More Brexit commentary worth reading - both from outside the UK. In the Tablet, Liel Leibovitz on the failure of the Remain campaign:
Labour, for long the occupants of 10 Downing, downplayed legitimate concerns shared by growing swaths of the population as being somehow inappropriate, as if only bigots watched the news and concluded that lax immigration policies deserved, at the very least, close scrutiny. Some members of the party have come to see this strategy as misguided: Jack Straw, Labour’s former Home Secretary, for example, recently admitted that setting no restrictions on migration in 2004 was “a spectacular mistake” as well as a “well-intentioned policy we messed up.”
That last sentence is more or less the motto of progressives around the world these days, applicable to everything from former Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner’s disastrous populist economic policies, which led her nation to the brink of ruin, to Obama’s Syria policy, which made the entire world exponentially less safe. Such bungling of basic policies is bad enough; but blaming it on the people who were wise enough to reject it is an insult which, when added to injury, does not go over well anywhere from West Midlands to Ma’alot.
If you’ve listened to the Remainers these last few weeks, you’ve heard this unique and noxious form of condescension in play. “Nationalism is on the march across the Western world, feeding upon the terrors it seeks to inflame,” wrote Harry Potter’s creator, J.K. Rowling, in a spirited anti-Leave screed on her website. For a minute there, you might’ve thought she was writing about Death Eaters, not ordinary folks who feel proud of their country, a normal and fundamentally human sensation viewed by most enlightened progressives these days as just two or three steps above setting fire to a wooden cross while wearing loose-fitting white sheets.
“Finding the present scary?” Rowling continued, “We’ve got a golden past to sell you, a mythical age that will dawn again once we’ve got rid of the Mexicans/left the EU/annexed Ukraine! Now place your trust in our simplistic slogans and enjoy your rage against the Other!” Yup. No other reason to believe in tradition, no other way to connect with national identity: Look at the flag with anything but haughty contempt, and you’re practically on your way to a pogrom.
This vile line of argument was pulsating beneath most pro-Remain campaign efforts, whether self-consciously or not. To make their case, the Remainers marched a phalanx of experts, all of whom sternly warned that departure would be disastrous for this reason or that. They also dialed up the anti-Brexiter rhetoric, accusing EU opponents of being chauvinistic xenophobes and promoting the narrative that only the elderly, the unemployed, or those without formal education supported separation from the EU, an argument that wasn’t much helped by the fact that these demographic markers pretty accurately describe the queen herself.
Could it have been done differently? Imagine a Remainer going on TV and delivering the following speech: We know you’re proud of our country and its heritage; we are, too. We know you chafe at the kind of regulation that often stifles creativity and growth; you have every right to be, and we promise to work hard and push for further reform. And we know you’re concerned about safety; just looking at recent attacks in Brussels itself, you’d be crazy not to. Your fears are valid, as are your hopes, and there’s no reason to argue that pledging our collective allegiance to a customs union riddled with bureaucracy and inept at protecting the wellbeing of its citizens is somehow nobler than honoring the unique and particular glory of England’s storied civilization. But staying is in our best interest, and so let’s. We can have whatever discussion we need to have later, in the comfort of our economic stability.
No one, of course, gave such a speech....
And Michael Totten - :
The British decision to leave the European Union is the most momentous event across the Atlantic since NATO bombed Belgrade.
If I lived in the United Kingdom, I would have voted to Remain in the EU, but it’s not hard to see why the majority voted to Leave. I wouldn’t want the United States to join the EU for the same reasons the Brexiters want out of it.
The EU is a brilliant idea. Unite splendidly diverse yet like-minded yet nations into a powerful bloc that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Provide minimum standards and guidelines for countries that aren’t as advanced (such as Greece and Romania). Pull down trade barriers and do business in a common market. Open up job opportunities and leg-stretching room for all. (I wouldn’t want to be confined to a place as cramped as Belgium for the rest of my life, but I’m one of those cosmopolitan “elites” everyone likes to complain about nowadays.)
The actually existing EU, though, isn’t so brilliant. It includes all the good stuff, yet it’s crushed by a staggering amount of centralized regulatory bureaucracy and a disregard for the wishes of its individual member states. It’s hardly a gulag empire, but it’s autocratic enough that Europe’s democracy deficit has its own Wikipedia page. And its internally borderless nature is bringing more immigrants than can be absorbed all at once without shocks to the system....
Every racist jackhole in Europe is whooping it up over the Brexit results and pining for more, but even the most welcoming people and nations can only take in so many strangers at any one time, and Europe has never been as good at assimilating immigrants as the US and Canada anyway. (We have a lot more experience on this side of the Atlantic.)
I’ve always been skeptical that the EU would survive beyond the medium-term. Uniting nations as diverse as Britain and Greece isn’t as daft as merging the United States and Mexico into a single polity, but it’s a lot less likely to work than marrying Maine and Texas—or even British Columbia and Quebec. It’s more like combining British Columbia and Argentina. That kind of arrangement can only work if the federation is incredibly flexible.
The EU is not incredibly flexible, and English people don’t appreciate having decisions made for them in Belgium any more than Canadians would enjoy decisions being made for them by Americans, and vice versa.
Britain would have been better off without joining the EU in the first place if it wasn’t going to stay. That would have been fine. Switzerland is flourishing outside the EU, and so is Norway.
It may be a bit premature to say the EU is dead just because Britain left. The British were always the most likely to leave. They never joined with the same enthusiasm as other people. Many have always felt that “Europe” is somewhere else, that it’s the Continent, not the islands, and they refused to scrap the Pound for the Euro.
That said, this could well mark the beginning of the end of the EU. Leaving is no longer unthinkable now that the UK actually did it. If one country can leave, any country can leave, and Euroskepticism has been on the rise all over the place for a while. The EU can get along just fine without Britain, and it would probably get along even better sans Greece, but it won’t survive if France and Germany head for the exits.
Except we haven't actually left yet.
One of the comments on Totten's piece - "From an economical point of view, Remain would have been a no brainer." I think for many who voted Remain - myself included - the economic arguments trumped the political arguments. From a purely political point of view - if such a thing is possible - I would have voted Leave. But the economic arguments for Remain were just too compelling. For many, clearly, it was the politics that mattered most.
Update: Tyler Cowen is worth reading too, for another American view.