Belmont Club

Forget the Lifeboat, It's the Iceberg that Counts

Within 24 hours of the Brexit victory its disruptive effects made many argue it was a mistake; that it would not be long before a repentant Britain was pushing its face against the cold glass doors of the Euro cafe, wistfully eyeing the delicacies now out of its foolish reach.  Yet others have argued in the same breath it would be Europe with its face pressed against the glass, longing the other way round. For example Jamie Kirchick writes in the NY Daily News that an EU without Britain would be easy meat for Russia.

An E.U. without Britain is also more prone to appease Russia, which today poses a greater threat to European security than at any point since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Soon to be a body dominated by France and Germany, where voices demanding accommodation with a revanchist Moscow grow louder every day, the E.U. is increasingly likely to lift sanctions on Russia regardless of its behavior in Ukraine. Indeed, if there is one world leader of whose reaction to Brexit we can be confident, it is Vladimir Putin, unquestionably delighted that the largest military power in Europe, and its strongest proponent of democratic freedom in Europe’s east, has decided to call it quits.

Come back, Lord Shane!  Come back!

Kirchick is right about the EU’s vulnerability as far as it goes.  It’s a fair bet that there’ll always be an England.  Less certain is whether there will always be an EU, a fact of which the public will be reminded when Putin’s adventures, rising bond rates and refugee flows creep back into the news.   As soon as the focus returns to why the UK bailed in the first place the proper sympathy will shift from the poor Britons in a flimsy rowboat to Europeans still trapped on the Titanic.

As Ross Douthat observed in Twitter:  “the actual disaster isn’t the vote, it’s the eight years of policy that made it thinkable.” Brexit is not the disaster. The disaster is what they’re rowing from.

The heady idea among the Remains that Scotland could leave the UK and join the EU was soon tempered by the realization that the Scots would have to pay their way; qualify for the criteria on their own.  The only way around that cost problem is to be grandfathered in.  But as the BBC notes, that would require special dispensation from Brussels.

If Scotland were to hold a second referendum, and become independent, it could apply to become a member of the EU in the usual way. And it is now more plausible that EU member states would try to speed up the process for Scotland than it would have been at the time of the 2014 independence referendum. But we cannot say if it would be able to continue as a member without going through some sort of application process….

In 2012, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee sought a clarification about how Scottish independence might affect its EU membership from the then European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. In his response, Barroso wrote:

“Although there is no certainty, it appears an independent Scotland would not automatically become a member of the EU but would instead have to re-apply and complete a process of accession… A new independent state would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the EU and the Treaties would no longer apply on its territory.”

There’s no guarantee that Brussels will have any money to spare after Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Turkey and Putin have each extracted their pound of flesh.  In fact it is entirely possible that Scotland would find no EU to join after it had taken the trouble to break the shackles with the UK. Should the British exit be followed by a Grexit, Deutschit, Departugal, Italeave, Czheckout, Oustria and Buh-byelgium the best Scotland can do is join France and revive the Auld Alliance.

The breakup of the EU over the next 10 years is a far from impossible and significantly more likely than the extinction of England. Jean Claude Juncker went so far as to assure the press the EU was not headed for the boneyard.

Juncker insisted that the Brexit would not be the beginning of the end for the bloc.

Responding to a question from a reporter about whether it was the end , Mr Juncker replied quietly, “No.” He then turned and walked out of the news conference to applause from EU officials in the room.

But I thought he needed help surviving Putin? Nevertheless, Douthat’s observation it was a pre-existing crisis in the EU which brought about Brexit must be taken as central. Countries don’t usually walk out on a good thing without a reason just as passengers don’t leave 50,000 ton ocean liners for wooden boats without motivation.

The rebellion is real and therefore the causes of the rebellion are also real. Yet even on the day after Brexit, the establishment still found ways to deny the vote was anything more than bigotry and xenophobia run wild. Perhaps the most damning example of its attitude comes from a Tweet by Sharyl Attkisson.  “Little known fact: UK Cameron’s campaign adviser was Jim Messina who was Obama’s campaign adviser & heads biggest pro-Hillary super PAC.” Faced with the threat of an EU breakup, the foreign policy crisis of a lifetime Obama sent a spin-doctor and gave a speech — and it didn’t work.

UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage told Breitbart that the visit by President Obama, where he threatened to send Britain to the “back of the queue” if the public voted to leave the European Union (EU), backfired and caused a “Brexit Bounce”, swaying Britons to vote for Brexit.

That’s it: Jim Messina and a little teaching moment would be all it would take. All those who are still debating the question of whether Obama’s disasters are due to malice or stupidity can chew on this gold-plated, hold-my-beer example of jen-yoo-wine idiocy as a new data point.

Brexit, for all its drama, was merely a warning. The basic demand is for a moderation of the centralizing tendencies, unchecked immigration, runaway political correctness and metastatic government that have characterized the West in these last decades. That’s the bottom line. Unfortunately conceding these demands requires overcoming so much momentum that the captain committee on the bridge has despaired of effecting it. But do it they must. All Brexit has done is give warning. It has started the clock. The rest is up to the West.

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