The Corner

National Security & Defense

Opting for Brexit

I don’t agree with absolutely everything (although it comes close) that Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has to say in this powerful piece for the Daily Telegraph explaining why he is voting for Brexit, notably his opinion that it is really for the younger folk to decide on this (not a view we heard too much of during the Scottish referendum, when the youth vote tilted towards independence), but there is much that’s worth highlighting, beginning with his first few  words:

With sadness and tortured by doubts, I will cast my vote as an ordinary citizen for withdrawal from the European Union.

With sadness and  tortured  with doubts.

On Monday I was emailed by a friend who lives in Birmingham (Birmingham, England, that is). He’s been out campaigning for Brexit:

My experience on the doorstep and in personal conversations is that the mood is serious, thoughtful and rather sombre as the people weigh up whether their democracy should be bartered against the possibility that Project Fear’s warnings have any substance or indeed might be a price that should be paid.

Above all, Evans Pritchard understands that, at its core, this is a vote about democracy and self-determination:

[I]t comes down to an elemental choice: whether to restore the full self-government of this nation, or to continue living under a higher supranational regime, ruled by a European Council that we do not elect in any meaningful sense, and that the British people can never remove, even when it persists in error…

The [European project] bleeds the lifeblood of the national institutions, but fails to replace them with anything lovable or legitimate at a European level. It draws away charisma, and destroys it. This is how democracies die.

…The EU crossed a fatal line when it smuggled through the Treaty of Lisbon, by executive cabal, after the text had already been rejected by French and Dutch voters in its earlier guise. It is one thing to advance the Project by stealth and the Monnet method, it is another to call a plebiscite and then to override the outcome.

This, as I have written before, was  the fatal line for me too. I had supported the “Common Market” (a misleading description if ever there was one) in the 1970s, and the creation of the  Single Market (too blithely, but partly for economic reasons, and partly to help bind together the Western part of the Continent in the face of the Soviet challenge) in the 1980s. Maastricht and the development of the single currency turned me into a euroskeptic, but it was the Lisbon Treaty that finally convinced  me that it was too dangerous for Britain (and not just Britain) to remain locked into a union that was, to quote its founding treaty, moving relentlessly in the direction of an “ever closer union”, an ever closer union that the peoples of Europe simply did not want.

Naturally, Evans-Pritchard turns his attention to the creation and operation of the euro “the greatest economic crime of modern times”, but what he has to say in this passage (my emphasis  added) matters more:

Has there ever been a proper airing of how the elected leaders of Greece and Italy were forced out of power and replaced by EU technocrats, perhaps not by coups d’etat in a strict legal sense but certainly by skulduggery? On what authority did the European Central Bank write secret letters to the leaders of Spain and Italy in 2011 ordering detailed changes to labour and social law, and fiscal policy, holding a gun to their head on bond purchases? What is so striking about these episodes is not that EU officials took such drastic decisions in the white heat of crisis, but that it was allowed to pass so easily. The EU’s missionary press corps turned a blind eye. The European Parliament closed ranks, the reflex of a nomenklatura. While you could say that the euro is nothing to do with us, it obviously goes to the character of the EU: how it exercises power, and how far it will go in extremis.

Evans-Pritchard rightly warns of the economic perils ahead:

We are compelled to make our choice at a treacherous moment, when our current account deficit has reached 7pc of GDP, the worst in peace-time since records began in 1772 under George III. We require constant inflows of foreign capital to keep the game going, and are therefore vulnerable to a sterling crisis if foreigners lose confidence. I am willing to take the calculated risk that our floating currency would act as a benign shock absorber – as devaluation did in 1931, 1992, and 2008 – but it could be a very rough ride. As Standard & Poor’s warned this week, debts of UK-based entities due over the next 12 months amount to 755pc of external receipts, the highest of 131 rated sovereign states. Does it matter? We may find out…

And, as I would do, he criticizes the failure of Vote Leave, the ‘official’ Brexit campaign to offer a convincing plan for Britain’s future trading ties or the viability of the UK’s financial sectorand, in particular the way they have “ruled out” (I’ll get back to that) “a fall-back to the European Economic Area, the “Norwegian” model that would preserve – if secured – access to the EU customs union and preserve the “passporting” rights of the City.”

Following the argument laid out by the Adam Smith Institute’s Roland Smith and, in immense detail (and after years of work) by EUReferendum’s Richard North, Evans-Pritchard explains that “the EEA would be a temporary haven while we sorted out our global trading ties, the first step of a gradual extraction.”

That is the point.

Brexit is the key, the EEA is the door (sadly I cannot claim any credit for that metaphor), and, judging by one poll, it is a solution that will play well with British voters:

This shows overall support for the interim EFTA/EEA (Norway) Option of 54 percent, against just 25 percent opposed, with 21 percent unsure. And among those currently intending to vote Remain, 79 percent are in favour of such a staged Brexit approach, while only 5 percent are opposed.

It is worth adding that Vote Leave can ‘rule out’ whatever they want., but the form that Brexit takes will not be for them to decide. That will be up to the British government to negotiate with the rest of the EU.

Evans-Pritchard concludes with a distinctly transatlantic appeal:

To those American friends who ask why we cavil at compromises with Europe when we “pool sovereignty” – an inaccurate term – with scores of bodies from NATO to the United Nations, the answer is that the EU is not remotely comparable in scale, ideology, or intent to anything else on this planet. Remainers invoke Edmund Burke and the doctrine of settled practice, but settled is the one thing the EU has not been in its irrepressible itch for treaties and its accretion of power, and Burke is a double-edged sword. He backed the American Revolution, not to create something dangerously daring and new, but rather to restore lost liberties and self-government, the settled practice of an earlier age. Americans of all people should understand why a nation may wish to assert its independence.

Indeed.

Now read the whole thing. 

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