Brexit and the Donald Trump presidential victory should rightly be viewed as the most significant international developments of the last decade. Both events illustrate a breaking down of globalist order and they both threaten the entrenched elite that has so ruthlessly and painfully hurt the middle and working classes. But as Trump supporters revel in the largely unanticipated victory, Brexit faces a serious new challenge.
On November 3, 2016, The English High Court ruled that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would affect substantially the “rights of individuals within the UK.” As a result, the Court concluded that despite the referendum, and the “Crown prerogative” that grants the Government considerable leeway, particularly in matters of foreign affairs, the decision to leave the EU must be made by Parliament. Given that the government has made many decisions to increase the UK’s “ever-closer” integration into the EU over the years, which clearly affected the “rights of UK individuals,” it is curious that the Court would finally decide to step in when the government was moving in the other direction.
The May Government has announced that it will appeal to the UK’s Supreme Court. Some lawyers advise that should the Supreme Court overrule the High Court, the Claimants might appeal still to the European Court of Human Rights under the Human Rights Act 1998. Whether this Court would accept jurisdiction is unclear.
Regardless, the current Government and the Brexit camp are shocked and angry at the High Court’s ruling. They are joined by powerful sections of the UK’s mass media including the Daily Mail which has labeled the High Court as being “Enemies of The People” (James Slack, 11/3/16).
If the Supreme Court upholds the High Court decision, it is likely that Prime Minister May will have to consult Parliament. She is unlikely to find there a receptive audience. According to Business Insider some 73 percent of the 650 Members of the House of Commons, and probably a greater percentage of Peers in the House of Lords, were and probably are still in favor of remaining in the EU (Jim Edwards, 11/3/16). This means that the members of Parliament can easily rise up and vote to restore the order that they so clearly believe should be restored. But will they be prepared to defy the will of the people? This is a tall order for every politician.
They could argue that the public will has changed since the vote and that the win was not all that decisive to begin with. Such arguments will be politically perilous.
By 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent the British people voted for Brexit (BBC News). However, this seemingly small margin led to 61 percent of the UK’s Parliamentary constituencies to vote for Brexit, according to data from the University of East Anglia. It will take very brave Conservative Members of Parliament to vote their conscious to remain, thereby defying both their party whips, who control their promotions within the Party, and the expressed will of their constituents who control their continued membership in Parliament. Even Labour members who may desperately want to remain in the EU, may be reticent to oppose the clear wishes of their voters to leave. The fractured leadership of the Labour Party may not be able to bring much pressure on wavering members to cast a “remain” vote. The remain sentiment in the House of Lords appears even stronger than in Commons. But if Prime Minister May were to add the threat of enacting further reform of the House of Lords, it might bring enough peers into line.
The remain case has been further weakened by the lack of post-Brexit catastrophe forecast by Cameron and his allies before the vote. Recent headlines confirm the return of optimism: the Telegraph published, “UK jobs market ‘thriving’ after summer pause.” City AM reported “Retail sales up in best month since January.” Meanwhile, financial markets appear to have stabilized.
Based on all this, it is hard to imagine that UK parliamentarians will stage a quixotic last minute stand to resist the independence of the UK.
Regardless, the EU negotiators may insist that to retain access to EU markets the UK must open its boarders to EU immigrants, largely from the Middle East. If unacceptable to the UK government, likely it will result in a so-called “Hard Brexit” whereby the UK will be expelled. Should this occur, it will not be the first time England has been expelled from most of Europe. Should this occur, Britons should rejoice as history has shown that England does well when it does not yoke herself too closely to the Continent.
When King Henry VIII broke with the Church of Rome, England was forced to trade worldwide. This put England into the exploration and colonization business, which proved to be quite fruitful. When Napoleon’s influence spread across the Continent in the early 19th Century, Britain shut down European ports and looked to trade elsewhere. This resulted in the largest accumulation of empire in England’s history, allowing the small island nation to garner wealth, political influence and military power on a global scale.
Under Brexit, I believe the UK will be free to trade worldwide on terms that suit the UK’s economy rather than that of the 28-nation EU, which has still no effective trade treaties with the U.S., China and Japan.
First Brexit and now Trump have exposed powerful popular feelings of deep resentment. An increasing number of voters feel ignored by what they perceive as self-serving, uncaring and unresponsive rulers who have created a political class that is cocooned away from the financial realities which plague normal citizens. It is not a political party but, as Trump describes, “it’s a movement.” Likely, it will threaten the unraveling of conventional party politics in the U.S., the UK and the EU.
Brexit and the U.S. election have clearly given momentum to the anti-globalist world view. Such forces are also gaining ascendency in Italy and France. However, the forces of globalization are extremely powerful and deeply entrenched. They will surely fight back. The first round will be in the UK Parliament. But no one knows where the fight will progress.
John Browne is a Senior Economic Consultant to Euro Pacific Capital.