Over the weekend Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally concluded his investigation into the possibility of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia in the run up to the 2016 presidential election. A summary of the findings released by Attorney General William Barr cleared Mr Trump of the allegations, thus ending a wrangling, two year process that has seen a number of Trump aides prosecuted for peripheral charges but nothing that smacks of being in bed with “the enemy”.
Over here in the UK, final frustration with the quagmire of the EU withdrawal process on the Remainer side has led to a petition to revoke Article 50 receiving a record breaking five million signatures, while a “People’s Vote” march in Londonon Saturday apparently attracted more than one million attendees – both dubious figures, incidentally. Thus, we are now expected to believe that the “will of the people” has turned against a Brexit that never could have been anything other than a complete, unmitigated disaster.
All of these events represent, on both side of the Atlantic, the childish attempts by the leftist-liberal elite to block out of their minds the possibility that maybe – just maybe – their vision of globalisation, open borders, multiculturalism and ever greater degrees of economic control in the hands of multinational institutions really isn’t what millions of their fellow countrymen and women wanted. That may be Trump really did get elected to office fairly and squarely, and it was not a foreign-orchestrated stitch up; that may be the British people didn’t just swallow a bunch of “lies” from the official Leave campaign, nor was their vote for Leave, to quote Lord Adonis, a “populist and nationalist spasm” rather than the manifestation of a long, deep seated antipathy towards the EU that has been bubbling under the surface since the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. All of these charades by those on the losing side have been nothing more than exercises in coating themselves in yards of bubble wrap – postponing the day when they have to step out of fantasy into reality, and realise that their visions of a world order that seemed so secure prior to 2016 are, in fact, crumbling around them.
Opponents of Trump and Brexit have actually done nothing more than waste their own time by failing to understand the political shifts that enabled the election results in 2016 in favour of pretending that those shifts never existed (or ascribing them instead to “racism”, “bigotry”, etc.). By concentrating so much effort in finding novel ways to have Trump removed (which, in spite of having egg on their face right now, they will no doubt continue in one way or another), the Democrats have failed to attack Trump on his substance, i.e. on the terms on which he matters to voters. Thus, not only has Mueller’s exoneration of Trump boosted his re-election prospects by itself, but the Democrats have crafted no viable, alternative political message. Moreover, they have groomed no strong candidate in time for 2020, with presidential hopefuls comprising instead (with the possible exception of Tulsi Gabbard and the exhumation of Bernie Sanders) roughly a dozen or so interchangeable nobodies, most of whom are trying to outdo each other by excelling to greater heights of leftist absurdity. (Moreover, the tragedy of the whole Mueller farce from a libertarian perspective is that, as Glenn Greenwald points out, the fuss about Russia has distracted attention away from the bad things that Trump really is doing, such as his wading into Venezuela).
Over here in the UK, the current furore over Brexit has been caused by a (no doubt deliberate) confusion over two entirely separate issues – Britain’s departure from the EU on the one hand and Britain’s future relationship with the EU as a separate party (both immediately under the “terms of withdrawal” and longer term under a future agreement) on the other . This two-year long upheaval in trying to achieve the latter has been used to give the impression that leaving is worse than remaining; that nobody on the Leave side knew “what kind” of Brexit they wanted; and that the whole thing is nothing more than a rabble of incoherence compared to the simple, straightforward path of remaining. All of this is nonsense.
Leaving the EU means one thing – that the UK ceases to be a party to the Treaties of the European Union and to be bound by their treaty obligations. All Leave voters will be united on achieving that aim (it is conceivable that some may have voted to leave on the understanding that there would be “some sort” of deal with the EU, but given that the issues involved in the referendum were broad principles such as democracy, sovereignty, and freedom of trade in the world beyond Europe rather than the kinds of minutiae buried in the texts of bilateral trade agreements, this seems unlikely). Thus Brexit is not “vague” or “undefined”, neither is there a multitude of possibilities as to what it could be. If any Remainer is still struggling to understand what Brexit “looks like” then he can go and take a look at the approximately 170 other sovereign states in the world that are also not a party to these treaties.
