10 December 2016

On the Record | Welcome to the Fight: Niall Ferguson reverses his course on Brexit

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘Welcome to the Fight: Niall Ferguson reverses his course on Brexit’:

In a season when some of our greatest intellectuals are trying to figure out how to make their peace with Donald Trump, let us take a big-hearted view of the mea culpa, mea maxima culpa just issued by historian Niall Ferguson in respect of Brexit. Speaking at a forum of the Milken Institute in London, Professor Ferguson on Tuesday gave his reasons for speaking out against an independent Britain and backing instead remaining in the European Union.

“It is one of the few times in my life that I’ve argued something without wholly believing it,” Mr. Ferguson confessed.

His rationale? A desire for a stable Britain. In theory he shared the Leave campaign’s exasperation with EU over-government, but “didn’t want the Cameron-Osborne government to fall” and with it the austerity measures vital to future economic growth after the Global Financial Crisis. Mr. Ferguson enumerated four areas of conspicuous EU failure: monetary union, security policy, migration policy, and radical Islam. In the core issues, he knew, the Europhile class of politicians, mandarins, and intelligentsia are pitted against everyone else, particularly middle-class Britons.

“One has to recognize that the European élite’s performance over the last decade entirely justified the revolt,” Mr. Ferguson admitted. “If those of us who are essentially part of the élite had spent a little bit more time in pubs around provincial England and, for that matter, provincial Wales, we would have heard what I just said.” But the rancor had reached the ears of London’s then-mayor Boris Johnson, who called the June 23rd vote Britain’s “Independence Day.”

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My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.