The Brexit vote and the Fourth of July
For the past three weeks, news coverage has been dominated by the Orlando massacre and, more recently, by Brexit, their aftermaths, and related subjects like terrorism, gun control, and immigration. Even the presidential contest is being filtered through the Brexit/gun control/immigration lenses. A recent lead news item on the New Jersey Jewish News website featured a JTA article “Cameron quits as Brits vote in favor of leaving EU.”
The underlying issue of Brexit is the right of a nation to control its own destiny. This was the issue prompting the American Revolution. The colonies were being ruled by edicts, laws, and policies originating from a distant ruler in the form of King George III and his Parliament.
The laws discriminated against the American colonists by imposing regulations and taxes not imposed on British residents of the home isle. These were set out with particularity by Thomas Jefferson in his 1774 tract “A Summary View of the Rights of British America,” in which he laid out for Virginia delegates to the First Continental Congress a set of grievances against King George. Jefferson’s conclusion was that the British American colonists should be free of Britain to chart their own course. Much of what he wrote found its way into the Declaration of Independence as an itemized indictment of King George: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
This, of course, has parallels to the Brexit Leave position. One of the pivotal issues was Britain’s being controlled by faceless, unelected bureaucrats who rule not by divine right, but through regulations having both Orwellian and Kafkaesque attributes. To the British power elites, Remain was preferable to the unknowns of Leave. Hence, Prime Minister David Cameron launched “Project Fear” to scare the populace not to leave the European Union. Apres moi, le deluge.
In the Broadway smash Hamilton, King George is presented as comic relief but is given some very good lines reminiscent of Project Fear and the EU.
You say our love is draining and you can’t go on
You’ll be the one complaining when I am gone….
And no, don’t change the subject
Cuz you’re my favorite subject
My sweet, submissive subject
My loyal, royal subject
Forever and ever and ever and ever and ever….
The issue in both 1776 and surrounding Brexit was submission, whether to London or Brussels.
Unlike the United States under the Constitution, the EU was built on a collection of treaties, with no omnibus organic document: the initial 1958 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Treaty of Rome), which established the European Economic Community, and the 1992 Treaty on European Union (Maastricht Treaty).
At the time of independence, the States were separate nations, as defined by international law, which merged under the Articles of Confederation. That did not work the way the States expected, so we became a federal republic under the Constitution, with each state ceding certain powers to the new representative federal republic, which, in turn, had limited powers under the Constitution.
The EU’s problem is that it is a confederation acting like a federal government, with unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats making the decisions and regulations for each EU member.
Unlike the Constitution, which does not provide an exit for states joining the Union (we fought a war on this), Article 50 of the Maastricht Treaty allows a member state to notify the EU of its withdrawal and obliges the EU to try to negotiate a “withdrawal agreement.” Why provide for an exit path unless you thought it would be used?
NY Post columnist Michael Goodwin’s weekend column notes the similarities between the Brexit vote and the American Revolution, saying the Brits “had their own Tea Party.” He concludes, “millions of people in both countries are in open revolt against the encrusted establishment, economic as well as political.”
The Leave vote was influenced by the related subjects of immigration and terrorism. As Goodwin notes, those who advocate more border control are labeled bigots by the politically correct open-borders groups, which do not acknowledge the economic, security, and health aspects of uncontrolled borders.
Health? Yes. Supposedly, immigrants have to pass a health examination before entering the country. Illegals don’t. Thus, in April, a CDC official warned staffers that unaccompanied illegal minors were bringing diseases like TB into the country.
On the linkage of immigration and security, law professor and anthropologist David Post writes, “[R]adical Islam has — perhaps inadvertently — uncovered a most powerful weapon in its continuing war on Western civilization: Make your own people so miserable by your brutality and your cruelty that they will leave everything behind to try to go elsewhere, even with the foreknowledge that the trip is terribly dangerous and likely to lead to some squalid refugee camp or worse; then, open up your borders and let them out and watch Western institutions break under the strain.”
In 1966, sociologists and political activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven called for overloading the U.S. welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would lead to its replacement by a national system that “guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty.”
And people wonder why the Brits declared their independence.