Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit is one of the worst books on any subject that I have read in a long time. It is a blow-by-boring-blow account of David Cameron’s referendum campaign, principally in the media of mass communication, to keep Britain in the European Union. It was written by Craig Oliver, whose job was director of politics and communications in David Cameron’s administration, a title instinct with dishonesty. At least one knows what a second-hand car salesman does. But a very bad book may, in its own way, be highly instructive, as this one is. If mediocrity can…
Britain Makes History
By Richard Samuelson
So yet another effort to put all of Europe under one government seems to be failing. From Caesar to Charlemagne to Charles V to Louis XIV to Napoleon and beyond the vision of unity has been a recurring theme in European politics. The latest effort, a union forged in the wake of two destructive and nearly universal wars, is different in some ways—although not democratic, there have been democratic elements in the EU. Moreover, and most importantly, expansion has been peaceful, featuring conquest by referendum.
All that notwithstanding, one can, quite accurately see the Brexit as the latest in a long series of rejections of a universal European empire, with Eurocrats in the place of previous would-be emperors. As in previous centuries, Cambridge and Oxford dons are more comfortable conferencing with their peers at the Sorbonne than with their fellow subjects, and once again the would-be coutiers they train look to the Continent for moral guidance. And, as before, many of Her Majesty’s common subjects resent it.
There has been a great deal of negativity directed at the idea of a British exit from the European Union. The campaign against Brexit headed by Prime Minister David Cameron, in conjunction with the Labour Party leader and the chief Liberal Democrats serving in Parliament, has been dominated by dire warnings of falling living standards and economic calamity at home, to predictions of greater instability and even war in Europe, should the United Kingdom leave the EU.
Would Britain gain or lose by leaving the European Union? Is it possible the consequences would be neutral, with the costs and benefits of Brexit cancelling each other out?
On Saturday, after what seemed like interminable haggling in Brussels with his European Union counterparts, followed by a specially convened meeting of his cabinet, David Cameron went to the steps of 10 Downing Street and told Britons that a referendum would be put to them in June on whether Britain should stay in or leave the EU.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the opposition Labour Party in Britain was conducted in a rather peculiar fashion. All one had to do to obtain a vote in it was to declare on-line that one supported the aims of the party and pay £3 ($4.60). It was rumoured that a number of Conservatives had voted for Mr Corbyn in this fashion, in the belief that Mr Corby was so left-wing that he could never be elected, thus assuring a permanent Conservative government.
David Cameron’s unexpected victory in the British elections Thursday is also an important victory for liberty. Rather than increasing spending after the financial crisis, he pursued what the left terms “austerity” policies. An austerity program is better described as a liberty program because it curbs the reach of the state by shrinking it. By contrast, government stimulus programs, like those supported by most of the intelligentsia in the UK and elsewhere, make the state more powerful by allowing politicians to direct a firehose of money where it will do them the most good.
Cameron’s constitutional thinking is sound as well. He wants to reform Britain’s relationship with the EU to make the latter more a free trade zone than a super state. Subsidiarity within a free trade zone can foster freedom while preserving accountable government. Within the UK, Cameron is also for the devolution of powers, not only in Scotland, but also in England, which should further align government with the people. Local jurisdictions could be more responsive to their citizens, and those who do not agree with the local politics may be able to move to another jurisdiction within the United Kingdom with policies they prefer.
Cameron’s differences with Ed Miliband’s Labor Party were huge.
The attempt by the media and the political elites of the three major political parties in the United Kingdom to heap contempt on Euroskepticism no longer possesses the same power. With the victory of the United Kingdom Independence Party in local and European Parliamentary elections, the prospect of the UK leaving the European Union is a live one. Indeed, Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to a public referendum on this question in 2017 should the Conservatives be returned to power in 2015. I recently discussed the case for a UK exit with David Conway, a frequent contributor to this…
Three hundred and seven years ago, Englishmen and Scotsmen brought forth, upon the British Isles, a new Union, conceived in English insecurity and Scottish impecuniosity, and dedicated to the proposition that the two peoples, if not equal, at least had more in common than either did with the French.
The original Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707 was a “political necessity for England, a commercial necessity for Scotland,” as one historian put it. For contemporary champions of Union, the necessities that were the mother of its invention are as pressing as ever.
The words that Lord Falkland is supposed to have said—that when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change—are a lesson that humanity and above all politicians are reluctant to learn.
There’s no profit in it for “projectors,” Edmund Burke’s term for those who place at the center of their own sense of importance change brought about by them.
And there’s no greater projector than the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Alex Salmond. Mr. Salmond does not so much promise to solve specific problems as arouse hope, a hope that is vague, general, and unfocused. He has been very successful at this, assisted as he is by the fact that there is good cause for discontent in Scotland. Deindustrialization has not been kind to the country, and there are parts of Glasgow, its largest city, where living standards and life expectancy are at levels found in the old Soviet Union.