Thursday’s Brexit vote was about far more than immigration. For a millennium, Britain has been a proudly sovereign nation. But in the four decades since joining the European Union, Britain’s sovereignty has been increasingly threatened by European integration.
At the core of Britain’s decision to exit the EU is this: People do not like being told what to do.
For many in Britain, the Brexit vote was a rejection of the socialism that undermines European innovation and productivity.
The day before the vote, workers in France were protesting changes by their socialist government designed to give employers some flexibility in hiring, firing, and compensating workers. Across Europe, the news cycle was filled with images of thousands of French workers demanding they keep their short workweek, high wages, and guaranteed jobs.
It is not difficult to imagine that these images prompted some British citizens to vote “Leave” and end their subsidization of European socialism through their outsized financial contributions to the EU — in spite of the risks of potential economic isolation.
For others, the Brexit vote was a protest against stifling and nonsensical regulations issued by clueless Brussels bureaucrats. These voters weighed the economic loss from diminished exports to the EU against the promise of less costly regulation and lower taxes, and decided it was worth the split.
The Brexit vote should be seen for what it is: a correction to an unbalanced, unfair, and unsuccessful system. While the EU succeeded in easing travel and trade within the common market, its imperious Brussels regulators needed a reminder that overregulation stifles growth and harms innovation.
The Brexit does just that.
Britain’s economy will not collapse simply because it has opted out of full EU participation. Switzerland and Norway have voted against joining the EU, while strengthening their own trade ties with the common market and maintaining strong currency valuation. And in some cases, their markets become safe havens at times of global market instability. That same model could hold for Britain, as long as the Brits structure their EU divorce wisely.
For Americans, the Brexit vote may be a win and an opportunity. The vote creates a chance to strengthen our “Special Relationship” and even formalize a trade agreement with Britain. Our shared politics, language, culture, and belief in democracy and business as a driver of employment and growth should make a trade agreement important, mutually beneficial, and relatively easy.
And for U.S. businesses, Thursday’s vote sends a strong message to the EU, which has used ambiguous antitrust laws to strong-arm some of America’s most successful companies.
Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Qualcomm have suffered through EU investigations and anti-U.S. regulations. Many of these companies have been forced to pay billions of dollars to settle EU charges and continue doing business in Europe. And in the wake of the EU’s stifling economic and legal environment, the Continent has failed to produce any new major technology companies, which perhaps explains more about these extortionate settlements than the vague laws that underlay the allegations.
The Brexit vote represents, in part, a rejection of a series of significant oversteps in regulation that includes the EU’s proposal to mandate local language and content quotas for streaming content providers such as Amazon and Netflix. American industries should not be targeted by the EU for their success. The Brexit vote strengthens the argument that the content-quota proposal be withdrawn.
More, mandates on American search engines suffering from newly created “right to be forgotten” privacy rules could loosen. The U.S. food industry could benefit from a fact-based and softened approach and learn about Mendelian genetics and the overall safety of genetically modified foods. And manufacturers can hope for a factual basis for new rules imposed on them across a range of environmental and energy-efficiency issues.
No doubt the Brexit may cause new political challenges between the U.S. and the EU as our closest ally leaves the union. But in the end, the EU’s loss can be America’s gain.
While Britain now tries to balance the importance of self-governance and self-determination against the challenges of economic separation, American political leaders have an opportunity to capitalize on this historic moment.