‘Every step and every movement of the multitude, even in what are termed enlightened ages, are made with equal blindness to the future; and nations stumble upon establishments, which are indeed the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design.’

Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767)

08 August 2017

On the Record | Brexit cunning leaves Eurocrats nonplussed

Please see my latest wire for The American Spectator, ‘Brexit cunning leaves Eurocrats nonplussed’:

Baldrick, of Blackadder fame, a member of Team Brexit? Who knew? For the uninitiated, Blackadder is a British comedy series, starring Rowan Atkinson (of Mr. Bean renown) in the title role, as various scheming rogues through the march of history. Tony Robinson plays his dogsbody Baldrick, who in times of crisis invariably says, “I have a cunning plan.”

Baldrick’s “outing” as the fourth Brexiteer — the three UK Government principals are David Davis at Exiting the European Union, Liam Fox at International Trade, and Boris Johnson at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — comes courtesy of this Politico headline, “Brussels fears Britain’s ‘Brexit chaos’ part of cunning plan.” EU officials are nonplussed at the cool nonchalance of their Westminster counterparts. “Trade attachés in particular who know their British colleagues as tough, canny negotiators are suspicious of the seemingly fickle and aimless procrastination from the British government,” Politico reports. “The Brits’ chaotic early posture in the Brexit talks has left them wondering whether London is pulling some sort of deft ploy — a strategy of pretending not to have a strategy.”

One EU official is worried that when negotiations resume in September, the British team is “going to swamp us with [position] papers on the fault lines — exactly the issues where they know we [the EU27 countries] are divided.” Further remarks from the Maltese prime minister will encourage Brits anxious over their government’s competence to pull the country out of the European Union. “People who say the Brits don’t know what they are doing are wrong,” Joseph Muscat told the Dutch daily de Volkskrant. “I have lived in Britain, I know the British mentality. A non-prepared British government official simply doesn’t exist.” But Brexiteers shouldn’t get cocky. “A seasoned EU diplomat said that if London had constructed an elaborate ruse to gain the upper hand in Brexit, it had fooled even the British negotiators,” according to Politico. “If it is indeed a mise en scène, this diplomat said: ‘It would be an extremely sophisticated one.’”

As I conclude:

In the end, all we can do is wait and trust in the skill, strategy, and foresight of the Brexit negotiators. As Blackadder fans will attest, poor Baldrick’s cunning plans were outlandish nonsense, meant to evoke scorn from his superior and laughter from the audience. And Brexit is no laughing matter. But Baldrick is just the sort of patriotic “everyman,” common in English theatre, who voted for Brexit and whom the Government serves: he is full of ideas for making good — for himself, his family, and his nation. As long as his cunning never tires, never fear, for Britain will prosper. “It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people,” Adam Smith wrote of the ruling class of his day. “Let them look well after their own expense, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will.” Trust in the people animates Brexit. No wonder the EU is flummoxed.

Read more . . .

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My thanks to editor Wlady Pleszczynski of The American Spectator.

03 August 2017

On the Record | Anguish among Brexiteers starts to grow palpable amid Tory handwringing

Please see my latest wire as Brexit diarist for The New York Sun, ‘Anguish among Brexiteers starts to grow palpable amid Tory handwringing’:

Anguish among the Brexiteers is palpable in these long days of summer, even to your diarist on the far shores of Nova Scotia. Proponents of Britain’s exit from the European Union must suffer not only the daily insults of Remainers and other Europhiles, plus the hostile press, but dissension in the ranks of Britain’s own cabinet ministers, most of all the chancellor, Philip Hammond.

In an interview with the French daily Le Monde, Mr. Hammond said that he “would expect us to remain a country with a social, economic and cultural model that is recognizably European.” The BBC reports that “tax raised as a percentage of the British economy ‘puts us right in the middle’ of European countries,” according to Mr. Hammond, who added, "We don't want that to change, even after we've left the EU.”

We haven’t heard such absurdity since “1066 and All That.”

There was a time when personal enterprise was encouraged. Such drive fueled the amazingly productive period of the Industrial Revolution when the Empire spanned the globe. Is Britain returning to the sclerotic 1960s and 1970s when the nation was hamstrung by Marxist labor, high tax rates directed by redistributionist policies, the folly of pursuing the equality of a “classless society,” and the nationalization of key industries and services? A time when entrepreneurial initiative, economic growth, and upward mobility were frowned upon, when the Establishment goal was simply “the orderly management of decline”?

Read more . . .

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

02 August 2017

On the Record | Bastille Day equals Brexit Day

Please see my latest post for The Quarterly Review, ‘Bastille Day equals Brexit Day’:

Freedom lovers around the world celebrate Bastille Day (14th July) in recognition of the rights of man and ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’. As many on the Continent believe, the French Revolution was the pivotal event in the rise of the individual against the entrenched power of the Crown, the aristocratic court, and the privileges of the Roman ‘Gallic’ Church. But the irony is lost by those who fight Britain’s exit from the European Union, particularly the leadership in the devolved regions of Scotland and Wales, whose preference, it seems, is to live under foreign-dominating EU law than the domestic laws of the United Kingdom.

For Brexit minister David Davis, the process is merely procedural. ‘We’re bringing into law 40 years of law. It is putting into British law what was European law. So then, after that, we can change it if we want to,’ Davis told a BBC interviewer. ‘Any material change will be in primary legislation. It’s only technical matters that will go through the statutory instrument and even then the House of Commons will have its say.’ But critics are less accommodating, calling it a ‘naked power grab.’ Most annoyed are leaders of two devolved regions, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones in Wales. They argue that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill returns authority from Brussels to Westminster and sidesteps their assemblies, contrary to assurances of co-operation from the Government — which is under no legal obligation to consult them. (Far better for prime minister Tony Blair, during the Westminster devolution period, to have returned more power to the people and rethought the wisdom of setting up additional power centres among the ‘united kingdoms’.)

One cannot help but marvel that this leadership was against Brexit, and now wishes to remain under the EU jurisdiction of the Single Market and Customs Union. But the irony of choosing to live under the European legal yoke would not have been lost on Margaret Thatcher.

Read more . . .

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My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of The Quarterly Review.

01 August 2017

On the Record | A post-Brexit surprise suggests EU is blocking aspirations of its members

Please see my latest wire as Brexit diarist for The New York Sun, ‘A post-Brexit surprise suggests EU is blocking aspirations of its members’:

It looks like it’s going to take a keen eye to handicap the negotiations that are taking place between Britain and Europe in respect of Brexit. Particularly because the early maneuvers may give the false impression that the Brits have been back-footed by wily Brussels bureaucrats.

Not so, is my prediction from the rocky outcrop of Nova Scotia, whence we watch Brexit. While each eyes its counterpart warily, testing for strengths and weaknesses in opposing strategies, the Europeans outside the room offer the hints of the EU’s future. The first telling signs come from its strongest member state, Germany.

It turns out that the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, representing more than 3 million businesses and entrepreneurs, is worried about the impact of Brexit upon prospective trade. (No doubt the same concern is fermenting among the other 26 EU members.) German exports to the UK were down 3% last year, igniting fears of a post-Brexit slump.

Read more . . .

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