Religion and Liberty Transatlantic readers will be aware of the utter chaos which has surrounded the Brexit process in the UK. In putting the current situation into context, it is important to reflect a little more deeply on its implications for liberty.
What just happened?
Prime Minister Theresa May, after promising to leave on March 29, and then April 12, has agreed to extend the Brexit process until October 31 of this year. This symbolism can convey either the macabre (Halloween) or increased liberty (Reformation Day). The “Halloween Brexit” decidedly represents the former.
The prime minister will attempt to force through her Brexit deal against the wishes of the majority of her own party and potentially with the support of the opposition socialist parties. She has promised to step down after this deal is complete, so May might indeed be the end of May.
The deal which the Prime Minister will cobble together will be some version of her own withdrawal agreement (which Parliament has already voted down three times) and a customs union favoured by the opposition parties. The outcome will be messy and contain little to encourage proponents of economic liberty.
The European Union and political liberty
The cold, hard reality is that we have seen Brexit deliberately stalled and scuttled by undemocratic forces in Westminster which cannot countenance the idea that the United Kingdom might leave the European Union. This is how politicians in a democracy chose to respond to the largest vote in UK history, in which 17.4 million voted Leave. When May switched rhetorically from “my deal or no deal” (to which the British people replied, “No deal please!”), to “my deal or another extension,” the die was cast.
Thus began the process of slowly destroying the opportunity of liberty which leaving the EU offers. The UK’s senior civil servants warned of disasters in the case of no deal. The governor of the Bank of England forecast economic catastrophe, without any vision of the opportunities of economic, not to mention political, liberty that independence from domineering Brussels presents.
The European Union and economic liberty
To leave with “no deal” would give the United Kingdom the opportunity to eliminate or at least reduce up to 20,000 tariffs on goods. To remain in a customs union will require the UK to maintain these tariffs and have no say in their setting. What an opportunity for free trade! What a chance to enable people in the UK to benefit from reduced prices and reduced taxes! Tim Martin, the chief executive of pub chains Wetherspoons and a leading proponent of Brexit, says he could immediately reduce prices in his establishments if tariffs were abolished. The result is wealthier and happier – and freer – people.