(William Moloney, Boston) In a column the Denver Post published just after the historic vote to leave the EU (Brexit and the West’s Economic Malaise, July 10,2016) I said of the near universal failure of the Elites-political, business, media- to anticipate this result that “Within living memory never have so many been so wrong about so much”.
Unchastened by their monumental failure as prognosticators the Elites doubled down by resolutely insisting that the singular unwisdom of British voters would prove to be a complete and unmitigated disaster for the United Kingdom.
The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated that Britain had just “collapsed, politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically”. A headline in the New Statesman declared Brexit to be a “crime against human progress”. From banks, financial gazettes, and countless economics professors came a cascade of dire predictions about shrunken GDP, rising unemployment and falling standards of living. The International Monetary Fund predicted “sharp drops in equity and house prices”. The City UK, a trade institute, predicted that 100,000 financial jobs would be lost in London alone.
As we observe on June 23rd the two-year anniversary of the Brexit vote it is now abundantly clear that the doom laden prophecies of all these Cassandras were as wrong headed and off the mark as were their earlier electoral forecasts. In a nutshell: The Sky Didn’t Fall.
According to Britain’s Office of National Statistics the number of people with jobs is at an all-time high; income inequality is near to a 30 year low, and new orders for manufacturers are at their highest level in a generation.
The great exodus of financial jobs hasn’t happened either. The City UK has revised its earlier projection of 100,000 jobs lost, down to less than 3,000. Deutsche Bank which in 2016 had talked of moving 4,000 staff out of London now says the number will be less than 300, and just recently signed a lease on a new London headquarters.
However decisive and heartening these trend lines may be it is profoundly important to remember that Brexit was never principally about economics in the first place. In the words of Fraser Nelson, editor of Britain’s highly regarded Spectator, it was really “about sovereignty, democracy, and the idea that British laws and government should be decided only by those elected by the British public”.
It is this basic truth that explains why the Elites of the EU remain in absolute denial about what Brexit really means and why they are determined to use the messy “divorce negotiations” to punish Britain so severely that no other E.U. member would dare to contemplate a Brexit of their own.
That strategy, however, is already in tatters. Since Brexit several other EU members- most recently Italy- have implicitly rejected the insidious phrase ” ever closer union” enshrined at the heart of the Maastricht Treaty, and reasserted their sovereignty on a variety of issues ranging from legal to economic, and most powerfully regarding open borders and immigration.
In the run-up to the Brexit vote the Elites sought to use threats of calamitous economic consequences to deter Britons from voting “Leave”. Goldman-Sachs and JP Morgan actually donated nearly a million dollars to the “Remain” campaign.
Nonetheless a majority of the British electorate rejected this thinly veiled blackmail and voted to reclaim their independence. Instead of listening to the Elites they heeded voices like David Cameron’s Justice Minister Michael Gove who stressed that 60% of British laws had become simply mandatory affirmations of regulations “We did not want promulgated by Brussels bureaucrats we did not know, did not elect, and could not turn out of office”. He powerfully concluded that “the independence of our Parliamentary democracy built over centuries was rapidly disappearing before our very eyes”.
Whether the messy divorce negotiations end in a “Hard” or “Soft” Brexit we do not know, but we do know that at midnight on March 30,2019 the United Kingdom will no longer be a member of the European Union. We also know that two years ago British voters- to borrow a phrase from American History- fired a “shot heard round the world” and its echoes will reverberate for many years to come as a decisive turning point in Western History.
William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post and Human Events.