Seth Barrett Tillman: Brexit: Crisis or Success?

What you are witnessing in the UK is not a crisis. It is a success. When most geographical units secede from a larger entity, they do so unilaterally, and sometimes violently. They do it through war or, if lucky, soft power. The UK is doing everything in accord with publci int’l law, EU law, and its domestic legal system. No armies involved. No violence. No threats of violence. Just elections. It is democracy and it is messy. It compares well to our war dead in 1776 and 1861. The world should be taking lessons–not mourning Brexit.

Read the whole thing.

13 thoughts on “Seth Barrett Tillman: <i>Brexit: Crisis or Success?</i>”

  1. Um, isn’t the lesson of Brexit that about half of Britons want out of the EU, and yet only a small minority of their elected officials do? And that the latter has all the actual power, and don’t have any intention to leave?

  2. One serious problem is that the European financial system mostly moved to London 20 years ago. One might ask why that happened and whether it has anything to do with so many Britons unhappiness With the EU.

  3. The ostensible advantage of common law over statutory codes is adaptability in the event of unforeseen circumstances, but that all breaks down when government withdraws from society and imposes a distant unaccountable managerial class over the citizenry. I think Brexit has opened a lot of people’s eyes to the fact that their government not only doesn’t represent their views but also has considerable contempt for them. Let’s hope that changes in the next election.

    I don’t believe it’s a problem either that the other constituent countries are over-presented by population compared to England. This is a good application of federalism, and it’s what the UK wanted from the EU but never received.

    I don’t know about the Crown dependencies. Maybe because they’re small and autonomous that it’s not such a big issue now, but after Brexit they will need to be reined-in. Ultimately, this will all need to be addressed if/when the Commonwealth confederation is established.

  4. It will take a long time to learn whether the process of separation of the UK from the EU is a success.

    A historical example might be “Amerexit” from the distant intrusive unresponsive UK government — depending on how one wants to count time, that was a process which started in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence; continued with a war in which said intrusive unresponsive UK government hired German mercenaries to impose its will on the separatists; followed by internal stumbling with the Articles of Confederation; then the difficult drafting & approval of the Constitution; and a further attempt by the intrusive unresponsive UK government to enforce its will on the separatists, ending only with the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

    The Amerexit process took about 40 years — two generations. Those foolish gung-ho Brexiteers have sold their fellow countrymen a bill of goods, implying that Brexit separation would be a fast and easy path to the sunlit uplands of independence. In reality, the current mess in the UK is only the beginning of a very long process.

    Personally, I have no dog in the UK separation fight; the whole deal is anyway irrelevant, since the EU is clearly destined to collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions. But to an outside observer, it is obvious that the Brexiteers have seriously mismanaged the opportunity presented to them by their very narrow referendum success. It is frequently asserted that at the time of the US War of Independence, about 1/3 of the population of the colonies supported independence, about 1/3 supported the status quo, and about 1/3 simply kept their heads down. If we consider the Brits who did not vote in the separation referendum, the situation there is not wildly different. At a time which called for leadership and consensus-building, triumphalist Brexiteers failed the test as badly as Mrs. May’s distant unresponsive UK government is now doing.

  5. It is frequently asserted that at the time of the US War of Independence, about 1/3 of the population of the colonies supported independence, about 1/3 supported the status quo, and about 1/3 simply kept their heads down

    Indeed, the campaign in the South resembled a civil war and was an influential antecedent to the official American Civil War eighty years later. The majority of British forces that fought in the Battle of Cowpens were cavalry and infantrymen from New York and New Jersey.

    I have been doing some on again, off again reading about Ben Franklin. I hadn’t previously known that in the 1750s – 1760s he served as ambassador to Great Britain, representing Pennsylvania and eventually a few other states. Franklin testified before parliament for the repeal of the Stamp Act, and he was successful. He became very popular on both sides of the Atlantic. If Parliament had followed up after the repeal by making Franklin a full voting member representing all the colonies, things would have turned out much differently. Instead they imposed the Declaratory Act yoke that led to war a decade later.

  6. Well, here we are. Today was supposed to be Brexit day, but it has come and gone with still no indication of what is going to happen.

    My concern with Seth’s analysis that everything can be fixed by the voters is the case of Anna Soubry. That’s not the first time she called Brexit voters racist. She had made her views about Brexit and Brexit voters abundantly clear, but she also kept getting reelected by her constituency that also voted Leave. It doesn’t really make any sense. Now she’s just quit the Tories and formed a new third party, the Change Party or somesuch nonsense.

    It’s not clear if there is any constituent support for this new party or if it’s just a media stunt. It’s also unclear if her voters, seemingly as confused as the rest of us, will care?

