“Can we easily leave the remains of such a year as this? It is all still gold,” the diarist Horace Walpole wrote as Great Britain won conquest after conquest, at France’s expense, during the final months of the Seven Years’ War. “Our bells are worn threadbare with ringing for victories.”
Yet much to the disappointment of Brexiteers, “Big Ben,” which crowns that iron choir atop the Elizabeth Tower, will “not” sound out at 11 p.m. when the United Kingdom takes its leave of the European Union and regains independence.
“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly,” the Anglo-American revolutionary, Thomas Paine, wrote in the opening of “The Crisis.” “ ’Tis dearness only that gives everything its value.”
No one can claim that Brexiteers have had an easy time of it. Eurosceptics exposed the insidious nature of EU membership from the beginning. Prime Minister Thatcher marked the turning point with her “Bruges Speech” of September 1988, in which she famously declared: “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.”
The ups and downs on the road to Brexit are too numerous to count. There was the successful June 2016 referendum to “take back control,” followed by the disastrous premiership of Theresa May, whose decision to go to the polls precipitously in June 2017 nearly ended Brexit. The resulting “Remainer Parliament” was perhaps its worst outcome — second only to Mrs. May’s compromised Withdrawal Agreement. Remainer MPs, meanwhile, kept the Tory Government tied up in knots and subject to the whims of Westminster.
In this dark hour for British independence, arises its paladin premier, Boris Johnson, who on the charge of “getting Brexit done” won electoral victory in December. The promise was that come January 31, the UK would be out of the EU. And so it is about to come to pass.
Further legislation ensures that Britain will not be hamstrung at the end of the year in futile negotiations with Brussels on a free trade deal. Either a UK-EU deal by December or a “clean break” Brexit, with Britain trading with its former E-27 colleagues on World Trade Organization rules.
Britain’s future looks bright indeed. Boris Johnson is set on a path of securing Brexit and economic renewal. We have called this a “neo-Disraelian moment,” echoing as it does Benjamin Disraeli’s climb up the greasy pole of politics on the twin themes of patriotism and paternalism (improving the lives of the vast numbers of disadvantaged Britons).
It would be a mistake to assume the cause of British independence is accomplished. Brexiteers have achieved a remarkable victory, considering the might and power and wealth of vanquished Remainers. But the Brexit promise encompasses far more than simply exiting the European Union. True freedom means focusing now on Westminster and Whitehall.
Responsibility must be returned to the people. Decentralizing British politics and eliminating economic rigidity are essential. It is a time for “Radical Toryism” — overthrowing the status quo and, in the spirit of Murray Rothbard, staging a “counterrevolution to take the country back.”
Begin with Scotland. Bypass Scottish nationalists by giving power back directly to the people. Edinburgh pols will denounce this effrontery to their self-importance. Ordinary citizens throughout the Union will cheer you for your faith in individual responsibility.
Nor should Brexiteers let their ardor for independence cool. Witness the cold ashes of the 2009 Tea Party movement that animated American patriots for liberty and minimal government. See the dying embers of President Trump’s “America First” campaign.
We do not deny the progress made in cutting red tape and drastically scaling back regulations that hinder innovation and entrepreneurship. But where is the promised return to “sound money” and radical approach to government spending and over-reach? Washington deficits have only grown under the President’s watch.
Brexiteers, take heed. “Around the globe there is a circle of domestic settlements that watch us for example and inspiration,” Benjamin Disraeli told his Tory admirers. His words ring no less true today.
Mr. MacLean writes the Brexit Diary for The New York Sun.