incessant trade wars), Napoleon (1800s), and Germany (late 1880s via Bismarck, and Hitler in the 1940s) have always weighed heavily on the English mind, leading to certain nationalistic feelings of “Englishness,” or “non-continentalism” – a unique worldview which is distinct from the “European” view. In short, the English could never quite decide whether continentalism was a threat to English sovereignty or an inevitable force of attraction. Complicating this has been the fact that the English have looked westward to their brethren in the States in a way that other Europeans have never done. Thus, the American and English connection has served as a consistent counterweight to the inevitable tug of continentalism on the British mindset. In other words, while the UK is certainly a part of Europe, it has never truly adopted a European view of the world. Its Empire furthered that. Its democratic institutions furthered that. Its common law furthered that. Its language furthered that.
In a sense, the Brexit can be seen as the English reverting to their norm of keeping “continentalism” at arm’s length while pursuing its own unique destiny and cultural identity.
All three major British parties (Labour, Conservative, and Liberal) came out in favor to remain part of the EU. Every so-called expert and major newspaper favored the “remain” sentiment as well. Voter turnout was 72% overall: Scotland voted to remain by wide margins, Northern Ireland was essentially split with a slight margin to remain, while Wales was essentially split with a slight margin for exit. Thus, England stood alone in deciding the Brexit outcome. Breaking the vote down in England shows that 60% of people in London voted to stay, while 40% voted to leave. How then did the vote swing in favor of a Brexit? The referendum won by racking up 70-80% margins in small villages and towns, and in the industrial north. Who are these voters? Conservative voters from rural areas (i.e. patriotic, nationalistic voters) combined with traditional Labour voters from England’s former industrial heartland (who have seen their jobs and wages eliminated by unlimited immigration and trade deals that shipped jobs overseas). These unlikely twins provided the margin of victory. Ironically, these hot-button issues seem to perfectly mirror the current political landscape in the United States.
What happened with the Brexit is nothing short of a “revolution” which likely portends the end of the EU. It is the little guy, the working man, giving the collective middle finger to the elites in London and Brussels. It is 1776 in reverse. Voters saw the EU for what it has become: an undemocratic superstate whose bureaucratic edicts overrule all local laws. Neil Kinnock (the “old-Labour” MP who grew up in the coal mines and was a Marxist, as opposed to Tony Blair’s “new Labour” MP style) said: “We believe there should be reforms in the EEC which would benefit all the members. If these are not achieved, our policy is to preserve the ultimate option of withdrawing Britain.” (Source: On Labour Policy Regarding the EEC [8 January 1986]). He also noted in 1975 (when the UK joined the common market), that the single greatest issue with the union was that it was undemocratic. Ergo, the numerous Labour party rank and file that openly and actively supported Brexit. Simply, “old Labour” favored Brexit while “new Labour” favored to remain, with the conservative party split. Indeed, Brexit cost PM David Cameron his job.
I have traveled extensively throughout Europe: Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, England, the Channel Islands, Holland, France, Germany, Italy, and Austria. Simple eyewitness observation demonstrates that it is clear that the promises of a common currency (purchasing power parity throughout Europe) has not been achieved. The banking crisis in Greece and Cyprus portended a weak fiscal system based on bloated welfare state policies belying a visage of prosperity. Negative interest rates on public debt in Germany (a feat not achieved in 600 years, since the first public finance offering underwritten for the King of France by the Knights Templar) bespeak a complete lack of confidence in public economic policy. Unrestrained immigration (whether you support it or not) has revealed the weakness and unenforceability of basic EU agreements. High systemic unemployment abounds everywhere and can be seen in the streets of any major city. Thus, to a neutral observer, it is clear that the EU dream has not worked out. The oneness of Europe envisioned by Charlemagne and Napoleon is dying, and the common man, pumped up with promises and delusions of glory by administrative statists, sees it. The common man wanted an “escape” or “exit” from a world of broken promises and economic stagnation.
Thus, the Brexit vote is a rational reaction to the unique long-term history of the English people within the context of a clearly failing putative superstate. You see, nations can decide to escape, just like people.