- - Tuesday, December 25, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The European Union is failing. Across the continent ordinary folks are rebelling against elites — those modern-day aristocrats who attended the most prestigious universities and have dominated the continent’s center-left parties and governments since World War II.

Liberalism — free trade, open immigration and the social programs and draconian regulations intended to line the pockets of the governing class and mitigate resistance among common folk — has not delivered sustainable economic growth, decent jobs and safe streets.

Professionals in big cities prosper but the working classes in suburbs, smaller cities and rural communities languish under the weight of inequality and creep into poverty. Immigrants corrupt local cultures and incubate crime, and sky-high taxes make starting a business or affording simple necessities torturous.

Europe’s elite — like Stepford wives acquiescing to the whims of husbands — robotically hue to the demands of civil society — unelected, left-wing extremists. The global governance bureaucracies they dominate are now demanding patently unsound environmental measures and more resources to encourage immigration.

President Emmanuel Macron sought to impose a new tax on petrol, which is already terribly expensive in France, to allegedly combat climate change. The bankers in Paris ride the subway but folks in the hinterland must fuel up to get to work or quit their jobs. Most discretionary driving has already been taxed away, and the new levy would have little impact on CO2 emissions and only create more hardships.

The gilets jaunes riots resulted, but Mr. Macron reacted like a man controlled by an alien force. When an elderly man in Verdun complained fuel taxes were crushing ordinary people, Mr. Macron reminded him about the need to lower carbon emissions and lectured “when we change things, we shake up habits and people aren’t necessarily happy.”

In other words, let them eat cake!

The EU bureaucracy is now cracking down on duly elected national governments to force Italy to adhere to the euro zone’s unworkable national budget rules, Hungary to take down its border fence and stop enforcing its national immigration laws, and Poland to block its efforts to make its judiciary accountable to Polish values and not the pagan superstitions of civil society.

In Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open immigration policies have imposed disastrous economic and social consequences and crime, her designated successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, remains committed to the policy and muses Germany “through the social market economy and our system of social partnership, we have a system where many issues and conflicts are always discussed and settled in orderly structures.”

In other words, let them read Kant.

Britons sensing the madness want out, but in Theresa May they have a prime minister who did not support the Brexit referendum. She acceded to every EU demand and promised a huge divorce payment. Now she seeks parliamentary approval for an open-ended transition agreement that would indefinitely impose EU trade policies, regulations and taxes on her countrymen without representation in Brussels.

Not able to keep the U.K. in the EU, Mrs. May would make it a colony.

Britons should read the America’s Declaration of Independence. Dump some tea into the Thames and demand that Mrs. May resign to take a job as a clerk in Brussels. That would save the inconvenience of commuting, which creates terrible carbon footprint anyway.

The new prime minister could inform EU President Jean-Claude Juncker and all the other oligarchs of Europe’s ruling class that on March 29, the date the U.K. is scheduled to leave, his government will declare unilateral free trade with Europe. It would continue to permit EU banks and professionals to do business and work in the U.K. if the EU does the same.

Brussels can take it or leave it — remember the continent needs London’s financial sector and UK markets as much as the UK industries needs theirs. If the EU doesn’t comply, then London doesn’t pay the $50 billion divorce settlement and makes a hard break.

The transition would be painful for Britain, but Europe will still need London’s financial sector to enable its follies — European banking would no more move from London to Frankfort than American banking would move to San Francisco if Manhattan became an independent country. Anyway, the future is in artificial intelligence and other such stuff where the U.K. will do a lot better unchained from EU dysfunction.

Italy and others would follow. It’s only a matter of time.

• Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.


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