Brexit is the UK equivalent of the United States launching the Iraq War: Noble intentions perhaps, but an utterly self-defeatist move.
Come to think of it, Brexit is the worst of all policy ideas.
The whole idea militates against longstanding notions of British pragmatism. That smart school of thought always asks one simple question: What is the fastest, least cumbersome way to obtain a payoff for a policy move?
Brexit is the exact opposite of that: It is a highly complex maneuver with a very uncertain outcome and an equally uncertain payoff. In that sense, the Brexit agenda is entirely un-British.
A French intellectual brain fart
Indeed, Brexit is such an abstract policy “idea” that it bears all the hallmarks of literally being a proverbial brain fart coming out of the obtuse minds of leftist French intellectuals.
It is well known that they have a strong penchant for trying to make the world fit their ideological predilections even against impossible odds.
What has been unknown to date is that British conservatives evidently seek to emulate those French intellectuals.
Also outdoing the Americans
The most charitable thing one could say about Brexit is that British ultra-“sovereigntists” – sadly including Theresa May, the country’s new Prime Minister – may have noble intentions.
But these intentions are entirely naïve. They are, in fact, as laudable as the U.S. neocons’ ill-fated desire to “bring democracy to the Middle East.” Given where the Middle East is, those intentions, even if taken at face value, are at best wholly impractical and dangerously delusional.
Not on anyone’s priority list
Top British policymakers – Messrs. Johnson, Davis and Fox, the Theresa May’s “Three Musketeers” – and their supporters in the chattering class will find out a most unpleasant fact of life soon.
Many nations in the world have far more important goals to pursue than discussing the future possibility of a potential bilateral trade deal with the British government.
No matter how often British negotiators refer to the seemingly golden fact that the UK is the world’s fifth-largest economy, it won’t account for much.
Virtually every other nation is busy working on terrorism, finding strategies to promote employment for young people, securing pensions for old age and so forth.
In such a world, dealing with the UK is way down the agenda – as U.S. President Barack Obama made refreshingly clear during his pre-Brexit visit, when he talked about the UK finding itself at the end of a long queue for trade negotiations.
Still think they are Viceroys
Theresa May and the Brexit mastermind trio of Johnson, Davis and Fox must still believe that these are the days of Viceroy Mountbatten: London (or one of its representatives) calls – and the world jumps to attention. Not so.
Once it is understood just how badly they are overselling their case, frustration will settle in quickly.
Contrary to their continuing promises, they will have a very hard time to come up with any quick successes. This is due to the very complex, interlocking logic of international trade deals – which British negotiators helped co-invent over the centuries.
Most of the UK’s potential partners for such deals will want clarity about how any potential separate deal with the UK would affect their much larger, far more important relationship with the EU. That is a major, probably insurmountable handicap for the Brexiteers.
Once the genie is out of the bottle
But Theresa May’s problems ultimately go well beyond the Brexit agenda. Simply put, the bandwidth of much of her government bureaucracy will be usurped by this voting mishap.
The bizarre Brexit goal thus stands squarely in the way of her important reform agenda for the domestic economy.
**Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist, the daily online magazine on the global economy, politics and culture, which he founded and launched in January 2000. He also is the President of The Globalist Research Center.
In addition, he is the presenter of the Marketplace Globalist Quiz, which is aired on public radio stations all across the United States as part of NPR’s Morning Report. Mr. Richter has also frequently appeared on leading television and radio programs such as CNN International and PBS’s Newshour.
He has moderated more than 150 policy events in Washington, D.C., featuring prime ministers, CEOs, Nobel laureates and heads of international organizations.
His articles and views have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Le Monde, Singapore’s Straits Times, South China Morning Post, Bangkok Post, Al Ahram, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, Die Welt, Die Zeit and Foreign Affairs.
From 2002-08, Mr. Richter was a monthly columnist for Les Echos, the leading financial daily in France. He was also the U.S. correspondent for Rheinischer Merkur from 1990-98, as well as a monthly columnist for CEO Magazine.
In addition, he has been a keynote speaker on geopolitical and geoeconomic issues and trends at major international conferences organized by asset managers, investment banks and public policy institutions in Europe, the United States and Asia.
Prior to starting The Globalist, Mr. Richter led a global strategic communications firm based in Washington, D.C., advising governments, leading global banks and corporations, international organizations and foundations around the world.
In that capacity, he served as North American advisor to the German Economics Ministry and Vice Chancellor in the early 1990s, when he successfully shaped the “New Federal States” campaign, designed to create a dynamic brand image for the former Communist East Germany.
In the fall of 1990, at the request of the U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, he drafted the Sense of the U.S. Senate resolution calling for forgiveness of Poland’s Communist-era public debt. It proved a crucial step in the successful conclusion of the April 1991 Debt Agreement in the Paris Club.
For those activities, he was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit by the President of Poland in June 2014, as part of the country’s celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the arrival of freedom.
Mr. Richter received his J.D. from the University of Bonn, Germany in 1984, was a Rotary Foundation Award recipient in 1980-81 and a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association in 1986-87.
His 1992 book, “Clinton: What Europe and the United States Can Expect,” correctly forecast the Clinton Administration’s emphasis on fiscal consolidation in U.S. public accounts.
In 2013, he was the co-editor of the book, “In Search of a Sustainable Future: Reflections on Economic Growth, Social Equity and Global Governance.”