Opinion

GRANDE: The UK Was Supposed To Be Free Of The EU On Halloween, So What Happened?

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Peggy Grande Former Executive Assistant, Ronald Reagan

On a day of trick-or-treat, there’s only tricks, no treats, for Brexit supporters in the United Kingdom. They must increasingly feel like they are trapped in a haunted house maze where every turn they make yields another dead end.

In 2016, they voted to leave the European Union. Three years later, that still hasn’t happened. The longer they run the maze and the more hoops they jump through to achieve their long-awaited freedom, the more complex and impossible that maze appears to be to navigate.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged a “do or die” Brexit on Oct. 31, and said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for an extension from the EU. Yet the Remain side has relentlessly tried to stop the Leave side using any possible means – including changing the rules of Parliament to give themselves more power and even deeming the prime minister’s actions illegal.

As a result, there is once again another extension, pushing back the deadline back to Jan. 31, 2020. The desperation of a predominantly Remain Parliament is palpable, as is the growing desperation and escalating frustration of the majority Leave public who now want to exit the EU more than ever. Their hopes of celebrating the regained sovereignty for which they voted in 2016 will yet again today go unfulfilled. Perhaps a general election, which was just set for December 12, will help break the impasse. Though after the twists and turns of the past three-plus years, we won’t hold our collective breath.

Before the referendum vote, members of Parliament from all parties agreed to support the outcome of the results and implement accordingly. This not only was pledged verbally, but even in a leaflet sent out to every voter in the U.K. The government clearly stated in print, “This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.” Was that a sincere promise on the part of the Remainers in Parliament too? Or was it a publicity stunt for the sake of appearance only? They didn’t believe the voters would choose to Leave, so therefore it was a safe — albeit empty — promise. Yet, 52 percent of the voters who went to the polls in June 2016 shocked the world by voting for Brexit.

In March 2017, Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) was triggered, which in essence is the blueprint member countries use in order to leave the European Union. It had never been invoked before, but allows for up to two years to plan and prepare to part ways. At the time, Prime Minister Theresa May was unable to get Brexit done by the March 29, 2019 deadline and repeatedly extended the deadline to today’s deadline — Oct. 31, 2019.

So is Article 50 really a blueprint? Or is it a bluff? Did the EU provide a pathway out of membership? Or just create a bureaucratic bundle of endless frustration and tail-chasing which will ultimately result in surrender and return? I don’t think the framers of the European Union ever intended for it to be applied, and if the EU lived up to all the promises it makes to its member nations, perhaps it never would have. 

But the EU is a pit of quicksand that entraps those who enter, impedes forward progress, removes the ability to make individual decisions and leaves its victims reliant on a force that mobilizes for its own good, not theirs. The path into EU membership is paved with golden promises and handouts a-plenty and once they’ve trodden the downward path of no resistance they realize it is a one way road and the climb out is littered with snares and traps and deceit.

Membership in the European Union has not facilitated favorable trading agreements for the U.K., but rather has been an impediment. It has restrained opportunities by stopping the U.K. from making trade deals with many friendly parts of the world. Remainers say the EU provides stability and the U.K. will face economic ruin if they leave the EU, but if the U.K. was truly weak, unable to support itself and had no future independently, wouldn’t the EU be happy to see them go? If they are as dependent as all the hype indicates, then the EU would barely even miss them. But the converse is true. The U.K. provides stability to the EU and the EU will face a more uncertain future economically without the U.K. as a member nation. Not the other way around.

Brexit represents a tremendous opportunity for American businesses. As of now, the U.S. is the U.K.’s largest trading partner, even though we don’t have a formal trade deal. Imagine the opportunities that will emerge once a bilateral agreement can be reached. And far beyond US-UK negotiations, there’s an entire world out there waiting to trade with the U.K. directly, without playing the “Mother May I?” game of going through the EU to ask permission first. How demoralizing it must be for a proud nation to have to surrender itself to an appointed, not elected body of bureaucrats who wield so much power, yet over whom the U.K. voters have no say or recourse.

As for the EU Parliament, they are determined to not let the U.K. out, or allow Article 50 to be successfully implemented, because beyond the loss of the U.K., there is a growing number of people in other nations who are increasingly disillusioned with the failed promises of the EU and are watching and cheering for the U.K. to successfully run the maze and find their way out. Once they do, there will be a line right behind them of others, also running for the exit, who will finally know where that exit is and how to Leave.

But is there truly an exit at all — or is it just a bad trick? That is the question for 17.4 million Brexit voters in the U.K. — and for the watching and waiting world. For the sake of global democracy and the future of free and fair trade, we should all hope so.

Peggy Grande (@Peggy_Grande) is the chair of World for Brexit and author of “The President Will See You Now: My Stories and Lessons from Ronald Reagan’s Final Years.” She was the executive assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1989–1999.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.