Britain Makes History
By Richard Samuelson
So yet another effort to put all of Europe under one government seems to be failing. From Caesar to Charlemagne to Charles V to Louis XIV to Napoleon and beyond the vision of unity has been a recurring theme in European politics. The latest effort, a union forged in the wake of two destructive and nearly universal wars, is different in some ways—although not democratic, there have been democratic elements in the EU. Moreover, and most importantly, expansion has been peaceful, featuring conquest by referendum.
All that notwithstanding, one can, quite accurately see the Brexit as the latest in a long series of rejections of a universal European empire, with Eurocrats in the place of previous would-be emperors. As in previous centuries, Cambridge and Oxford dons are more comfortable conferencing with their peers at the Sorbonne than with their fellow subjects, and once again the would-be coutiers they train look to the Continent for moral guidance. And, as before, many of Her Majesty’s common subjects resent it.
I link to an essay Peter Lawler and I have written now published in the current print edition of the Weekly Standard. We thought it worthwhile to sift through the good and the bad of the populist uprising against the EU. My fundamental conviction is that the EU is a political abstraction oriented to the interests of a meritocratic elite. Members of this cohort rule Europe without substantive accountability or political representation. As we say in the essay, the EU is a technocracy more than it is a democracy. The EU’s ruling class inspires no love or loyalty among Europeans for EU institutions. So a political reckoning, however long delayed and denied, will occur. The question is if it has already started, and the recent drubbing taken by mainstream parties in the UK and France, among other states, is an indication that it has.
‘A kick in the ballots’ is how pundits are describing the blow received by British Prime Minister David Cameron at the polls last week in his country’s mid-term local elections in the rural shires, traditional heartland of support for the Conservative Party he leads.
Gleefully administering the blow was Nigel Farage, the ever-exuberant leader of the United Kingdom Party Independence Party (UKIP for short).