The Separation of Britain and Europe

Signposts bearing flags of UK and EU

I’m not an economist. The handful of articles I’ve read on the subject don’t leave me informed enough to form an opinion about Brexit. But the event doesn’t surprise me. Britain has always kept the rest of Europe at arms length, and it has worked well for them.

Even before Brexit, there were debates as to whether the UK should be described as a European country. On one hand, the UK is certainly culturally closer to European countries than, say, Asian ones. On the other hand, there are significant differences between UK and the rest of Europe.

“Let us be masters of the Channel for six hours and we are masters of the world,” said Napoleon. For centuries, the English Channel has protected the UK from the worst of the turmoil on the continent. They fought wars on their own terms, entering or leaving as they saw fit and not having to recover from ground wars raging on their soil.

That protection allowed Britain to become the world’s first superpower. It allowed them to defend their existing colonies and acquire new ones even when other powers were losing theirs. (America’s independence was an exception to the general trend.) It gave them the economic power to start the Industrial Revolution.

Britain has a different legal system than the European countries. Britain’s system is common law, which depends heavily on precedents set by earlier court cases, and America inherited that system. On the continent, canon law is the model.

England’s religion, even when Catholic, was influenced less by Rome than continental countries because of its distance. England was converted significantly by Irish missionaries, borrowing Celtic Christianity: still Catholic, but functioning somewhat different. It’s not surprising that England was one of the first countries to embrace Protestantism, as not listening to the pope had always been a bit of a national pastime.

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England never had a war of religion, and relatively few people were executed on account of religion. It’s witch hunts were mild in comparison to France and Germany. It never had an Inquisition.

Of course, their separation has not always been positive. In the Middle Ages, England was one of the last places new technology reached. The first stone keep, for example, was built by William the Conqueror, who brought it over from Normandy, France. The Renaissance emerged in Italy about 1300, but it didn’t bloom in England until the early 1500s.

The UK has never been overly excited about joining the EU. The EU has given the UK exemption from various EU regulations to. The UK never adopted the euro, even when the EU offered to call the new money the pound, after the UK’s money. No deal. At the time, the UK had the strongest economy in Europe, and it remains one of the strongest today. That has left some with the impression the UK gives far more than it gets out of its membership in the EU.

The arguments for remaining didn’t help that outlook. Certainly, there’s been talk about how Brexit will negatively affect the UK, but there’s been a lot more talk about how it will negatively affect the EU and its members: it will damage their economies, it will encourage other countries to leave the EU, etc. That doesn’t win over people who are making a Britain First argument and feel like continental countries are benefiting at the expense of Britain.

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Like I said, I have no real opinion on Brexit, other than within a historical context. And in that context, this is not really a surprise. Britain has a long history of succeeding on its own, and it’s people are expecting that trend will continue.

One comment

  • Edward Richardson

    In 1998 I was working for Morgan Stanley in NYC and I can tell you, the impetus for the European Union was to create a United States of Europe with a single, unified currency that would compete with, and ultimately beat, the world’s reserve currency: King Dollar. It is difficult for us as Americans to comprehend the global value of dollars. When SEAL Team Six choppered into Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2010 to kill Bin Laden, each commando had $300 in U.S. greenbacks in case the raid went south and they had to bribe their way out of the country. When the late Venezuelan communist dictator Hugo Chavez’s daughter took to Instagram the other year to flash a pile of money like a thug, she flashed dollars.

    The transition from two-dozen or so national currencies to the European Monetary Unit back then was very real for us at Morgan Stanley, where mainframes crunch millions of trades every night just a few floors down from me. In fact, the work involved getting the systems ready for EMU easily eclipsed the titanic reprogramming involved prepping from that (non) Apocalypse – Y2K.

    And transition they did. But Europeans are socialists, and as Maggie Thatcher once said: “The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.” Now, suddenly, we had Great Britain and Germany tied at the hip with places where double-digit unemployment is considered ok (Spain) and welfare nations like Greece. Germany itself was a basket case as they had to let in 1 million (overwhelmingly Muslim) immigrants per year just to have enough workers in the system to meet current pension payouts, so low were their indigenous birth rates – a bit ironic from the country that gave us the Master Race and Lebensraum. France began doing the same thing as did Great Britain. In fact, Great Britain did it to the degree that in their major cities the most popular (or third-most, depending on the year) newborn boy’s name became “Mohammad.”

    Now then, all these immigrants, supposedly let in under the auspices of working, really began to become the new welfare underclass, complete with exclusionary dangerous ghettos (called “no-go” zones) rife with crime. There is a great book about the effects of this titled “Londonistan.”

    Now combine this with terror attacks that have rocked France again and again. This is what jolted Great Britain and drove Brexit. Not so much the economic impact of being an EU member, but rather their immigration policy being decided by European bureaucrats in Brussels, not at 10 Downing Street. Brexit was the little Dutch boy who put his finger in the dike and saved Holland. The flood being waves of Muslim welfare recipients and low-skilled workers from the most dangerous countries on Earth. Not “immigrants” per se, the Brits have always enjoyed immigrants from their far-flung former colonies. Nay, the problem was Muslim immigrants. Look at the popularity of Marine Le Pen in the coming French elections, and Angela Merkel (a disaster for Germany) on the defensive right now.

    I hope this helped explain Brexit. The Left’s doomsaying about any economic impact is all they have left now, but it was clear during the actual debate leading up to the referendum, it was all about Muslim immigrants delivered courtesy EU technocrats (who have no love for Great Britain btw) in Brussels.

    Hope this helps.

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