Britain votes to leave EU; David Cameron resigns as prime minister

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Friday June 24th, 2016

Elites panic, having apparently lost control of the people.

Brits had apparently had enough of giving over their independence to their neighbors on the continent, and despite the pleas of economic elites and polls showing the pleas might have been working, the voters had something else to say yesterday. Britain is out of the European Union. And David Cameron is consequently out as prime minister:

There was euphoria among Britain's eurosceptic forces, claiming a victory over the political establishment, big business and foreign leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama who had urged Britain to stay in.

"Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom," said Nigel Farage, leader of the eurosceptic UK Independence Party, describing the EU as "doomed" and "dying".

"This will be a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people ... Let June 23 go down in our history as our independence day."

European politicians reacted with dismay.

"The news from Britain is really sobering. It looks like a sad day for Europe and Britain," said German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"Please tell me I'm still sleeping and this is all just a bad nightmare!" former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb tweeted.

The shock hits a European bloc already reeling from a euro zone debt crisis, unprecedented mass migration and confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. Anti-immigrant and anti-EU political parties have been surging across the continent, placing unprecedented pressure on the center-left and center-right establishment that has governed Europe for generations.

This is one of those issues where you see a clear delineation between elites and ordinary people, the latter of which couldn't see how Britain was benefiting from being part of an international organization facing the kinds of problems described above. And as you can see, movements to exit the EU in other countries appear inevitable.

The EU in its early days was sometimes described as the "United States of Europe," and was envisioned as a way to take the various economies of Europe and turn them into an economic power that could match the strength of the United States. It's never quite worked that way, though, as the very different cultures and philosophies of the EU member states made it hard for them to meld into a single economic philosophy.

And the generally statist inclinations of Europeans tended to lead to a lot more emphasis on the kinds of policies that stunt, rather than promote, economic growth.

Britain was never quite all in, either, as it never adopted the euro as its currency in place of the traditional pound.

It seems to me that Europe's politicians have become a bit too enamored by the idea that this international behemoth must be protected at all costs, even the cost of their own nations' sovereignty and independence. As such, national leaders had a hard time really charting their own destinies because everyone was too tied to everyone else. The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto yesterday noted a curious criticism leveled by the New York Times of those who advocated the Brexit outcome that ultimately prevailed:

“This British version of ‘make America great again’ is every bit as illusory as Donald Trump’s slogan—and just as potentially dangerous, for Britain and for its European and North American partners,” the New York Times editorialized last week. The Times attributes support for Brexit in part to “a nostalgia for a past when nations decided their own fates and kept foreigners out.” What’s wrong with the idea that nations should decide their own fates?

Exactly. Remaining in the EU was making it increasingly difficult for Britain to decide its own fate, and while the political elites were apparently OK with this - cheered on by the likes of the New York Times - the average person was not. And apparently the threat of stock market crashes and other such calamities did not intimidate them from pulling Britain off this path.

By the way, not every "elite" is horrified. Here's what Donald Trump had to say about it:

The people of the United Kingdom have exercised the sacred right of all free peoples. They have declared their independence from the European Union, and have voted to reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy. A Trump Administration pledges to strengthen our ties with a free and independent Britain, deepening our bonds in commerce, culture and mutual defense. The whole world is more peaceful and stable when our two countries – and our two peoples – are united together, as they will be under a Trump Administration.

Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first. They will have the chance to reject today’s rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by and for the people. I hope America is watching, it will soon be time to believe in America again.

To be sure, this could portend other changes - some of them a bit nerve-wracking. Two years ago the UK itself only just barely held together as Scotland came within a few percentage points of voting for its own independence. Maybe with the EU exit, the Scots will decide to try again. But that shouldn't have been a reason for Britain to stay chained to an international collective that is beset with problems and not benefiting the lives of the British people in any way. If the EU can't get itself straightened out, it has no business trying to pressure nations to stay in when clear logic suggests they'd be better off out.

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