In an attempt to break the deadlock in the ongoing Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union, the United Kingdom has agreed to give in on key negotiating positions. According to estimates, the bill for leaving the union will now land somewhere between 45 and 55 billion pounds sterling ($61 to $74 billion). The European Union’s officials seem to win regardless of the situation. The United Kingdom had initially announced that “no country will be worse off because of Brexit”, and that it is willing to honor its commitments, which means that it is willing to concede €20 billion ($23 billion). This considerable change of heart doesn’t reflect well on the standing of the British government, yet also happens to prove Brexit voters right.
The current divorce between the European Union and the United Kingdom has been going on since the referendum in June of 2016. When it comes to Brexit, the Eurosceptic movement was largely inspired by the positions of genuine free trade and economic liberty, which has been undermined by the European Union over the years. The current state of the negotiations is being presented by EU supporters as the derailing of that free market philosophy, when it actually just proves its point. Pro-EU advocates are claiming that the current diplomatic disaster shows the frail logic of Brexit itself, it in fact only displays the problematic nature of supranational organizations.
The challenge for genuine free-marketeers is to stay on message. While the European Union is sulking over the loss of a large-scale contributor to its expensive policies, Britain needs to look beyond the continent and engage in tariff-free trade with North America and Asia in particular. When Donald Trump promised a “very big and exciting” trade deal with the UK after Brexit, the Brits need to take him up on that, despite their grudges over the current Bombardier trade war, in which Trump is putting tariffs on aircrafts which are partially manufactured in the UK and Canada. The success of Brexit will not be in the hand of the Euro-crats in Brussels, but in the actions of economic reforms of the British government itself.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has every reason to be disappointed: three quarters of the country, which includes Leave Voters, believe that the negotiations are going terribly. Not a day goes by without new speculations as to when the Conservative Party will oust its own candidate and replace her with a personality the likes of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, famous for his eloquent speeches and nonchalant attitude. However, it remains in Johnson’s own interest to keep May in power as long as possible, using her lifeless political prospects as a human shield to weather the impending storm of public disapproval.
If Britain is intent on finding a free trade agreement with the European continent, it will need to make concessions on the bill, or end up with WTO tariffs, which would hurt both the UK’s and the EU’s economy. The latter option is not off the table for the UK’s government, as May underlined her position in her Lancaster house speech that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
The situation is political deadlock, with the clock slowly ticking towards March 2019, the day by which the UK will officially leave the EU. The EU clearly wants to make an example out of the UK, even though this is endangering French winemakers and German car manufacturers who want to export to Britain. The European Union is not about a philosophy of peace through trade-cooperation, but a political club which has a grumbling attitude towards dissenting voices, and is willing to accept economic deterioration for the benefit of its own ego. The critique of many Brexiteers was that the arrogance of this centralized institution will pave the way to its own decline. They have been vindicated every step of the way.
What is the road from here?
May’s government is likely to completely fail during the negotiations with the EU, partially due to her own incompetence, and partially due to the political opportunism in her own party. Last week’s ‘breakthrough’ has been nothing but a show, since as long as there is no trade deal on the table, the British electorate has been, to be it bluntly, screwed. However, this negotiating incompetence shouldn’t derail the economic freedom motivations of Brexit supporters by one inch. If you elect a politician to protect your liberties, yet he fails completely to do so, then that doesn’t negate your access to those same liberties.
The more the UK opens itself up to the world, the more it will lead by a successful example.
If the UK ultimately proves itself more successful due to ameliorated international trade relations, only then will it prove that the British electorate got it exactly right.
Bill Wirtz is a Young Voices advocate. His work has been published by Newsweek, the Washington Examiner, the Mises Institute, Le Monde and Le Figaro.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.