The Corner

National Security & Defense

Are Brexit Opponents Just Going to Ignore Recent Economic History Now?

I noted last week how economic intellectuals are studiously ignoring the lesson of the euro project — one they actually seem to have learned, that’s not just limited to the right, that unaccountable international policymaking has big problems — when it comes to the Brexit debate. Now, you can recognize that supra-national governance is a pretty bad, economically destructive idea and still oppose Brexit. There is a possibility of reforming the EU, and the uncertainty about the Brexit aftermath is huge.

But if that’s your position, you need to be honest about the status quo and how bad it is. Not everyone is: At an event I attended recently in Washington, a longtime, widely respected Republican foreign-policy/international-economics figure who’s anti-Brexit was talking about how to assess the success of the EU, and suggestions that it’s a real mess from which Britain may want to extricate itself even if the costs are fairly high.

He said (to paraphrase), “so Brexit proponents say Europe’s economy is doing poorly — well, everyone’s economy is doing poorly.”

This is true in a sense, since the U.S. recovery has also been lackluster. But it’s a remarkably different perspective from what you’d generally get from the foreign-policy/economic elite. They know quite well that Europe’s recovery from the financial crisis has been awful, and noticeably worse than the U.S.’s (and others’). Yet that insight goes out the window when it comes to the Brexit debate.

And they know that boosting the European growth rate will involve not just better monetary policy (hamstrung by the ECB, not the EU), but also reforms to all kinds of awful regulations at the European and national level that will make its labor markets, e.g., look more like the U.S.’s. Whether or not these reforms are more or less likely with or without Brexit, it’s just unfortunate how willing anti-Brexiters are, in the course of making their case, to ignore insights they’re otherwise happy to apply.

Patrick BrennanPatrick Brennan is a writer and policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He was Director of Digital Content for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, writing op-eds, policy content, and leading the ...

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