OMG — save us from the divorce metaphor for Brexit.
The media are full of pundits comparing Britain’s triggering of the exit clause in the European Union treaties to the often messy process of a couple parting ways.
The Guardian’s Jon Henley turns Brexit into a melodrama. “On a memorably stormy night last June, Britain decided its decades-long marriage with the EU had finally and irretrievably broken down,” he wrote as British Prime Minister Theresa May sent the letter to start negotiations on Britain’s exit. “Today, it files for divorce.”
Chris Patten, a former British member of the European Commission, laments that “the divorce is not going well,” even though “the proceedings have only just started.” For good measure, he adds, “as with any divorce, we can be fairly confident that it is the children” — does he mean British citizens? — “who will suffer the most.”
Stuff and nonsense. Brexit is about power and sovereignty. It is about democracy, transparency and rule of law. It has nothing to do with a soap-opera divorce.
Britain and “Europe” — a word in British English that historically referred to the Continent as a separate place — have gone their separate ways for centuries.
Brexit Begins: What Happens Next(2:41)
Prime Minister Theresa May has officially triggered Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty and notified the bloc of the U.K.’s intention to withdraw. WSJ's Jason Douglas explores the decisions, deals and conflicts that could arise over the next two years.
Geography and history divided Britain from the continent, making the island nation a latecomer to the European Communities, a reluctant member as the Common Market evolved toward a federal superstate, and finally, a sovereign nation with its own sovereign that refused to abdicate any further sovereignty to that German-dominated superstate.
Geopolitical analyst Leon Hadar, in an article titled “How Germany Won World War II (in 2017),” how the EU reality is at odds with the New York Times coronation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as “the liberal West’s last defender.”
“There is nothing liberal or democratic about a regional economic colossus dictating economic policies to weaker EU members, like Greece or Spain, who remain dependent on it,” Hadar wrote this week in the National Interest, “by forcing them to make structural reforms to their economies while simultaneously cutting down on spending and borrowing — policies that are opposed by the majority of their citizens.”
And Britain avoided a core aspect of that superstate-in-the-making — a common currency
— like the plague. The pound sterling
financed world commerce for decades and never suffered the hyperinflation, collapse or reforms of continental currencies. Britain opted to keep the pound and its own central bank to preserve some economic sovereignty.
Also read Matt Lynn on How the triggering of Brexit will change Britain and Europe
In the coming months, France and Italy may indeed vote in euroskeptic leaders that at the very least would force radical reforms on the European Union, even if they would not actually succeed in taking their countries out of the EU or unraveling the whole European project.
But Brexit will remain sui generis because of Britain’s unique history as an island nation with its own far-flung empire.
What all the globalists and European federalists have been unable to accept is that it still makes a difference that Britain had an empire and retains a Commonwealth of 52 countries. Queen Elizabeth II is still sovereign not only for the United Kingdom and a clutch of Caribbean islands, but also of major nations like Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Why would Britain want to be junior partner in a union where Germany makes all the rules?
It would be far better if Remain devotees in London and EU fanatics in Berlin and Brussels acknowledge that Britain’s half-in, half-out membership was never going to change and was never going to work, and get on with talks that will, as May wrote in her letter triggering Brexit, “always put our citizens first.”
No amount of scaremongering by the likes of Patten (“the cliff beckons, the lemmings are lining up”) or Sebastian Mallaby, a British journalist currently ensconced at the Council on Foreign Relations, (May’s “ploddingly literal interpretation” of the Brexit referendum is “populism undiluted”) can change the reality that Britain and the EU will have to come to terms — if the EU actually survives after impending votes in France and Italy.
There were reports this week that Merkel has set up a “secret” Brexit task force to make sure Britain is unable to make any “individual” agreements, ostensibly to avoid any split in the 27 remaining states.
One would expect nothing less from a Berlin eager to preserve the benefits of the hegemony it enjoys in the EU. Germany did not hesitate to crucify Greece and force wrenching recessions on other peripheral countries in the EU, and has long since made it clear it intends to punish Britain for its temerity in leaving so that no other country will want to follow.
Germany was able to bully Greece, but it will find Britain a bigger challenge. This is not a divorce. It is not a war. It is not a moral battle for the soul of Europe. It is simply a new stage in the Realpolitik — fighting for what’s in the country’s best interests rather than an ideological goal — that has marked Britain’s history with Europe.