On the other hand, the so-called “deal”, “withdrawal agreement” or whatever you want to call it, concerns not the departure itself but Britain’s future relationship with the EU (and only the first part of it – we are supposed to endure another two or three years in which a more permanent agreement will be fleshed out). Indeed, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which governs the withdrawal process, maintains a clear distinction between departure and deal – that while the process of leaving gives the option to conclude a “withdrawal agreement” that may outline the terms of leaving and the future relationship, the conclusion of such an agreement covering either of these elements prior to departure is not necessary, and the departing state can simply leave after two years of giving the required notice. Thus, in contrast to the US constitution, there is an explicit right of unilateral secession from the EU. (This prescient piece, written in 2016, predicted many of the problems we have found ourselves in today, and argued for an even stronger distinction between leaving and negotiating a future relationship by suggesting that we should have just left immediately, bypassing the entire Article 50 process).
When it comes to this future relationship, it is natural that opinions on the Leave side will be divided as to precisely which set of circumstances is preferable, and there are several viable options. Some will prefer a comprehensive trade agreement, as was suggested by the Leave campaign; others may prefer a less formal agreement, or simply no agreement at all. It is obvious, however, that Leave voters are not suddenly going to abandon the reasons they had for wanting to leave the EU when it comes to negotiating a future agreement. Thus, if they voted to leave the EU in order to repatriate decision making authority from Brussels to Westminster, they would be unlikely to agree to a deal that preserves decision making authority in Brussels (in other words, staying part of the single market, customs union and under the jurisdiction of the ECJ). Similarly, if they voted to leave in order to curb immigration then any deal which effectively leaves the borders porous will not be welcomed.
Nevertheless, once the fact of leaving is accepted, it would be perfectly reasonable (under mainstream, if not libertarian terms) to hold a referendum on whatever deal regarding the future relationship with the EU is agreed, with the options being simply “Accept” or “Reject”. If it is accepted then the new agreement can form the basis of Britain’s ongoing relationship with the EU; if it is rejected then we stay outside of the EU with no deal and the government would need to go back to the drawing board. That much would be democratic. It would not be democratic to use the shambolic efforts of the present government in crafting a future relationship with the EU in order to reverse the decision to leave that was taken in 2016.
It is in this regard that Remainers, like the Democrats in the US, have really been writing their own suicide note. By pretending that it is the principle of leaving the EU that is causing all of the hassle and uncertainty, they had hoped to simply pull the wool over everyone’s eyes into changing their minds and cancelling Britain’s departure. (Indeed, ironically, they are trying to provoke the kind of “knee-jerk” reaction to the current state of affairs that they say was responsible for, and thus invalidates, the outcome of the 2016 referendum in the first place). But it is unlikely that Leave voters will be convinced that the current fiasco is the result of leaving the EU rather than of the attempts of the overwhelmingly pro-Remain government and parliament to frustrate the process as much as possible. Thus, the call to ignore or reverse the result of the 2016 referendum would destroy credibility in British democracy and, consequently, in the perceived legitimacy of the British state. Therefore, in the long run, the kind of political hegemony and consolidation that Remainers are seeking would be obliterated anyway. All in all, it might have been far better for Remainers, from their own perspective, to have allowed us to leave, and then to have fought for preserving as much of what they regard as the “benefits” of being in the EU in a future agreement after the spotlight had come off the leaving process. The result of the current state of affairs has been to entrench and exacerbate division and antagonism by driving both sides to their respective extremes.
Deep down, the powers that be probably realise that it is only faith in democratic legitimacy that keeps their party going. In spite of the call for a so-called “People’s Vote” – the ruse designed to reverse Brexit – it is in fact Parliament, rather than the Leavers, who seem to be afraid of the prospect as demonstrated by their recent rejection of it by a large majority. Thus, it is likely that, whatever happens in the end, they will at least try and make it look as though we have left.
A Taste of Things to Come?
What we are witnessing with both Trump and Brexit is probably just a taste of things to come as the current crop of elites and their army of leftist idiots attempt to prevent the day of reckoning by maintaining their hold on the crumbling empire. At some point, increasing nationalist and populist backlash is going to be joined by the drive of our debt laden, welfare-warfare state into economic oblivion – something which is almost certain to occur within the next generation or so. We may think that the current political climate has been unbearable, but it’s likely that these battles, which have thus far all taken place through established political and legal procedures, are just the warm up act. As the phrase goes, it’s possible that we “ain’t seen nothing yet”.