According to recent polls, a majority of my British compatriots have apparently concluded that the UK has a brighter future by annulling its marriage to the rest of Europe. Or, possibly more accurately, my English compatriots have.
In a sweeping rejection of orthodox economic opinion, the leaders of the Brexit movement have, to paraphrase Janan Ganesh, dismissed the Governor of the Bank of England as a Goldman Sach’s stooge, the IMF as a mouthpiece for the Treasury, and the US President as a lame duck whose counsel we can safely dismiss on matters of US policy. Michael Gove—who we might then assume to be planning to later sever ties with the institutions of the Bank of England, the IMF and the US Presidency—was unable to name a single economist supporting his case for Brexit under interview with Faisal Islam; instead, he suggested that economists have been wrong before, so we can apparently dismiss their forecasts and trust his instead.
Given this sort of shrill, anti-intellectual economic case for Brexit, what else is it in the Leave campaign material that is so deeply resonating with voters? An objection to EU policy on Syrian migration, perhaps? Is the European policy—that’s sufficiently ungenerous to have resulted in Médecins Sans Frontières refusing EU funding—still not quite ungenerous enough?
Or is it the notion that our closest international partners don’t always agree with what we say? I wonder who the new, supine state partners are outside of Europe that we believe will enter into new treaties with us, entirely on our own terms. China?
It’s becoming difficult to discern the chutzpah from the outright absurd.
If cynicism over European political institutions is a case for their abandonment, what’s to follow the parallel cynicism of our equally flawed domestic political institutions? Further secession?
Well, that of course is far from a whimsical rhetorical question. The truth is, the case for Brexit is a case for English nationalism, and the European Union is unlikely to be the only political union to lose a limb in this grotesque experiment in international political surgery. Perhaps it’s fair enough for people to enjoy a bit of national pride and flag waving, but the English must embrace the facts that (a) we are Germanic people, and we invaded and settled this island by force – a fact the Celtic among us haven’t forgotten since we arrived; and, (b), the parliamentary freedoms of which we’re so proud were drafted by a French nobleman to limit the powers of a Norman King, and were written in French and Latin before being translated into English – itself a germanic language.
We’re as European as those on the mainland, ethnically, linguistically, culturally and politically. If there’s a forum available in Brussels to help us Europeans coordinate and standardise regulatory frameworks, trade systems, international diplomacy with larger state actors in the world, and peace, then it’s a unique folly to be so passionate to surrender our seat at the table.
If Mexico had negotiated a voice, a vote, even an occasional de facto veto, on US policymaking, and then voluntarily surrendered them all in a recalcitrant huff over having to honour agreements, it would be a global laughing stock. Only a view of the world overwhelmingly distorted by national pride could maintain the illusion that Brexit is something entirely dissimilar.