Brexit Backers Need To Seize The Moment

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Consequences be damned. With the departure date of March 29 inching ever closer — but 35 days in the future — opponents of Britain’s independence are resorting to drastic measures to stop Brexit. This week, eight Labor MPs resigned the party whips; three Conservative MPs followed, forming an “Independent Group” in Parliament. So why are the paladins of Britain’s freedom blunting their message for independence?

The erstwhile Labor MPs resigned due to dissatisfaction with its leadership. They charge that Jeremy Corbyn is negligent in his duties toward moderate colleagues confronting hostile work environments in Westminster and their constituencies; these beleaguered moderates face deselection at election time. Moreover, they claim a culture of anti-Semitism has taken root in the party since Mr. Corbyn’s time at the helm.

Plus, disgust with Labor policy toward Brexit rankles these party defectors.

As for the Conservatives rebels, their gripes against Prime Minister May include the rise of hard-right Tories within the Party (namely Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group), their own unease over deselection rumors, and the perceived move away from “One Nation Tory” initiatives.

With respect to Labor Party internal discontent, it’s hard to gainsay that there exists reasonable cause for unhappiness. Better to focus instead on the Tory brief. Stated simply, it is disingenuous to suggest that the ERG has “taken over” the Party, given that it could neither cashier Mrs. May, which it tried in December’s leadership challenge, nor give “WTO Brexit” the prominence it deserves.

Also disingenuous are complaints that Mrs. May has backtracked on the spirit, if falling short of realizing specifics, of the most interventionist party manifesto in recent history. As for umbrage that MPs may be challenged in constituency contests for lukewarm support of party ideology, doesn’t the membership deserve candidates who serve them as partisans in Parliament?

As for the Brexit indictment, both the Conservative and Labor parties campaigned, during the 2017 general election, to honor and uphold the referendum vote to exit the European Union and subsequent legislation to put Brexit into effect by March 2019. Yet now these dissembling malcontents want a second “People’s Referendum” to reverse the first one, and agitate to postpone the March departure. Only these Brexit “heresies” unite the Independent Group.

No less a figure than Sir John Major joins in to create trouble for the Prime Minister. Unforgiving, and unforgetting, critics may see a pattern. The Sun newspaper in London reports that at a University of Glasgow event, Sir John “pleaded with Tory Remainers to vote to delay Brexit — and rule out a no deal.”

Again I ask, why so restrained, Brexiteers? Why allow Remainers to steal a march and possibly foil Britain’s bid for independence? Woe to Brexit that its Westminster bloc are not students of Machiavelli. “Political disorders can be quickly healed if they are seen well in advance,” he advised statesmen; but, if “allowed to grow in such a way that everyone can recognize them, remedies are too late.”

Prime Minister Thatcher sketched the terrain toward an EU super-state thirty years ago in her Bruges speech. The few who heeded her warning became prophets, though for the political class, Mrs. Thatcher’s nightmare was the stuff of their dreams. She remained undaunted, encouraging succeeding generation in her final book, “Statecraft.”

“History does not allow us to retrace our steps,” Mrs. Thatcher wrote, “but it does allow us and our successors to learn from what has transpired.”

Yet whose voice rouses Britons today?

“We hear every day on the lips of the wise men of our generation,” Machiavelli wrote dismissively, “to make the most of the present time.” This attitude characterized Thatcher and, in America, Ronald Reagan. The question today is whether Parliament will take the people’s lead.


Mr. MacLean maintains the weblog The Organic Tory.

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