By Daniel Hannan ~
I’m still reeling from the magnitude of it.
When Britain voted to leave the European Union, it was defying the entire corporatist establishment: the leaders of all the main parties; the mega-banks and multi-nationals that use EU regulation to freeze out competitors; the Brussels-funded associations and institutes and universities; the consultants and contractors and rent-seekers who have turned the EU into a good living; every foreign leader from whom David Cameron could call in a favor – including Barack Obama.
In the event, British voters ignored the hectoring, the bullying, the idiotic scare-stories, and politely voted to take back control of their laws.
The losers haven’t taken it well. In the five stages of grief, they are still stuck between denial and anger. Some have started a petition to re-run the referendum. Others dismiss Leave voters as knuckle-dragging racists. The only reason Britain voted to secede, they claim, was anti-immigrant xenophobia.
Since some overseas media are buying into that narrative, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the facts.
By far the biggest issue for Leave voters, according both to our internal polling and to all the published surveys, was recovering democracy. Immigration was a distant second and, among those citing immigration, few expected or wanted zero immigration from the EU.
What they were asking for was something that other countries take for granted: the right to determine roughly who comes in and roughly in what numbers.
All the main Leave leaders – including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and me – stressed that we supported migration, provided it was controlled.
Voting for self-government does not mean voting to walk away from our European allies. The security and prosperity of our neighbors matters enormously to us. During the campaign, Britain took a decision to deploy troops to defend Poland and Estonia from possible Russian revanchism. It also sent naval forces to the Mediterranean to help with the continuing migration crisis there. No one on the Leave side demurred from either decision.
Far from pulling up the drawbridge, most Leavers voted for a more global Britain. We have had enough of the EU’s over-regulation and introversion. We want to be able to sign our own trade deals with non-EU states – something that, currently, only Brussels can do on our behalf.
Already, politicians from Australia to Korea are lining up to trade with a Britain that, outside the EU, will be far less protectionist. President Obama has conspicuously declined to repeat his “back of the queue” remark, which had the perverse result of pushing more people to vote Leave.
After the vote, Paul Ryan was quick to see that, while the U.S.-EU talks are going nowhere, a bilateral U.S.-U.K. deal “would be easier to do.” You bet, Mr Speaker.
Not that I want to be triumphalist. We Leavers need to acknowledge that it was a knife-edge result: 48.1 percent of Britons voted for the status quo, including majorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The narrowness of our mandate precludes doing anything precipitate or unilateral. We’ll have to move gently, with the consent of our European friends, to a phased repatriation of power. Because the U.K. must work as a partnership, and because two of its four constituent nations voted to stay, we may well end up keeping many more of the current arrangements than we otherwise would.
That will all be discussed when the negotiations begin following the election of a new prime minister in September. Both sides have an incentive to reach an amicable settlement. The market chaos threatened by Remainers has failed to materialize. As I write, the London stock exchange is pretty much where it was before the vote.
The same is not true, though, of all the bourses in the eurozone. A botched Brexit would hurt both sides, and the extent of cross-channel trade gives us a mutual stake in each other’s prosperity.
One thing is clear, though. We will take back legal supremacy and, with it, the right to hire and fire the people who pass our laws. Few nations that opt for independence later choose to give it up. You Americans voted Leave some time ago and, from where I’m standing, things seem to have worked out pretty well for you.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributor Daniel Hannan is an British writer and journalist, and has been a Conservative MEP (Member of the European Parliament) for South East England since 1999. He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes that the EU is making its constituent nations poorer, less democratic and less free. He is the winner of the Bastiat Award for online journalism.