United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced a tentative deal for the UK’s exit from the European Union after a 2016 national referendum ended in a vote to leave the EU. In the wake of the announcement, two cabinet ministers – Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey – resigned their positions after concluding they could not support May’s proposed deal.
“Events in the UK represent the culmination of a slow-motion walk towards disaster. The May government never had any clear idea of what it wanted from Brexit. It rejected the idea of a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU in favor of closer ties, but also rejected the idea of staying within the European Economic Area as that would have entailed continued unchecked immigration from the EU. As a result it came up with a compromise that ends free movement of labor but binds the UK almost in perpetuity to EU economic regulation and oversight. The Brexit vote was won on the basis of taking back control of law, which means that the May plan represents a betrayal of the Brexit vote.
“Americans should be concerned by the amount of power the UK cedes to the EU in the agreement – including over the UK’s military. It is not an exaggeration to say that the deal reduces the UK to the status of an EU colony. We should not gloss over the malice with which the EU has handled its end of the negotiations, refusing compromises that would have resulted in win-win solutions. It is certainly plausible that part of the reason for the EU’s ill-will was a desire to weaken America’s strongest and most reliable ally in Europe.
“As Rory Broomfield and I argued back in 2016, the only route that respects the wishes of the British people is complete withdrawal of the UK from the EU’s structures – which will now only be accomplished by a ‘no deal’ Brexit. However, because so much time has been wasted, there is no way to prepare adequately for the inevitable disruption no deal will bring. The best the UK can hope for is for a new government to work feverishly on a series of sector-specific agreements in areas such as aviation and third-party certification on rules of origin to minimize the disruption. It remains to be seen whether this is possible.
“May’s government has proved spectacularly incompetent in its handling of the most important issue of the day. It is the British people, and most especially the Brexit voter, who will pay the cost.”