Bri­tain’s wel­come re­vival of na­tion­hood

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Ge­orge Will

— The Leave cam­paign won the ref­er­en­dum on with­draw­ing Bri­tain from the Euro­pean Union be­cause the ar­gu­ments on which the Re­main side re­lied made Leave’s case. The Re­main cam­paign be­gan with a sham, was mono­ma­ni­a­cal with its Project Fear, and ended in gov­ern­men­tal thug­gish­ness.

The sham was Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron’s at­tempt to jus­tify Re­main by ne­go­ti­at­ing EU con­ces­sions re­gard­ing Bri­tain’s sub­servience to the EU. This dick­er­ing for scraps of lost sovereignty un­der­scored Bri­tain’s servi­tude and achieved so lit­tle that Re­main­ers rarely men­tioned it dur­ing their cam­paign.

Project Fear was the re­lent­less and ul­ti­mately lu­di­crous pa­rade of Cas­san­dras, “ex­perts” all, warn­ing that Bri­tain, af­ter more than a mil­len­nium of sovereign ex­is­tence, and now with the world’s fifth-largest econ­omy, would en­dure myr­iad calami­ties were it to end its 23-year mem­ber­ship in the EU. Re­main ad­vo­cates rarely even feigned en­thu­si­asm for the ram­shackle, scle­rotic EU. In­stead, they im­plau­si­bly promised that if Brexit were re­jected, Bri­tain — al­though it would then be with­out the lever­age of the threat to leave — would nev­er­the­less some­how ne­go­ti­ate sub­stan­tially bet­ter mem­ber­ship terms than Cameron man­aged when Brexit was an op­tion.

Vot­ers were not amused by the Cameron gov­ern­ment’s threat of what crit­ics called a Pun­ish­ment Bud­get to in­flict pain on pen­sion­ers (e.g., no more free bus passes) and oth­ers be­cause Brexit might cause GDP to con­tract 9.5 per­cent and home prices might plum­met 18 per­cent. Vot­ers did not like be­ing told that they re­ally had no choice. And that it was too late to es­cape from en­tan­gle­ment in the EU’s ever-mul­ti­ply­ing ten­ta­cles. And that the very vis­cos­ity of the EU’s statism guar­an­tees its im­mor­tal­ity.

Vot­ers chose the op­ti­mism of Brexit. Sixty years af­ter Bri­tain’s hu­mil­i­a­tion in the Suez de­ba­cle, Bri­tain has a spring in its step, con­fi­dent that it will flour­ish when Brus­sels no longer con­trols 60 to 70 per­cent of the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment’s ac­tions. Bri­tain was last con­quered by an in­vad­ing army in 1066. In 2016, it re­pelled an at­tempted con­quest by the EU’s nomen­klatura.

By break­ing the left­ward-click­ing ratchet that moves steadily, and only, to­ward more “pooled” sovereignty and cen­tral­iza­tion of power, Brexit re­futes the pro­gres­sive nar­ra­tive that his­tory has an in­ex­orable tra­jec­tory that “ex­perts” dis­cern and be­fore which all must bow. The EU’s con­tri­bu­tion to this fable is its vow to pur­sue “ever-


closer ever.

To un­der­stand why Brexit could and should be the be­gin­ning of an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis for the EU, look across the English Channel, to France. There, King Clo­vis re­cently was in­voked 1505 years af­ter his death in 511.

Be­fore a par­tic­u­lar bat­tle, Clo­vis promised that if the God to whom his Chris­tian wife prayed would grant him vic­tory, he would be­come a Chris­tian. He won the bat­tle and con­verted. Re­cently, Ni­co­las Sarkozy, France’s once and per­haps fu­ture pres­i­dent, said France was “born of the bap­tism of Clo­vis,” it has a Chris­tian tra­di­tion and re­mains “a country of churches, cathe­drals, abbeys and shrines.”

Ac­tu­ally, 71 per­cent of the French say re­li­gion is unim­por­tant to them and fewer than 4.5 per­cent at­tend weekly church ser­vices. But Sarkozy was align­ing him­self with the pal­pa­ble de­sire in France and else­where in Europe to re­sist the cul­tural ho­mog­e­niza­tion that is an in­tended con­se­quence of EU’s pres­sure for the “har­mo­niza­tion” of the laws and poli­cies of its 28 dis­parate mem­ber na­tions.

In Paris th­ese days there are marches by a group called Gen­er­a­tion Iden­ti­taire, de­scribed as the “hip­ster right.” It aims to rally “young French and Euro­peans who are proud of their her­itage.” A re­cent state­ment on its website de­clared that “Is­lamist at­tacks” and “the mi­grant in­va­sion” made 2015 “a turn­ing point in the his­tory of our country.” The state­ment con­tin­ued: “The French have been silent for too long. ... It is time to show our de­ter­mi­na­tion to live on our land, under our laws, our val­ues and with re­spect to our own iden­tity.” Sarkozy, the son of Greek and Hun­gar­ian im­mi­grants, sym­pa­thizes.

Euroskep­ti­cism is ris­ing dra­mat­i­cally in many EU na­tions. There might be other ref­er­en­dums. Or the EU might seek to ex­tin­guish this es­cape mech­a­nism. A poll in Swe­den in­di­cated that it might fol­low Bri­tain out. In France, there could be a cam­paign for Frexit.

Such was the Re­main side’s in­tel­lec­tual sloth, it wielded the thread­bare as­per­sion that ad­vo­cat­ing with­drawal amounted to em­brac­ing “iso­la­tion­ism.” Ac­tu­ally, Brexit was the choice for Bri­tain’s in­ter­na­tional en­gage­ment as a na­tion. The re­vival of na­tion­hood is a pre­req­ui­site for the rein­vig­o­ra­tion of self-gov­ern­ment through re­claimed na­tional sovereignty. Hence June 23, 2016, is now among the most im­por­tant dates in post-war Euro­pean his­tory.

Ge­orge Will is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at georgewill@wash­post. com. union.” Yes,

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