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Michael Swartz / January 31, 2020

The UK Steps Away

Brexit is finally happening today, as Great Britain leaves the European Union.

It was a revolution by ballot, not by bullet, but Great Britain’s departure from the European Union (best known by the term “Brexit”) becomes official later today. At 11 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, the United Kingdom enters a “transition phase,” in which the UK and European Union begin to unwind their intricately woven economies and governments. It’s an exciting time and it yields an uncertain future, but it’s also what the people of the UK voted for in 2016 and reaffirmed with a smashing victory by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party in national elections this past December.

For Great Britain, it’s been an exhausting affair. Former Prime Minister Theresa May lost her job for failing to deliver Brexit, and Parliament’s week-kneed intransigence gave hope to the “Remain” side as negotiations with the EU dragged on. This stoked fears of a “hard Brexit” as the deadline for withdrawal drew closer. For a time, it appeared that the nation that gave the world Winston Churchill had lost its nerve, but the people prevailed. After two delays pushed the timeline back from last April to the present day, the deal should be completed next January 1.

What will change? For one thing, the British no longer have representation in the European Parliament. Nor will they attend regular EU meetings unless specifically invited. The British and their erstwhile EU partners will need to hammer out a new trade deal, but breaking loose from the EU also allows Great Britain to pursue deals with allies of its choosing, with the United States likely at the head of the line. That prospect worries the diplomatic crowd, which fears that the new order will place France and Germany at odds and make the continent more susceptible to Russian influence.

“What happens now matters far beyond Britain’s shores, or Europe’s,” opines The Wall Street Journal editorial board. “A Brexit that goes badly, with failed reform and stagnation in Britain and trade friction with the EU, would drag down Britain and weigh on continental economies not strong enough to take the strain. The effects would ripple toward America and Asia, and perhaps embolden dangerously disruptive political movements in Europe.”

As the test case for other European countries, the UK is no longer bound by a relatively stagnant economy within which some nations have succeeded while others like Greece and Italy have dragged down the whole. Nor is the UK still subject to the EU’s controversial migration policies or its ridiculous Brussels-based bureaucracy.

Brexit also resonates here in the U.S., as we push back against a bureaucratic swamp that has, at times, put the EU nanny state to shame: regulating mud puddles, anyone? Fortunately, the Obama-era Waters of the United States rules were recently overturned by the Trump administration, which wholeheartedly hailed the results of the UK’s December election. Expect him to be among the first to look for a deal with the newly liberated Brits.

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