It is a sad thing indeed, when a man as addicted to American politics as I am is forced to watch ITV Britain's coverage of the Brexit question last night. It seems I've become so bored with our own situation that I turned to our Mother Country for some political thrills. And boy, did we get them.
Simply put, I do not know enough about the issue of whether the UK should have remained in the EU or not to have a coherent opinion. And while this seems to be no impediment for what passes for insight and analysis on the interwebs, I don't feel like I ought to make bold pronouncements based on scanty information. I'm funny like that.
The little I do know does not add to my clarity on the issue, nor will it lead to yours. Clearly, an element of the British population had come to see EU membership as onerous. Some of them believed this as a result of the UK's having to abide by immigration rules not under control of their own Parliament. Some of them believed this as a result of the UK's having to abide by an increasing number of economic and environmental regulations, as well as judicial decrees, not under their own sovereignty. Some saw the EU as a mechanism for the transfer of wealth from rich, Northern European countries to poor, profligate Southern European countries. Some of them I think, simply saw it as a matter of national pride, pride that was being swallowed up by a new "European" identity. There is merit in all of these views, and they are not inclusive.
The case to stay in the EU fell generally to those in what some here in the US (not me) would call "The Establishment". They pointed to economic benefits of European integration, and the greater opportunity for folks striking out on their own to work in fields of their choosing in other countries, freed from individual national employment regulation. They pointed to the political power on the world stage that 350 million Europeans could wield rather than divided polities. They pointed to the case of a divided Europe being just what Vlad Putin wants. There is merit in all of these views, too, and they are not inclusive.
There was a good bit of fear-mongering in the run up to the vote, with the "Remain" side generally predicting all manner of doom should the UK leave. I am not qualified to say whether the doom is warranted--to include economic privation, loss of influence, and isolation. I can imagine how these would come about and that they are possible. I can also imagine that they aren't inevitable.
And while I am unqualified to opine on the wisdom of their vote, I find myself generally well-qualified to offer a few policy suggestions about how we--the US--should proceed.
1. Don't be churlish about this. This is an adult nation making an adult decision. No collusion with Germany and France to teach those Limeys a lesson. Chive on.
2. Remember the special relationship. It is special.
3. Make a grand gesture of friendship and support. What do I suggest? Well, I'd start with forward stationing three destroyers in the UK. With the decline of the Royal Navy, there's a ton of open pier space, and we eventually have to start re-arming in the North Atlantic anyway.
4. Look into some kind of UK/US/Canada free trade agreement. I realize this goes upstream of the isolationist, protectionist winds that are blowing in the US these days, but there is goodness in a union of English-speaking peoples.