Back at the time of the UK’s referendum on “Brexit” in June 2016, I wrote two posts on the subject: one on the June 23 date of the vote, and the other four days later. The first advocated in favor of the “leave” position, and the second gave some reasons to believe that the just-endorsed departure would be a good thing.
One of the things I predicted was that the actual departure would not happen quickly or easily. The reason was that the forces of “stay” controlled high positions in the government and other leading institutions, had much to lose personally, and would not give up easily:
[D]o not expect the totalitarians and vested interests to give up easily. I anticipate a protracted campaign of obstruction and delay, as the grafters desperately fight and claw to hang onto every last grant and perk.
Boy was I right about that one! Here we are, going on three years later, and the Brexit has still not occurred. Meanwhile the Brexit “process” has turned into a Perils of Pauline soap opera, barely escaping one supposed disaster after another seemingly every few days.
In the intervening years, I have listened to many well-informed people presenting very persuasive reasons why staying in the EU would be a good thing for the UK. For example, prominent UK lawyers of my acquaintance have described to me in great detail how institutions including the EU Court of Justice (analogous to our Supreme Court) have been a great positive for business through their role in unifying EU-wide commercial law rules. Free traders have told me of immense problems that could arise from sudden abrogation of travel and trade agreements, including huge waits for people and goods to clear border customs. Financial people have told me serious reasons for concern that the London financial markets could be badly damaged, and London could lose out in competition to European centers like Paris or Frankfurt.
But to me, none of these things outweighs the fundamental issue, which is that the EU has somehow come to embody the progressive dream of rule by permanent bureaucrats, convinced of their own expertise, who impose increasingly burdensome rules at their whim, and who cannot be voted out or held accountable by any known mechanism. Just in the past couple of weeks, we have a couple of new examples of how far this can go.
In late February came word of the most recent initiative from the European Parliament: Europe will be moving toward mandating the insertion into every automobile of a speed limiting device that can prevent the car from exceeding whatever speed limit may exist at a particular spot. Here is a February 27 report from Forbes:
Members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection voted last week to approve a range of new vehicle safety standards including . . . the installation of ISA [“Intelligent Speed Assistance”] devices on all new cars from 2022.”
The Director of the European Transport Safety Council, Antonio Avenoso, could hardly contain his excitement, saying:
This legislation represents a major step forward for road safety in Europe, and could save 25,000 lives within fifteen years of coming into force.
So starting with new cars from 2022, they will be tracking how fast you are going in your car and enforcing the speed limits from afar.
Then, just yesterday, investment bank UBS came out with a new Report on the subject of the cost of the EU’s carbon emissions regulations to automobile manufacturers. The Report was covered, for example, at the Financial Times here (behind pay wall), and at City AM here. Bottom line: a cost of about 7.4 billion euros (about $8.3 billion) to automakers, beyond previous estimates. From City AM:
Manufacturers would have to reduce emissions by around one-fifth in the next two years to meet the rules, otherwise they face a fine of €95 for each gramme of CO2 they are over the target. Analyst Patrick Hummel said: “All European car makers are still well above where they need to be in 2021.” . . . [C]omplying will cost a total €7.4bn in lost earnings across an industry which is already facing hard times from economic factors such as Brexit and waning demand in the key Chinese market.
Over at the Global Warming Policy Foundation, they are calling this latest industry hit just another example of “Europe’s Green Suicide.”
Now you might say, why does this kind of thing really matter for the UK? The UK has generally been on board with the EU “green” anti-carbon environmental program anyway. Even the Forbes piece linked above notes that, even if it goes through with Brexit, the UK is expected to join the EU ISA rules.
But the point is that, when you are in the EU, it is effectively impossible to change policy direction through an election. In the US, the people get to elect a new President, and then he is entitled to change the agency heads (at least most of them — I won’t get into the supposed “independent” agencies here) and change the policies of the prior guy over to his policies. Yes, a Trump gets tremendous push-back from the permanent bureaucrats, but little by little he can take a good bit of control. In an agency like the EPA, the effect has been dramatic, and becomes more so with the passage of time. The UK has a different system, but also permits elections to shift policy dramatically. The new party in power, in addition to controlling the legislature, gets to name the Prime Minister (Chief Executive) and all the heads of agencies.
How about in the EU? There isn’t any CEO. The “executive,” such as it is, is the European Commission — one representative from each of 28 countries. How are they selected? Here is a summary from the BBC:
The Commission consists of 28 members, one from each member state. Its president is nominated by the national leaders and then elected by the European Parliament by majority vote. Based on member states' suggestions, the Commission's president selects 27 other members of the Commission for a five-year period, each with a specific policy portfolio.
It couldn’t have been better designed to avoid all possibility of electoral accountability. Effectively, it is self-perpetuating.
Will Brexit, if and when it occurs, cause some economic disruption? Maybe some serious economic disruption? That is likely, although my prediction is that the disruption will be well less than many fear mongers claim. But the constitutional situation in the EU, entrenching a permanent self-perpetuating clique, will over time drag down the economies of the member states far more than any temporary disruption from Brexit. Switzerland — not an EU member — makes its own deals and does fine. Indeed, it is notably richer than any EU member with a population over 1 million.