- - Monday, June 13, 2016


Full disclosure: I’m an Anglophile. In other words, I admire all things British.

Well, almost all things: British cooking isn’t always great, and the weather can be miserable, but when it comes to the basics — a commitment to the rule of law, punching above its weight in the world community, standing up for traditional values and individual liberty going back many centuries — I really do admire our British cousins.

So what does an avowed Anglophile, who’s had the good fortune to live and study over there, say about the June 23 national referendum on Britain’s continued membership in the European Union?

I’ve heard the arguments on both sides, and I say it’s time to “Vote Leave.”

The European Union is not the simple “open trading area” envisioned in the 1950s. It has become a bureaucratic monstrosity, unaccountable to national parliaments, imposing a heavy thumb on the regulatory scale of its 28 members.

Ask an English or a Scottish friend what they think about their immigration challenge: Their response will sound familiar. The EU is confronting hundreds of thousands of unidentified, and unidentifiable, migrants from both within the member states and refugees from elsewhere. Once they become EU citizens, they will have the right to reside in the United Kingdom, and eventually claim welfare benefits. And your friend will tell you stories about illegal immigrants who have committed terrorist acts within the United Kingdom.

This makes a mockery of national self-government. Add this to the challenges of imposing other languages, religions and customs on what were typically “British” cities and towns, and the arguments for leaving become personal.

When I was in London last week, the economic news started out bleak: “If we leave the Union, our economic performance will slide downward. Even talking about leaving hurts our economy.”

Then, on the day I flew home, the latest numbers came out: Britain’s economic rate of growth was the best since 2008; employment was much brighter than anywhere else in Europe, and the dire predictions of two days earlier by the “Remainers” were already discredited.

One friend told me why he thought this was the case: Britain had refused to join the euro — the single European currency — and, instead, had stayed with its pound sterling. “If we vote to stay in Europe, ” he explained, “within 10 years we’ll be forced into the eurozone, and we’ll be de facto bailing out Greece, Portugal and even Italy, whose economic performance is much weaker than ours, and whose welfare systems are even more generous than ours.”

Another “Remainer” friend said that international companies would pull their operations out of Britain if they don’t continue to have free and open access to the European Union nations. And sure enough, Jamie Diamond, the chairman of JPMorgan Chase, appeared at his banks’ British headquarters and talked of how many thousands of well-paying jobs he would be moving out of Britain if they voted to leave. President Obama, meanwhile, threatened that a “leave” decision will put Britain at the “back of the queue” in terms of negotiating a free-trade agreement with the United States.

Of course, that whole argument is nonsense. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union gives a nation 24 months to negotiate the terms of leaving, and that’s after 14-18 preliminary months to figure out major policy questions.

So, if Mr. Obama’s administration can’t figure out how to give our closest ally a free and open market arrangement for the largest single investor (after Japan) in the U.S. economy, we better put new negotiators on our team.

But won’t Germany cut off trade advantages with Britain? Not likely, when it’s running a major trade surplus with Britain every year.

So why leave? Because Britain, with the world’s oldest Parliament, can reassert its authority over and responsibility to its own people, their laws, customs and traditions — and so I can go into a pub and buy a pint of beer and not have to ask for “473 milliliters of beer.”

Ed Feulner is founder of the Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).

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