Brexit Is An Ominous Sign For The World
Steven Erlanger has done an excellent job of explaining the history and meaning of Brexit. In a decades-long rift in the governing Conservative Party, a vocal minority has demanded that Britain leave the European Union since the time of Margaret Thatcher. That minority grew in opposition during the Tony Blair years, and views on Europe have become a litmus test for Tory candidates, because grass roots Conservatives have tended to favor a British exit (Brexit) of the EU.
Brexit was a referendum promised by Prime minister David Cameron asking voters whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union (EU) or leave it. By a vote of 52-48, voters decided to leave the EU. The margin was 1.27 million votes while 13 million people did not even vote. Who says voting isn’t important?
Those who wanted to leave argue the EU has changed over the four decades as far as the size and reach of its bureaucracy which has diminished British influence and sovereignty. Those who want to stay argue that a medium-sized island needs to be a part of a larger coalition to have real influence and security in the world. Most independent economists and large businesses favored staying in, as did the most recent heads of Britain’s intelligence services.
The European Union began in 1951 as the European Coal and Steel Community, an effort by six nations to heal fissures of World War II through duty free trade. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community or Common Market. Britain joined in 1973 after initial attempts to join were vetoed in 1963 and 1967 by French President Charles De Gaulle. Two years later in 1975, a Brexit vote was held where 67 percent of Britons voted to stay.
Will Britain retain access to the single market for duty-free trade and financial services? That will probably require accepting freedom of movement and labor for European Union citizens, which is one of the main complaints the “Leave” camp has about bloc membership. An exit would cut growth, weaken the pound and hurt the City of London, Britain’s financial center. Even economists who favor an exit say growth would be affected in the short and medium terms, though they also say Britain would be better off by 2030.
There will be an initial two-year negotiation with the European Union about the terms of the divorce. The negotiation will decide Britain’s relationship with the bloc. The major issues would surround trade. If Britain wants to remain in the European Union’s common market — the world’s largest trading bloc, with 500 million people — Brussels is expected to exact a steep price, in particular to discourage other countries from leaving.
As the Financial Times has noted, there are three tragedies that result from this vote. The working class, who largely voted to leave the EU due to feelings of neglect, will continue to be neglected just by a different group of so-called elites. Secondly, younger Britons have now lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. This means lost opportunities, partnerships, friendships and marriages for a group of people who are swimming in the debt of their predecessors who voted to leave the EU. Finally, this is the beginning of a post-factual democracy where truth is not as powerful as rhetoric, and anti-intellectualism makes bigotry acceptable. Is America next with the rise of Donald J. Trump?
As I stated in “Free Trade Is What Makes America Great“:
America is maybe the greatest free-trade zone in the world. Michigan manufactures cars; New York provides banking; Texas pumps oil and gas. The fifty states trade freely with one another, and that helps them all prosper. Imagine how much our standard of living would suffer if we were not allowed to buy any goods or services that originated outside of our home states?
We won’t have to imagine what that will look like anymore.