In what has been called a setback for the New World Order, citizens of Britain voted on June 23 to leave the European Union. See report below. – John Vennari
A dispatch from liberated London.
by Christopoher Caldwell
(The Weekly Standard) – London feels like a city liberated by one side in an ongoing civil war. The papers on the newsstands seem to come from a foreign country—yesterday’s country. At twenty minutes to five this morning, it became apparent that Britain’s citizens had voted by a 4-point margin to leave the 28-nation European Union. Most Londoners, politicians across Europe, and virtually all pundits and politicians are in a state of shock and rage.
The EU has always found, by hook or by crook, the wherewithal to forestall populist outrage against it. A poll released on election eve showed that those who favored remaining in the EU would scrape through pretty easily. But so deep is the cleavage between those who profit from the present order and those who feel screwed by it that the latter have become unfathomable to, and unpollable by, the former. Despite driving rains across Britain on Thursday, voter turnout was at record highs—72 percent, higher than in last year’s general election. Within hours, prime minister David Cameron, who led the Remain side, had announced he would resign. Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn was facing a party vote of no confidence. The pound had fallen to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985, and people were dancing in the streets of various European capitals and calling for referenda of their own.
“It was a noble idea for its time,” said the former conservative London mayor Boris Johnson, Cameron’s rival since their days together at Eton, and now his probable successor. “It is no longer right for this country.” The universe of what is politically possible has expanded—and not just for Britain.
Remain was backed by the leaderships of all three major parties, not just Cameron’s Conservatives but also Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Yet British people have never particularly liked the European Union, and Remain never aspired to convince them to. Instead, in an extraordinarily well-funded and well-choreographed campaign, it trundled out one high-ranking functionary after another to warn that outright catastrophe would befall the U.K. should it retake control of its political destiny. Cameron and his colleagues coordinated anti-Leave interventions by the IMF, various economists, and even Barack Obama, who, during a visit, threatened to discipline an independent Britain by sending it to the “back of the queue” on trade relations.
People derided this coordinated effort as “Project Fear,” but it was highly effective. This created a rallying and broadening of the establishment. Even the usually conservative Mail on Sunday made its peace with the EU, editorializing: “The great chorus of economists, businessmen, educators, historians, scientists and others who have urged that we remain in the EU cannot simply be brushed off as if their opinions are so much babble.”
Brushing off those opinions was exactly what Leave intended to do and, ultimately, succeeded in doing. As Leave saw it, those whom Remain called “experts” were nothing more than what voters in a more democratic age used to call “bosses” and “elites.” The conduct of the EU’s leaders provided eloquent proof. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker spent half his time urging Britain to unite with its European partners in brotherhood, love and solidarity; and half the time, warning that, should it decide to leave the EU, he would personally see to it that the country was chopped off at its knees. What is more, he insisted, there would be “no kind of renegotiation” of any agreements on immigration even should Britain opt for remain.
The well-read Tory cabinet minister Michael Gove reacted to this daily procession of prominent naysayers by citing an anecdote about Albert Einstein, whose theories had been denounced in the late days of the Weimar Republic, in a book called A Hundred Authors Against Einstein. Einstein replied, “If they were right, one would have been enough.” To his old ally Cameron, this was likening Remain to Nazis. Cameron said Gove had “lost it.” Ultimately fear was all the Remain side had.
But the Leave side did not have much more. Leave was split, rather like the Republican party of the Reagan era, between sunny free-trading libertarians like Gove and former London mayor Boris Johnson (who joined a movement called Vote Leave), and romantic pessimists, like Nigel Farage of the U.K. Independence party (who rallied behind a group called Leave.eu). This split worked to Leave’s benefit. Voters in politically correct Britain, who would be embarrassed to associate with UKIP, could identify themselves with Johnson and Gove’s cosmopolitans, but the issue that really rallied many of them to the Leave cause was immigration, and it was only Farage who dared mention it.