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A nation must think before it acts.
As War on the Rocks readers are no doubt aware, Britons go to the polls tomorrow in a national referendum to decide whether the country ought to remain a member of the European Union or leave. The situation is, to put it mildly, confused and extremely strained. No major country has left the European Union before so no one really understands how a vote to leave — a “Brexit” — would in practice play out. On the other hand, the European Union itself is changing, profoundly, becoming in all likelihood a United States of Europe — as it must if it has any chance of saving itself from its current otherwise unarrestable economic decline and associated political turmoil. As best as anyone can tell from opinion polls, the country is more or less evenly split.
On the “Remain” side there is essentially very little passion, instead there is a sort of weary realist this-is-the-best-we-can-ever-get-ism — my friend Patrick Porter, for instance, has managed a “reluctant case for Brexit.” In a nutshell, he says, despite the European Union being objectionable in many ways, we cannot leave for several reasons. We will be poorer as a result, partly because the rump European Union would seek to punish the United Kingdom.It might split the country too because Scotland, which is more Europhile than England and has a strong separatist minority, would seize the opportunity to hold its own independence referendum. Moreover, Europe needs Britain inside in order to reform it and to curb the worst instincts of the continental elite.
On the “Leave” side there is a veritable volcano of passion, indeed to use an apposite Americanism, Brexiteers are on the verge of losing their shit big time. For the record, I am absolutely committed to Brexit. The idea that the 1000-year independent existence of my country should hinge on a few economic predictions arguing a couple of percent points difference over a decade is puerile. The real question is whether in 50 or 100 years’ time the name Britain has any more relevance in international discourse than Mercia does today. Fears of Scotland seceding are massively overblown: that shale oil has imposed ceiling on the price of oil of about $60 per barrel is the least of a number of barriers to any such move. And the idea that Britain can lead the European Union from within is laughably at odds with experienced reality. Prime Minister David Cameron’s deal with Europe, his hard won concessions, bear essentially no relation to the rather modest aims he announced in his Bloomberg speech in 2013. Basically, Britain asked for very little and was cordially invited to piss off. That is what we should do, I think.
Continue reading “Why Does the United States Oppose Brexit? I Can’t Say”