‘The World Turned Upside Down” was the tune that British troops played as they marched out of their fortifications at Yorktown, following Cornwallis’s surrender to George Washington in 1781. It expressed the shock and disbelief British elites felt as, against all the odds, Americans had won their independence and had become a sovereign nation.
Now we see the same elite shock and disbelief that Britons, against all the polls, have voted to leave the EU. I was one of the few commentators who thought it possible, even likely, they would (see my last NRO article, “Britain’s Declaration of Independence.”) It’s time to reflect on what the future holds.
Britain, and the Conservative party, will have a new leader. This is one of the saving graces of the British constitution. When a major policy fails, a prime minister feels honor-bound to resign — whereas in the U.S., a failed president like Barack Obama can’t be budged from office until the next election. David Cameron, who led the fight to stay in the EU, has agreed to step down as prime minister, although he is pledged to remain until October in order to ease the transition. Who will take his place? My guess is Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, who was one of the key Leave leaders. His Trump-like flamboyant, outspoken style expresses perfectly the new political culture that’s taking hold on both sides of the Atlantic and roiling the entrenched elites.
Markets will go down, then recover. This was the No. 1 threat that Remainers held over the heads of those wanting to leave: that the pound and global markets would plunge. The majority of British voters rejected that financial blackmail, and while the markets will go down temporarily, expect reason to return and the global financial order to adjust — maybe sooner than the doomsayers predict.
Britain will once again become a haven of genuine free trade. Again, one of the threats that Remainers pushed was that if Britain left, it would lose out on all the advantages of the EU’s free-trade zone. In fact, the EU is the enemy of free trade. It has erected one barrier after another against trade with the U.S. and also against agricultural producers in Africa; it stole away Britain’s right to negotiate its own trade agreements. It’s also imposed regulations that hurt Britain’s service sector, while its courts have overturned laws passed by its parliament. Now Britain can do what Switzerland, Japan, Norway, and the U.S. do: negotiate trade deals that reflects its interests, not those of the oligarchs in Brussels.
This is a major defeat for globalizing elites everywhere.
This is the doom of the European Union. Some speculate that Scotland, which voted two to one to Remain, might try to vote its own independence in order to rejoin the EU. Problem is, there may not be an EU to rejoin. Britain’s departure will take two years of negotiation; in that time, other countries will very likely follow Britain’s lead and arrange their own exit from a European Union that no one loves and no one respects.
This is a big win for Donald Trump, and a big defeat for Barack Obama. Trump was the only major public figure outside Britain to come out in favor of Leave. When Obama was threatening that a post-EU Britain would be moved to the “back of the queue” as far as trade deals were concerned, Trump said that Britain would be moved to the front of the queue if he became president. Britons had the sense to reject Obama’s advice and to realize that whatever Obama thinks is a bad idea is probably a brilliant one. Whatever they think of Trump, he looks their best friend.
#related#This is a major defeat for globalizing elites everywhere, including the U.S. For decades they’ve been pushing the idea that national sovereignty is an obstacle to progress and that the nation-state is a relic of the past. It’s a matter of bitter regret to them that, under a democracy and representative government, ordinary people have any say at all in their fate and future. You could hear the bitterness in Tony Blair’s voice this morning on Fox News as he spoke of the referendum (he was a big proponent of staying). So expect plenty of angry outcry; claims that the vote is racist, xenophobic, isolationist, etc., especially from young people who’ve been taught that any patriotic or nationalist feeling carries a whiff of Nazism.
The truth is very different. Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. The British people have reasserted their right to govern themselves as they, not others, see fit. This is the very essence of independence: independence for a nation, independence for the individual. It is the hallmark of modernity: the belief that independence of judgment, thought, and action is morally superior to dependence on others. It’s also the belief that modern liberalism most aggressively seeks to undermine. Liberalism took a major hit with Britain’s declaration of independence yesterday, a shot “heard round the world.”
It may just be the first.