22 February 2016

Word to Republicans: Brexit is vote for liberty


One of the most amazing things about the referendum in respect of Brexit — now set for June 23 — is that it has been met among Republicans here in America with little but silence. That silence echoes in the face of a strategic blunder by President Obama, who has been warning the ally with whom America has so long boasted of a special relationship that he would begrudge any decision in favor of leaving the European Union.

The right move for the Republicans would be to endorse Brexit, meaning for the UK to leave the European Union. And to say to Britain: If you are prepared to stand for your own liberty, let us encourage you by strengthening our special relationship and forging — along with such free market democracies as, among others, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Israel — a new liberty bloc. It’s an opportunity for the United States as well as Britain.

Clearly Mr. Obama prefers the kind of socialism favored in parts of Europe. So do both the Democratic candidates to succeed him. The Senate’s only avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, bemoans the fact that America has not yet adopted the kind of socialist programs that obtain in Europe. Hillary Clinton, a closet socialist, has demurred only tepidly in the face of Sanders’ challenge within an ever-more-leftist Democratic Party.

Obama has gone further. He has suggested that Brexit is against America’s interests, which lie, he suggested, in Britain serving as a moderating influence in Brussels. Over the summer, Obama’s trade representative, Michael Froman, allowed as how America is “not particularly in the market” for Free Trade Agreements “with individual countries.” Froman warned that Britain it could face the kind of tariffs America imposes on Red China.

“Ugly scaremongering” is how this was characterized in a column in CapX by the director of the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, Niles Gardiner. He reckons that it is typical of a presidency that “has a spectacular track record of appeasing America’s enemies while snubbing her allies.” So why is this kind of argument being left to think tanks and news sites?

Where is the GOP? Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both great admirers of Thatcher, have said they’d offer Britain a free trade pact, as did Jeb Bush. But where is the big vision? Where is the GOP front-runner, Donald Trump? It strikes me that he could have a particularly big impact on this issue given that leftists in parliament are agitating to revoke Trump’s ability to enter Britain. The United Kingdom Independence Party is one logical ally.

It’s not only that, though. Trump has been flirting so openly with a protectionist campaign in respect of Mexico and the Pacific that he could use Britain as a way to mark his openness to trade on classical freedom principles. If what he is against is “unfair” trade and currency “manipulation,” he ought to be more inclined toward Britain than the other contenders for the American trade dollar.

In any event, the moment for the Republican candidates — and intelligentsia — to step up on this head is now. It’s no small thing that six members of Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet — including Justice Minister Michael Gove — have come out in favor of Brexit against which Cameron himself will be campaigning. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has just endorsed Brexit.

What an eloquent catch for Brexit. Johnson has long been skeptical of the European idea. He’s a major public figure and journalist, to boot. Add to the mix Lord Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has been making particularly well-thought-out remarks in favor of Brexit. It is clear that the Brexit idea has moved into the mainstream from the pubs in which UKIP’s Nigel Farage likes to nurse is famous cigarettes and beer.

What animates me — and the New York Sun, the publication I edit — is not a hostility to immigration, or even refugees. I am struck, though, by the evidence unfolding on the continent today that the European Union has been less than successful at keeping the baser sentiments from advancing in a crisis. Further support for the notion that the better strategy against such sentiments is to nurse the cause of classical freedom.

This is what is at stake as Britain decides whether to withdraw from the EU and bet on its historical concepts of liberty and property. It was in Britain that these concepts were given early and eloquent expression. It was from the England and Scotland that so many of these ideas were given to the world. What a tragedy it would be if while these ideas hung in the balance, America’s liberty party stood silent.

Seth Lipsky is editor of the New York Sun.