United Kingdom: A betrayal of Brexit?
Theresa May has let the country down, said Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph. In a frenzy of 11th-hour diplomacy, the prime minister last week secured an initial agreement with the European Union on the terms of Britain’s exit from the bloc in March 2019—an essential step before talks can proceed to discussions on the future of trade relations between the U.K. and EU. But May struck that deal only by making massive concessions. She doubled her offer on our so-called divorce bill—the amount the U.K. must pay the EU to cover its outstanding financial liabilities—to $52 billion. She “compromised the future independence of our courts” by agreeing that EU citizens in the U.K. can appeal to the European Court of Justice for eight years after Brexit. And she has kicked the crucial question of the Irish border—whether there will be EU-British checkpoints between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland—down the road. Unless May shows some spine, we can expect a similarly one-sided deal on trade.
Leaving the EU has “never looked a dafter act of national self-harm,” said Kevin Maguire in the Daily Mirror. We have just agreed to hand over piles of cash to “quit a hugely successful free trade area on our doorstep” and reduce our influence in Europe. Things will get even worse in the next phase, because we’ll be negotiating the trade bill blind: In the 18 months since the Brexit referendum, the prime minister’s cabinet has not held a single discussion on what the final deal should look like. Some Brexiteers say we can strike a Canadian-style trade deal with the EU, said The Independent in an editorial. But Canada’s agreement focuses heavily on physical goods, which make up only about 10 percent of the U.K. economy. We specialize in high-value services such as finance, architecture, and software, which rely on “the free movement of people and the provision of professional and other services across national borders.” That is why the EU single market is “such a precious national asset for Britain,” and why even a carefully negotiated exit will wreck jobs and prove to be “an unpleasant and painful experience.”
We’re still better out than in, said Rod Liddle in The Times. Any disappointment over the poor terms May struck was alleviated when I heard that Germany’s Social Democrats—who are about to join Merkel’s Christian Democrats in a coalition government—are proposing a “European superstate by 2025, and that all countries who disagree be booted out.” EU bureaucrats are already bullies—just look at how they have tried to force the governments of Hungary and Poland to swallow a refugee policy their voters have rejected. That undemocratic tendency will only grow worse in a superstate. The point of Brexit is that we will have more control over our lives “outside this aloof, greedy, and overweening bureaucracy.” Isn’t that worth any price? ■