King George III and Lord North have been blamed for botching negotiations with the American colonies. Now, the same Conservative Party seems determined to botch another negotiation; with the EU. In both cases, the party and negotiators were determined to keep the relationship intact, no matter how unequal.
An excellent piece in the claremont Review explains.
Many statesmen warned from the outset that British ideas of liberty would not survive a merger with the E.U. The most eloquent early diagnoses came from the Labour Party, not the Tories. That is because the fundamental disposition of the E.U. is to favor technocratic expertise over representative government, and the Tories have not generally been the British party that placed the highest priority on the passions of the masses. In 1962, as Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was eying EEC membership, Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell warned, “[I]t does mean the end of Britain as an independent nation state…. It means the end of a thousand years of history. You may say ‘Let it end’ but, my goodness, it is a decision that needs a little care and thought.”
Interesting that Labour saw the danger first. In the US, the party of the Administrative State is the Democrats although both parties are heavily invested as Angelo Codevilla has pointed out.
Eventually even the reliably anti-Brexit Economist came to see that some of Britain’s major problems had arisen from constitutional meddling. David Cameron’s 2011 Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, in particular, made it much more difficult to call the general elections that would ordinarily have been provoked by the resounding repudiation of Theresa May’s withdrawal package. Blair and Cameron, the magazine noted, “came to power when history was said to have come to an end. They saw no need to take particular care of the constitution.” E.U. membership hid these problems—if Britain wasn’t paying attention to its constitution at the time, it was partly because it had been using someone else’s.
I had not realized that “Judicial Review” of laws was an American phenomenon. John Marshall has reached far into the future with his ruling in Marbury vs Madison.
The transfer of competences from legislatures to courts is a superb thing for the rich, because of the way the constitution interacts with occupational sociology. Where the judiciary is drawn from the legal profession, and where the legal profession is credentialed by expensive and elite professional schools, judicialization always means a transfer of power from the country at large to the richest sliver of it. This is true no matter what glorious-sounding pretext is found to justify the shift—racial harmony, European peace, a fair shake for women. In a global age, judicial review is a tool that powerful people expect to find in a constitution, in the same way one might expect to find a hair dryer in a hotel room.
Much is explained about how the Remainers so resemble the Never Trumpers.
Early in the negotiating process, Britain’s ambassador to the E.U., the Brussels insider Ivan Rogers, submitted his resignation, warning that Britain was going to get its head handed to it at the bargaining table. “Serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall,” he wrote, “and that is not the case in the [European] Commission or in the Council.” He was right about that, and it was a lesson in the sociology of Brexit.
Bureaucrats are very good at bureaucracy.
And yet there was a hangdog tone in all elite descriptions of the Article 50 discussions. People were wishing their own country ill in an international negotiation. “If I were an E.U. negotiator,” wrote the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Sir Ed Davey in a fantasy of his own country’s humiliation that appeared in the Independent, “my starting position would be to increase the divorce fee to £50bn, arguing that the U.K. must now pay the E.U.’s cost of handling the no-deal Brexit, after refusing the first deal. Given the severely negative impact of a no-deal Brexit on everything from our sheep farmers to our NHS [National Health Service], I rather think any U.K. government would be so desperate to make some deals that £50bn might suddenly seem a bargain.”
This, of course, does not describe the true situation. How many ex-spouses want the divorce to be easy on the other?
The final negotiated Withdrawal Agreement that May unveiled to Parliament last November caused the whole country, Brexiteers and Remainers alike, to gasp in horror. May’s team had been sent away to declare British independence and had returned with a document of surrender. The agreement not only contained (as expected) a £39 billion ($50 billion) “divorce” fee, but also left E.U. courts free to top that fee up. It locked Britain into a customs union with the E.U., with no mechanism for leaving it—ever. The E.U., and the E.U. alone, would decide when Britain had fulfilled the backstop agreement, and any move to break it unilaterally on Britain’s part would be resolved by giving the E.U. jurisdiction over Northern Ireland’s economic relations. It subjected Britain to E.U. trade sanctions more onerous than those meted out to other countries. It laid out contexts in which E.U. law would retain its supremacy over U.K. law.
And more to come.
Once the Withdrawal Agreement failed, no-deal was the form that independence had to take. It would be no deal or no Brexit. And Remainers were alarmed to realize that no-deal Brexit was the law. It had been agreed on March 29, 2017, and it would automatically become reality on March 29, 2019, unless something could be done to stop it.
The Deep State Intervenes
It was surprising how much could be done to stop it. Remainers were a synonym for the governing class. They had an infinity of tools, and they were no longer scared of the voters. No one wanted to be so contemptuous as to repeal Brexit, but Parliament could put a “no-deal Brexit” on hold, which it did. May’s negotiators had already produced a “Brexit” deal that caused misgivings among the Brexiteers themselves. The prime minister’s cabinet secretary, a powerful member of the career civil service, now wrote a 14-page memo warning that no deal would lead to higher food prices and more crime.
None of this is true but it makes for good arguments if the facts are fuzzy. Read the rest.