It’s Brexit day, and here I am in London, where, thanks to dual citizenship, I have a vote.
My colleagues at The Advocate will be displeased that I am voting for out. In an editorial the other day, they argued that Louisiana will suffer economically if Britain leaves the European Union.
Indeed, my colleagues at The Advocate are displeased that I, or anyone, will be voting at all. They believe that Prime Minister David Cameron is “mightily to blame for bowing to political pressure to hold the election in the first place.”
Seldom is the British government blamed for an excessive willingness to let the people have a say. There was a time when Americans held the contrary view.
It is true that Cameron was in a precarious political position when he suffered his fit of democratic zeal. Cameron’s Tories were governing in a shaky coalition with the Liberal Democrats, and the United Kingdom Independence Party was stoking the xenophobic fires. So Cameron promised that, if he was still prime minister after the next parliamentary election, he would renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership and call a referendum.
The Tories duly won an outright majority, leaving Cameron to lead the Remain campaign and, resort, the Leavers allege, to scare tactics over the economy. His chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, amplified Cameron’s argument not by droning on about GDP but by promising to raise taxes if the vote did not go the way he wanted.
The prospect of higher taxes evidently had an impact, and polls showed Remain in a slight lead as election day approached. Still, the polls have been nip and tuck throughout, and we Leavers might yet prevail with the argument that national sovereignty should not be for sale.
We are, in any case, by no means convinced that Britain, or, indeed, Louisiana, will be worse off if the vote is for leave. That means we are betting that the financial doomsayers are wrong, but experience shows that might well be a safe bet.
Cameron’s renegotiation yielded little, and could not affect the freedom of movement that is one of the EU’s core principles. With everyone free to live and work in any of the EU’s 27 member states, the more prosperous ones are naturally a popular destination. This rich and overcrowded island has thus become swamped with immigrants, fueling the rise of UKIP.
A country that has forfeited the right to control its own borders is hardly a country at all. Americans, with or without a President Trump, would never stand for it. Neither would they let their courts and democratic institutions dance to the tune of unelected foreign panjandrums.
Yet that is what the EU has meant for Britain, which is subject to countless regulations imposed by distant commissioners. Its parliament and courts must do the bidding of their European masters. As Britain’s Justice Secretary Michael Gove, a prominent Leaver, declared, the “government is not, ultimately, in control of hundreds of areas that matter.”
This is hardly an acceptable price to pay, even if EU membership does make Britain richer, as most of the economic experts maintain. But economic experts are not to be trusted. These are the geniuses who failed to see the 2008 recession coming. A few years back, the experts said Britain should adopt the common currency, the euro, and now they concede the economy would have taken a dive if government had heeded their advice.
Britain’s illustrious mercantile history is reason enough to dismiss the prognostications of timid money men. If Britain does vote to leave today, that will be to forgo any benefits that might accrue from the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between Europe and the United States, but so what? With the fifth-largest economy in the world, a stand-alone Britain will always be an attractive trading partner, well equipped to strike its own deals.
Here is one Leave voter with no fears for international trade or Louisiana.
Email James Gill at firstname.lastname@example.org.