To Brexit or not to Brexit

To Brexit or not to Brexit, that is the question addressed by Douglas Murray in “Exit Britain?” (National Review) and by Christopher Caldwell in “See you, EU?” (Weekly Standard). What is Brexit? Brexit is shorthand for the question whether Britain should leave the European Union, the question submitted to the British electorate by referendum on June 23.

Don’t stop reading yet!

The question raises issues that concern us every bit as much Great Britain. These engrossing articles do a great job laying them out in a most entertaining manner. Among these issues are the administrative state and national transformation (i.e., immigration). With respect to the current immigration crisis, for example, Murray notes:

A migrant flow had persisted across the Mediterranean for years, but it now became a flood. By the German government’s own private figures, in 2015 alone around 1.5 million migrants, in addition to those visiting workers who had already been expected, entered Germany. That is around 2 percent of the German population. Similar numbers entered Sweden and other countries. Experts expect a similar flow this year, and the summer rush has already begun. In anticipation, Merkel arranged billions of dollars in bribes from the EU to the Turkish government to stem the flow through Turkish territory. Along with the European Commission, she also agreed that, to keep out several million refugees this year, the EU would award visa-free travel inside the EU to Turkish citizens, who number 75 million.

Murray also takes a look at the Remain campaign:

In the campaign to date, the prime minister has informed the British public that the vote he has offered, should it go the “wrong” way, will lead to global recession, a simultaneous rise in mortgage payments and slump in housing prices, the invasion of Europe by Vladimir Putin, the end of peace on the Continent, and the arrival of at least three out of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Murray is British. Indeed, he is an associate editor of the Spectator (UK). Caldwell, by contrast, is American, with a special interest in the issue of immigration in Europe. He is the author of Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West. Caldwell does a good job of situating Brexit issues in an American context. The Brexit referendum arises from a commitment made by Prime Minister David Cameron to prevent the leeching of conservative voters to UKIP. Here Caldwell draws on American analogies:

The Tory party under Cameron has become what the Republican party would have become had anybody followed the recommendations laid out by the RNC elders who convened the “Growth and Opportunity Project” after Mitt Romney’s drubbing in the 2012 election. Cameron came of age in the Tory wilderness decades that began with the rise of Tony Blair’s “New Labour” in the mid-1990s. Redemption through wussification is his motto. He has learned to talk about global warming and quality of life. Although something of a Euroskeptic in his youth, he is now on a positive crusade against Little Englandism and xenophobia, and has convinced himself that the Brexit campaign is a symptom of both.

Cameron has always been one of those politicians (somewhat like Hillary Clinton) who uses organization and preparation to compensate for a lack of charisma, and the campaign he is running against the referendum he himself called is something to marvel at. It is a masterpiece of political choreography. Investment banks (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup) and bigfoot British political donors (Lord David Sainsbury, Roland Rudd) have bankrolled a mighty organization—Britain Stronger in Europe—to campaign for Remain. It uses top politicians from both the Labour and Tory parties.

Project Fear represents the heart of the Remain campaign in which President Obama played a cameo role. Caldwell provides a glimpse of Project Fear:

Cameron has solicited foreigners, many of whom are indifferent to or ignorant of the trajectory of Europe in our time, to offer testimonials to the catastrophe that awaits Britain should it reclaim the sovereignty to which it clung so shabbily and unimpressively at Runnymede, Agincourt, Trafalgar, Waterloo, and Dunkirk. These warnings are released daily. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe warns that a vote to leave would scare off Japanese investors. Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund has predicted that the consequences of Brexit range from “pretty bad” to “very, very bad” and has helpfully scheduled a report to that effect for June 17, six days before the vote. Cameron roped together 13 U.S. secretaries of defense and state and national security advisers, led by George Shultz, who signed a letter scolding Britons for embarking on what Cameron called an “act of supreme irresponsibility.” Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, warns Britain, “We’re not particularly in the market for free-trade agreements with individual countries.” (Apparently, Britain cannot aspire to the grandeur, in Obama administration eyes, of Chile or Morocco, each of which has such an agreement.) President Obama himself said on a visit to London that, should Britain leave the EU, it would have to get to the “back of the queue” on trade deals.

On that last point, Caldwell adds: “Of course, it can come to the front of the queue the next time we need its young men to die in one of our wars.”

I highly recommend these two articles, long as they are. They entertain as they instruct on issues that matter to us as well as England and Europe.

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