Let’s be clear: Brexit was much bigger than leaving the European Union. It was about fundamental values. Patriotism versus globalism. Nationhood versus supranational confederation. In fact, one of Britain’s leading historians, Dr. David Starkey, shared with me on Brexit Day (Jan. 31), “It was a deeply irrational vote, not about what will make us better off, but rather, ‘We may be poorer, but we’ll be free.’ Values are central. ‘Somewhere,’ rather than ‘anywhere.’ Independence and self-government.”
If you need further convincing, consider the divide of left versus right media headlines surrounding the final divorce. The UK Telegraph: “The Strength of the British Economy is Defying Predictions of post-Brexit Doom.” The Spectator: “Ignore the Brexit day party poopers — it’s time to celebrate.” Fox Business: “Brexit is done, paves way for US-UK deeper ties.”
Contrast these with a CNN analysis: “Britain Needs a Big Trade Deal with Europe and Wants One With America. It May End 2020 with Neither.” The Guardian: “Boris JohnsonBoris JohnsonUK cracks down on travel as omicron concerns rise British minister warns against 'snogging under the mistletoe' this year The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron MORE’s government is waging a war of words not against the EU but the British people.” And MSNBC: “Boris Johnson Brexit push threatens to upend British democracy.”
Similar to our own young fans of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan Sanders urges Biden to delay Medicare premium hike linked to Alzheimer's drug MORE (I-Vt.), apparently wooed by his honeyed words and fables about free health care and student loan forgiveness, young British Remainers believe that good things come from socialism and from Europe. They believe, like those attending our liberal universities, that their freedoms come not from the battles and efforts of a nation’s forefathers, but rather from multicultural, globalist Europe. Our young people’s freedoms were conceived here, and theirs were conceived in Britain. This group seems to hate history. As Starkey says, “They think you can rewrite the world from scratch.”
So how will history judge Brexit? The 2016 election year was as unique in Britain as it was here. Democratic votes were proclaimed invalid. Though President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE won the White House, his critics never accepted this and they have followed any number of futile attempts — the latest, his impeachment that culminated in his Senate acquittal — to overturn the people’s electoral will. Likewise, Remainers in the United Kingdom, from the moment after the original democratic referendum favoring Brexit, called for a “do-over.” And then there was the problem of Parliament during Theresa MayTheresa Mary MayOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war Will Ocasio-Cortez challenge Biden or Harris in 2024? The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' MORE’s weak premiership that, likewise, became obstructive of the wishes of the people, until Boris Johnson cleaned house in the December 2019 landslide.
In effect, that’s how and why we got to Brexit Day. But let’s turn now to what’s next. For the first time since the British people voted to leave the European Union, there now is a government in place, with an impressive majority, that is fit to carry out the goals of leaving: to break free from the influence of unelected bureaucrats and instead be self-governing once again.
As it stands, now that the divorce is official, there will be a transition period during which Britain will continue to pay dues and obey rules. During this, a rough agreement should emerge this summer, and then legal verbiage will be written over the following months while attempting to avoid anything that would end in an impasse — the ominous “hard Brexit.”
Also during this time, Britain will be very focused to begin negotiating new, independent trade relationships. While it remained part of the EU, it was prevented from conducting such efforts. Contrary to the fears expressed by the Europhiles and some in the business community, it is the hope of Brexiteers and the government that the U.K. economy will better maximize its potential by setting its own trade policy.
If history is any indication, their bet on self-determination will carry the day. Since the American Revolution, Britain’s most dynamic trading relationship has been transatlantic. According to the U.S.-U.K. Business Council, The UK and the US are each other’s largest single investors. Furthermore, our shared language, business culture, ethics, legal systems and intelligence sharing bind us together like no other nations.
On his visit to the U.K. to discuss, among other things, friction between the two countries over Huawei and Iran, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoHaley has 'positive' meeting with Trump No time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Psaki: Sexism contributes to some criticism of Harris MORE stated: “We intend to put the United Kingdom at the front of the line” for a free trade deal. “... We intend to continue to take the relationship, which we think is in a fantastic place today, and put it in an even better place in the weeks, months and years ahead.”
The poet Virgil said: “Success favors the bold.” When it comes to the future of the U.K., it appears that the stars are lining up to favor Johnson and his government, who are boldly committed to steering a course to Britain’s self-governance.
Lee Cohen is a fellow of the Danube Institute. He was an adviser on Europe to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and founded the Congressional United Kingdom Caucus.