March 14, 2016 | Commentary on Democracy and Human Rights, United Kingdom, European Union

Britain's Move to Perhaps Leave the EU Is Not Radical

How would you like it if the United States got together with Canada, Mexico, and every other nation in the New World and set up a new government, headquartered in Guatemala?

This government would be run by an unelected bureaucracy with its own supreme court. It could void any of our laws. It would tax us, impose rules on us, and tell us who we could trade freely with.

Almost everyone who worked for the government would be a foreigner, and the court would rule against us in almost every case. And every year, the bureaucracy would grab more power and the court would say it was fine, because the court was created to decide in its favor.

I don’t think that would be democratic. Of course, I want friendly relations with Canada and Mexico. But I don’t want to run them, or be run by them. I don’t think a regime like that is what we fought for in 1776 — or 1941.

Well, the government I’ve described exists. It’s the European Union, the 28-nation organization that stretches from Finland to Portugal. But the EU may be about to lose a member: on June 23, Britain will hold a national referendum to decide whether it wants to leave.

The EU likes to pretend that it’s a United States of Europe in the making. That’s incorrect. Americans were made into a single people by the revolution. After we fought a terrible Civil War, we ultimately decided it was a shared national experience.

But when were Greeks made into Germans? When did the British turn into Bulgarians? The answer is simple: they didn’t. They’re different people.

Of course, the Greeks and the British have some things in common. So what? Americans have some things in common with Canada. But the Germans, the British, and the rest have very different histories, cultures, societies, and languages, just as we’re not Canadian.

If you make a federal union out of one people, like the United States, you have a democracy. If you make it out of many, you can’t allow the people too much of a voice. And that’s how the EU was made, and how it’s stayed. It’s an elite project, and it always has been.

So why does this matter to the United States? One reason is obvious. We shouldn’t argue that democracies like Britain should give up their right to govern themselves.

That’s what we fought for in 1776 against Britain. Now, it’s British independence that’s at stake. If our principles were true in Philadelphia then, they’re true in London today.

And there’s another reason. The EU was designed to solve 1946’s problems. But it’s now 2016, and Europe has weak economies, uncontrolled immigration, and the undemocratic EU itself. The stodgy establishment EU isn’t solving these problems. It’s feeding them.

Now, just because the EU’s an establishment doesn’t mean all the protesters are right. Some of Europe’s rebels, like France’s Front National party, are bad news. But the more power you take away from the people, the more they’re going to push back — sometimes in ways you don’t like.

The answer to that is to weaken the EU, not to make it stronger. And since the roots of the House of Commons go back more than 800 years, Britain ought to be capable of running its own affairs by this point.

Millions of Americans are rebelling against our own top-down political establishment, which creates problems and then pretends to solve them by grabbing power. That’s what the EU does, too. Britain isn’t considering anything radical — just reclaiming the right to govern itself.”

We fought side by side with the British for that right in 1941. Today, the British struggle for independence from a faraway autocracy is one Americans should understand. For this is 1776 — the other way round.

 - Ted R. Bromund is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Thatcher Center for Freedom

About the Author

Theodore R. Bromund, Ph.D. Senior Research Fellow in Anglo-American Relations
The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

This piece originally appeared in Newsday