Europe has been jilted, and now it’s acting like a loser.
What France and Germany failed to do the past several centuries with bullets, they succeeded with bureaucrats. Last week, Brits succeeded in repelling the bureaucrats with ballots.
Predictions of catastrophe predictably ensued.
It’s a bad idea to outsource your government to foreigners. The British recognized this in voting last week to exit the European Union. Unsurprisingly, bureaucrats soon with undoubtedly less money and power than they possessed before the vote seek to punish a sovereign state for its insolence. They promise various global-depression Armageddon scenarios that belie their true fear: the destruction of their institution.
Once the pastime of Chicken Little and shiny-eyed gentlemen wearing sandwich boards, doomsday prophecies increasingly mark one as part of the respectable establishment in the strange times in which we live (think debt-ceiling votes and global warming warnings). Within a few days of Brexit, the London Stock Exchange returned to where it closed the day the results of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union became clear. Last Friday, Englishmen woke up still breathing, Scotsmen still knew how to tie their shoes, and the Welsh didn’t all wet their beds.
Hell hath no fury like a mandarin scorned, an Englishman once wrote (or something like that). Jilted boyfriends, like jilted bureaucrats, say, “You’re making the worst decision of your life,” when they mean, “You’re making the worst decision of my life.” A Joe Schmo dating a Hayden Pannettiere says such things in desperation to avoid the breakup. The handwringing over the UK dumping the EU should be seen in this light.
The UK no longer seeks a partnership that works for Brussels but not for Britain. Not getting their own irony, the apparatchiks who wore out their welcome by repeatedly overriding the will of the people on immigration and much else again dismiss the will of the people as in grievous error. They know best.
Nobody likes a know-it-all. And they like less the bully, which is why everybody — save for the bullies and their toadies — liked Nigel Farage standing up to the European Parliament this week.
“Funny, isn’t it?” the leader of the “leave” forces told the body. “When I came here 17 years ago and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the EU, you all laughed at me. Well, I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you?” He bluntly told the EU that “you as a political project are in denial” and unmasked the parliamentarians by acknowledging aloud that “virtually none of you have ever done a proper job in your lives.”
They booed, preferring to tell themselves pleasant lies than hear painful truths. The EU’s third largest economy, second-most populous state, and wealthiest per-capita entity just wished them “cheerio.” The EU responds with threats of trade restrictions and other punitive measures meant to hurt the state that hurt its feelings and prevent Frexit, Dexit, and referenda beyond.
But one needn’t construct a superstate to achieve free trade. One need only a treaty, even merely an informal one, between nations. But the overbearing overlords in Belgium wish to impede the market in response to Brexit and blame the Brits. The economic slowdown inevitably ushered in would not prove the folly of Brexit but of the inability to persuade member states to stay in the EU on its own terms. A body that sold itself as a common market now exposes that as a common lie through an enthusiasm for restrictionist trade policies against a rebellious soon-to-be former member.
Europe is not bigger than Little Britain. Here, it plays the small, petty actor, albeit one with grand delusions of a standing army and other trappings of a traditional state.
Europe fails to learn the lesson of Europe. Nationalism matters. The Basques in Spain, Russians in Ukraine, Germans in Lorraine, Frenchmen in Alsace, and the polyglot of peoples in Yugoslavia tell us as much. The notion of governing them all in one United States of Europe strikes as utopian (dystopian?) enough. The current push for Brits to become not just part of the continent but of the Arabian diaspora proved untenable.
There is power in a union. There is power in leaving one, too.