As the Big Ben gong struck 11 p.m. GMT on January 31, marking the moment the United Kingdom left the European Union, thousands of people started singing “Rule Britannia” in Parliament Square. Next to the statue of Winston Churchill was a British Army Parachute Regiment flag—apt, given that the EU is German-dominated—and a few large American flags.
Churchill was half American, and Americans in London clearly love a good independence party. A world where British people are free to vote and kick out their representatives might be hard in the days to come, but it is far, far better than one that was inexorably going towards a European empire. As one of the most striking placards read, “Britain isn’t supposed to be one of the many stars in someone else’s flag.” The period from 1973 to 2020 was a historical aberration.
Perhaps this is why Brexit vexes liberals so much. Brexit is important in ways more than the simple freedom and slavery dichotomy. It ruins a much vaunted and hitherto untouchable narrative. A recent IPSOS-MORI poll shows that Remainers, those who preferred to live in the EU, are less tolerant than Leavers of other people’s opinion. A earlier survey from 2016 found U.S. Democratic women block people on social media far more than do Republican women.
This is because, to leftists, their ideology is like a religion. All politics therefore is theological and Manichean, an existential battle between the forces of good and evil, where dissenting opinion is akin to heresy. For all the talk of diversity, Liberals are the most homogenous ideologically. As William Buckley said once, “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”
No one likes to see their gods bleed. Brexit did that. The world was supposed to be inexorably moving towards a providential liberal-democratic borderless future, ruled by a technocratic elite with same sexual, social, and economic beliefs, where faith, flag, family, duty, propriety, culture, and civilization didn’t matter, and the only variables were financial prosperity and freedom of the loins. The idea was a pagan animalistic existence in an atomized jungle, ruled by distant overlords you cannot touch or fight.
Brexit proved there’s something much more important than just cheap supermarket goods. And the pull of an earlier, greater if anachronistic world of nation-states, great powers, and national freedom is not over yet. Internationalism at the cost of national sovereignty is not a done deal.
History isn’t one-directional. One cannot only just “stand athwart History and yell stop,” one can actually turn back time. The direction of History can be actually reversed. The decline of a great nation or civilization isn’t inevitable. That’s a lesson for several other countries. Look at those Brits and their roast-beefs, singing “Britannia rules the waves, Britons never, never shall be slaves.” Those are not just mere words. They have actual meanings.
Conservative academic works have critiqued the EU as imperial and Soviet-lite. But of course, those suffered from the same folly of every historical work. The job of historians is to try and find thematic similarities, because history rhymes, but readers interpret that as sameness and discard the works.
The EU doesn’t have rusty steel barriers or soulless concrete blocks guarded by jackbooted, dead-eyed soldiers. But Brussels has the same flattening instinct as its older cousins had in Moscow. You don’t need goose-stepping soldiers to rip off the identity of every single nation-state and individuality of every single culture—you can do it with mind-numbing legalese and relentless financial and jurisdictional pressure.
Peter Hitchens writes of when he was moved the most by the plight of a lone Englishman, a shop-keeper Steve Thoburn, who refused to sell in EU-mandated kilograms and instead chose to sell in imperial measures, like pounds. The relentless harassment that ensued is a stuff of legends in these isles.
Hitchens writes, “I watched a British shopkeeper called Steve Thoburn be spitefully, relentlessly prosecuted for the crime of selling bananas to his customers in English pounds rather than continental kilograms. This is the kind of thing that makes me uncontainably furious; I glimpsed for the first time what each of the multiple humiliations of subjugation and occupation by foreigners must feel like. And at that point I became what my old friend had been: an Ancient Mariner, eyes glittering, gnarled fingers clutching the wrists of passersby, gripped with a seething passion I could not communicate. Who cares about your silly old ounces and inches and furlongs? And yet I did, involuntarily.”
Thoburn died of a heart attack in 2004, but I wish he were alive to see this day.
The struggle ahead of Boris Johnson’s Britain isn’t any less just because the U.K. is nominally out of the EU. The Unionist parties of Scotland, far greater in total number compared to the Scottish National Party, need to be united under one flag.
Most importantly, the British education system needs to be restructured. British universities and media are foreign-funded hubs of anti-Western propaganda led by hard-leftists. Unless future generations are taught that their civilization, despite some flaws, is objectively glorious and not irredeemably racist, sexist, colonial, and xenophobic, this fire of freedom will inevitably die in another internationalist push.
A new world order demands a new geo-political thinking. The EU now will face a massive tax burden as British contributions dry up, and with that, potentially British security patrols in the Baltics. This will likely lead to a further push for forced financial centralization and a European army, which will fuel further national secessionist tendencies, and the rift between North and South Europe.
Not to mention the inevitable clash of interests between the United States and the EU. Two suns can be in the same sky only in a Star Wars film. In geopolitical reality, two power centers will inevitably compete. Washington and London should take note of that.
The Anglosphere needs to be renewed and strengthened. Trade deals with America and Australia are an urgent priority. The combined economic and military potential of the United States, U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand can overwhelm any other trade bloc or geopolitical power. Add likeminded countries, such as Japan, India, and Singapore, and you have a powerful bloc incomparable in human history—one that values national sovereignty, but can pull together research and development, military might, and financial power.
The EU was supposed to be like that before it turned into a borderless quasi-imperial project. Yet a simple trade and financial bloc didn’t need a parliament and human-rights court that forces its diktats on vassal states. Only conquered countries accept that fate from their imperial overlords. Great Britain was never conquered.