So the UK has voted to leave the EU* and will now have to negotiate what a ‘Brexit’ will look like. That’s a daunting task (in domestic, European, and international terms) and one which is going to consume a considerable amount of resources (Bastiat would point out this is no free lunch and all the work involved is self-imposed, rather than specifically being for the enhancement of the country – so a lot of work just to keep things consistent). However, as a ‘Leaver’, I think there are some fundamental points that need to be outlined.
One of the staggering features of the campaign was the extremely isolated view portrayed by the Remain campaign. Europe, apparently, is the centre of the universe and not being ‘in’ is the equivalent to economic death. The ‘free movement of people’ means European Union people and nobody else. An isolationist bloc, which ignores so much of the rest of the world (and often imposes trade and economic policies which are designed to hinder other areas), is apparently ‘free trade’ and ‘free movement’ and plenty of good people got wrapped up in that.
What’s worse, Remain supporters often portrayed anyone who isn’t ‘pro-Europe’ as being a xenophobic, economically illiterate, ‘Little Englander’. The fact that an isolationist view was being taken by Remain (isolated within the EU) wasn’t even seen as ironic (in fact, any such suggestion incurred yet more wroth at the ignorance of Leavers). The world outside of Europe was ignored, in terms of how Britain would be involved in it, beyond a few statements from the US, a few other ‘world leaders’, and so forth about how remaining was ‘important’.
The sheer negativity, on both sides, was impressive. Oddly, subjective assessments were presented as definitive arguments. Lots of economists didn’t believe ‘Brexit’ would be good for the economy. The long-term economic consequences of leaving were discounted in favour of immediate impact (a what is seen, versus what can be foreseen problem). Endless unpleasantness, name-calling, and so forth came out of the Remain camp (which is a great way to alienate people who are, otherwise, willing to listen). While the Leave camp was focused on how bad the EU was, it often seemed as if the Remain camp was focused on how bad the Leave camp was. Thus, the debate had a nastiness to it that didn’t leave me, at least, with any sense of positivity.
To the ‘Remainers’
When I was a young man I read a copy of ‘After the Common Market’ (written by an ex-chairman of the Board of Trade, who was old Labour). The book looked at the negatives of the EEC and the likely problems it would mean for Britain (as it said, a small free trading nation). The arguments then are very similar now. Yes, Europe will continue to make up an important trading partner, but it will no longer be something which is going towards ever closer social and economic ‘integration’. Britain will be free to trade with whoever it wishes, to set standards of its own again (and see if anyone wants to follow them), and to be, simply put, British again. It has more in common with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand than it does with France, Germany, and Spain. That doesn’t mean it should return to isolationism, but it can move forward now as a free state (free to choose, on its own, what it does and with whom). At this rate, they might even get me back at some point.
* I should note, as a dual national of the UK and NZ, and having been resident in the UK in the past 15 years, I was eligible to vote and did (voted Leave).