The day Britain restored its liberty
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The British electorate yesterday asked for a divorce from Europe on the grounds of compromised liberty. It was a bold choice, one with some existential uncertainty, considering Britain's decades-long history with Europe. But it will ultimately prove the right choice.


In the U.K. referendum, it was "Leave" versus "Remain" in the stakes for a nation's destiny. And not just any nation: a global leader, America's greatest ally and one that has stuck by, and fought by, our side in the greatest conflicts of the past and present centuries. Moreover, it is a nation which gave birth to our own principles, beliefs and values emphasizing freedom and personal responsibility — though those values are increasingly challenged today on both sides of the Atlantic.

From today on, Britain will begin to extricate herself from the European monolith and regain lost self-governing authority, rather than ceding decision-making ability to Brussels bureaucrats. In the short-run, there will indisputably be turbulence as she extricates herself from the policies and institutional morass of Europe, but the ennobling prize well outweighs the costs.

From the perspective of a non-Briton, it defies imagination that given the resources, defense capabilities, infrastructure and the U.K.'s historical contributions to diplomacy, science, arts, finance, law and others, that Britain allowed herself in the first place to be drawn into the spider's den of Europe. The great Winston Churchill expressed this in a 1946 address: "If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea." More recently, one of Britain's other great leaders, Margaret Thatcher, noted: "In my lifetime all our problems have come from mainland Europe and all the solutions have come from the English-speaking nations of the world."

But due to a myriad of factors including the ravaging of two world wars in the last century, Britain did affiliate with Europe, and little by little, she began to experience a leeching of sovereignty and imposition of decisions by Brussels (on immigration, defense, civil justice, etc.) that became unbearable to the voting population. Notwithstanding the scare tactics, and the parade of Remain politicos (including the prime minister, who announced his resignation today), business leaders, academics, celebrities, and even a misguided visit by President Obama threatening "back of the queue" status, the British people made plain their disdain for Europe in the most democratic way: at the ballot box. Instead of falling prey to the self-conscious non-belief in their own nation, they expressed their will and self-confidence to leave the failed European superstate. 

In response and support of our greatest ally, America should immediately take steps to lay the groundwork for a bilateral free trade relationship with the U.K. However — sadly — we do not have an administration that values the "special relationship." For her part, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAs Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Harris rips Gabbard over Fox appearances during Obama years Steyer, Gabbard and Yang shut out of early minutes of Democratic debate MORE would be little improvement as she expressed displeasure with Brexit before the vote. On the other hand, presumptive Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE's support of Brexit, and understanding of the populist malcontent that led to it, has shown that he would likely be a better post-Brexit partner for the U.K.

Yesterday, Britons made a noble choice to take control and win back their democracy. Against the will and campaigns of the establishment and elites, the people prevailed. There is wisdom to be gained for Americans by these momentous events in the U.K. Like the British people, let us be more discerning and listen to our instincts rather than politicians' rhetoric and the White House's playbook of political correctness. The stakes were high in Britain for its security, its laws and its lifestyles. The same is true here. The stateless global world order to which our current leadership is drawn may be intolerable for a more discerning, critically thinking populace. But that populace has to show its spine.

Cohen, head of the New York office of Off the Record Strategies and New York Director of The Anglosphere Society, spent years advising the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Western European affairs, and was founding executive director of the House United Kingdom Caucus.