Last night, the British people struck a blow. They struck a blow for liberty, self-determination, the localization of politics, and the Union Jack. They struck a blow against Brussels, London, Westminster, urban elites, technocracy, centralization, and the political class. Shaken by the massive tremor of a 52-48 vote to leave the European Union, the public face of that political class, Prime Minister David Cameron, resigned this morning. Uncertainty will reign in the coming months and perhaps the coming years as Britain wrangles the terms of its departure with the EU and the pound ping-pongs across the graph accordingly.
But last night wasn’t about charts or statistics; it was a victory for principle over cold empiricism. The argument made by the Remain campaign was, in essence, yes, the EU sucks, but don’t ever shake it up by leaving because you’ll cause disruptions in the economy. One could just as easily make a similar case against the American Revolution or Britain’s decision to join the EU in the first place. An argument for total stability is an argument for perpetual stasis regardless of the circumstances. Last night, the British people rejected that contention, preferring Jefferson’s “tumult of liberty” over the EU’s sinister “ever-closer union.” “Let June the 23rd go down in history as our independence day!” said a damp-eyed Nigel Farage. One can only hope it will.
How good to see that the idea of self-governing nation-states still has some juice in the country where it first caught on. The European Union, from a Western liberal perspective, was an abomination, foisting heaps of regulations on member states by way of an unelected executive commission that was slowly gobbling up sovereignty. On policy, it was the dictionary definition of insanity, bleeding Greece through high-tax lab experiments that repeatedly failed, piling on rules that slowed economic growth to Antarctic rates, committing to open-borders immigration despite the impracticalities that arose. The EU was a lousy idea in the first place and proved itself to be irredeemable. Leaving was the right choice.
The Remain side of the referendum refused to address any of this, preferring instead to scare the stuffing out of voters over the prospect of a post-Leave recession and squealing about the jackboot of fascism returned to Europe. Click over to the Guardian newspaper right now and you’ll find a million hot takes gnashing about how Brexit supposedly proves the UK is a racist country. They created a straw man of a straw man, and then somehow managed to get themselves beaten up by it. I’ve always had a soft spot for (now former) prime minister David Cameron (maybe from watching Prime Minister’s Questions too many times), but his resignation this morning was probably necessary, if only because he allowed the Remain campaign to become so squalid.
Britain will spend the next two years haggling with the EU for an amenable divorce, something the Eurocrats will be hesitant to permit. They know other anti-European nationalists are watching, savoring the doom of their project, and will be compelled to make Brexit as painful as possible. Britain, meanwhile, will need to heal after this; it will need to mend the divide between its metropolitan centers and industrial districts that was torn open last night. Challenges lie ahead, but in the meantime, let’s raise a gin and tonic to the British. Liberty comes at a price, but it’s worth preserving, isn’t it?