16 Reasons to Celebrate Brexit's Win
11. England, which pays most of the bills, ignored political blackmail from Scotland, which threatened to hold another independence referendum. It’s not clear why the Scots didn’t choose to leave in 2014. One suspects too many of them were hooked on subsidies from London, which raised the question why the English were so determined for the Scots to stay. Anyway, in the EU poll the English felt as free as the Scots to vote as they wished.
12. The Brits ignored silly scaremongering about how Europe and, indeed, Western civilization, would be threatened if the UK left the EU. Britain would still be a member of NATO—just as Turkey belongs to the military alliance but not the EU. The latter is irrelevant to security: Proposals for an EU military have gone nowhere, in part due to steadfast British opposition. At the margin a more hawkish London might push the EU in a slightly more hawkish direction in the few cases, like Russia, when the continent moved together. But if Vladimir Putin really were the next Hitler, slightly less anemic sanctions wouldn’t stop him. World peace does not depend on Britain in or out of the EU.
13. Schadenfreude is a terrible thing, but almost all of us glory in the misfortune of at least some others. The recriminations among the Remain camp in Britain are terrible to behold. Labour Party tribunes blame their leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose Euroskeptic past created suspicions inflamed by his criticisms of the EU while nominally praising it. His supporters blame the Scottish nationalists for not turning out their voters. Former Liberal-Democrat Party leader and deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg trashed Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne for seeking political advantage by holding the referendum. The Scots are mad at the English. Irish “republicans” in Northern Ireland also are denouncing the English, while their longtime unionist rivals are trashing the republicans. The young are blaming the old for ruining their futures. Apparently, America isn’t the only home for myopic bickering.
14. Sometimes the advocate of a lost cause triumphs. Nigel Farage has been campaigning against the EU forever, it seems. Yet every advance appeared to trigger a retreat. His United Kingdom Independence Party picked up support, but then had to shed some of those whose views really were beyond the pale. UKIP was able to break into the European Parliament, which it hated, but won only one seat at Westminster, despite receiving 3.9 million votes, or 12.6 percent of the total, in last year’s election. One reason was that Cameron and the Tories stole his issue, promising a referendum on the EU—in which they then opposed separation. Election night he admitted that it looked like the UK would choose to remain. Except the British people ended up taking his advice.
15. A bracing reminder that people want to believe that their views matter, that what they do actually makes a difference and those claiming to represent them actually listen. Today’s political consensus, in which certain concerns are treated as inappropriate for polite company, drive otherwise normal decent folk to the fringes to find political champions willing to speak for them. Debating such ideas might threaten values and policies held by those steeped in modernity and liberalism, including people like me. But otherwise frustration will boil over in far more dangerous ways.
16. The pleasure of disrupting a choreographed ending amid much crying and gnashing of teeth. Election night began with the comfortable assumption among those at the top of the social pyramid that the forces of tolerance, diversity and rationality had carried the day. Then came the shock of watching Brexit improbably take the lead in early returns. Remain “victory” parties emptied and politicians who orchestrated the Remain campaign contemplated the ruin of their careers. Those at the top suddenly found themselves in the political queue well behind their rural and working class compatriots.
Could Brexit turn out to be a mistake? Yes. Unfortunately, we live in an uncertain world with imperfect knowledge. We can only guess at the future. Both the UK and EU must handle separation with maturity unusual for politicians, especially those in Brussels. Europeans should apply the important lessons learned in changing EU policy and operations. The Brits must unilaterally follow an outward economic and political policy. None of these will be easy and much could go wrong.
However, Britain has been capably governing itself for hundreds if not thousands of years. In that light, Brexit appears likely promote the right people and ends. At its best, Britain’s departure will revive the UK’s most basic principles of self-governance and spur EU members to rethink the “European Project’s” attempt to create a superstate by stealth. Those wouldn’t be bad results for a measure that was never supposed to have much chance of passing.
Doug Bandow is a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire. He is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.