    Now that May has been defeated three times this month on Brexit I assume new elections will be forthcoming. If the voters continue to send the same old MPs who hate them back to Westminster then we’ll know they weren’t serious about this whole matter.

  7. Is the Brexit mess really any surprise? The referendum revealed a deeply divided polity — 37% of registered voters in favor of separation from the EU, 35% in favor of the status quo, 28% declining to vote. Triumphalist (“We Won”, as Barry Soetero might have said) Brexiteers treated this narrow plurality as an excuse to gloat, instead of as a call to work hard at building broad support for separation. The mess in Westminster is certainly egg in the face for the self-proclaimed Mother of Parliaments … but it is hardly surprising, given the divisions within the country.

    Who knows what was in the minds of the voters & non-voters in the 2016 Referendum? Some were obviously Colonel Blimp types longing for an impossible return to the days of Empire; some were looking forward to retiring outside rainy England in the sunnier climes of France & Spain; some of those who declined to vote probably thought that a new master in Westminster would be no different from the old master in Brussels. It is also clear that Brexiteers had failed to think through many key issues, such as the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic; indeed, it is likely that many of those who voted for separation had forgotten that Northern Ireland was part of the UK.

    Arguably, the main message of the Brexit separation mess is that politics in the UK are seriously broken and in need of far-reaching reforms. The chances for the obviously flawed UK Political Class implementing needed reforms do not look good — and that is unfortunate.

  8. So didn’t the UK say a couple of years ago that they were leaving the EU effective yesterday? And didn’t they never actually pass anything changing that, since absolutely nothing can gain a majority of support in Parliament right now? So why aren’t they out of the EU as of today?

  9. Brian — There is a difference between a Referendum and legislation. Maybe a reasonable analogy would be the People’s Republic of California, where the people regularly vote in Referenda, and then Far Left judges over-rule what the people voted for. We the People do not count for much … it is the insiders in the Political Class who run things, whether it is California or the UK.

    I have to admit I am “Bored with Brexit“, and have not kept up with the interminable machinations of the separation process. However, the Referendum did not specify a date for separation, simply asked the question — stay or go. It is now crystal clear that those in favor of separation had only the vaguest of ideas about what separation involved — stay in a customs union? still allow free movement of citizens? hard border in Northern Ireland? etc, etc? The paralysis in Parliament is partly due to the reality that those who wanted separation from the EU are not unified and have great differences of opinion about what kind of separation they want.

    Things are only going to get more confusing after separation, when the inevitable “Buyer’s Regret” phase is reached among such a deeply divided population.

  10. Gavin: I don’t mean the referendum–didn’t the UK government tell the EU they were going to pull out, as of yesterday? Was there any sort of act of Parliament saying that? It’s difficult from America to follow this stuff, so maybe the Article 50 thing has zero binding legal force.

  11. remember may’s deal comes with a 39 billion pound price tag, which I think the eu upped the ante, she was lever a leaver, she just urquarted her way to the top,

  12. Brian, after Brexit Parliament passed a law that set March 29 as the official day.

    However, a couple weeks ago there were a flurry of motions voted on that:

    1) rejected May’s negotiated withdrawal deal
    2) confirmed Brexit will still occur
    3) rejected a withdrawal with no deal
    4) sent May back to the negotiating table to come up with a better deal
    5) if May couldn’t come up with a better deal by March 29 then Brexit day would be postponed

    This essentially meant the UK’s negotiating position turned into, “give us the deal we want or we will postpone Brexit.” Guaranteed to fail.

    Various parties suggested postponing Brexit anywhere from two months to two years. The EU initially agreed to extend it until April 12, but yesterday they indicated it could stretch into summer.

    The sticking point right now is a soft or hard Irish border, but that appears to be a red herring. If the UK actually left with no deal, Ireland would be forced to maintain the status quo to avoid economic collapse. On that point, May is definitely protecting the European Union more than her own nation.

  13. It comes down to the facts that:
    1) by a small majority, Brits voted to leave the EU.
    2) the Brit governing class regardless of party wants to be part of the EU aristocracy [as they view it].
    3) the Brit governing class has absolutely NO loyalty to the United Kingdom and especially to its people EXCEPT those Muslims who are unassimilated who can do no wrong.
    4) the Brit people have no control over the Brit governing class, especially the parties and who is run for seats in Parliament. Further, with the exception of Labour wanting to add a more blatant totalitarianism to the aristocracy; there is not really any difference in the parties in Britain to give the Brit people some chance to gain some measure of control of the government of their own country. It is just like our Democrat-Socialists and the GOPe; if we did not have a Trump/TEA Party strain and if we did not have guns. The people ARE subjects, and not just of the Queen.
    5) in the absence of any leverage over any aspect of government, the Brit people are going to be part of the EU until it and Western European civilization collapses. It is what it is.

    Subotai Bahadur

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