I enjoy having my positions challenged intelligently. Swedish free-marketeer Johan Norberg argues that free-marketers like myself should not be so excited about Britain leaving the EU. “Brexit,” he argues, “is a dangerous blow to openness and free trade.”
Like me, he says,
I would prefer a system where countries automatically accept unrestricted imports of all goods that have passed the regulatory hurdles in the exporting country, but that's not an option that interests any E.U. country, including Britain. Unfortunately, their alternative to E.U. rules is not laissez-faire, but national rules, which would block much of the trade that goes on unhindered today.
Hmmm. So how do the EU rules work? One way, he says, is to smuggle in things governments would like to do while complaining about being made to do them by the monolith. Observe:
The E.U. only has the powers member states give it. Decisions are taken by consensus or a qualified majority. Every member—including Britain, until now—has a veto against new powers. So when states complain of the E.U.'s tyranny, it is often because they play a little game—they want X done, but don't know how to tell the voters, so they consent to X in Brussels and then go home and tell voters that they are now forced to do X. (This is also, obviously, one of the reasons why voters think that the E.U. is power grabbing and out of control.)…
This is what was so strange about the Brexit campaign. Many complained about Brussels' red tape, but the regulations that hold Britain back the most are often made in London: Harsher financial regulation than in the rest of E.U. since the financial crisis, insane planning restrictions that block new housing, and a high minimum wage recently introduced by the Conservative government. Farmers complain about E.U. red tape, but many of the rules have in fact been introduced in Brussels by the British government, especially when it comes to environmental regulation.
It is London, not Brussels, that bans British stores from being open longer than six hours on Sundays. Imagine how that would be mocked if it were a Brussels regulation. And that is indeed one of the major benefits of a federal structure with a common set of rules: Countries are less interested in regulation when those regulations emanate from others, and therefore are more likely to block or dilute them. National rules are not just often back-door protectionism, they are also more comprehensive and extensive.
This is why Brexit can paradoxically make both the E.U. and Britain less free market at the same time. An important voice that often urged restraint in Brussels is now gone and diminished internationally, leaving the possibility for the E.U. to become more centralized. At the same time, Britain will implement all those rules back home, tailored to local demands and local lobbying. And that could very well be worse.
What people were voting for with Brexit, he argues, was not freedom but nationalism.
For obvious reasons, we libertarians heard mostly the arguments put forth by decent liberal Brexiteers. I certainly hope that their vision of an open and deregulated Britain will be realised, but sadly, those voices were drowned out by the nationalists…
The message they gave was not about less E.U. intervention, but less E.U. blocking of British state intervention. Voters mostly heard that the E.U. had forced too much free trade on Britain. The mantra was "take back control." Eighty percent of the British who see social liberalism as a force for ill voted for Brexit, and 69 percent of those who see globalization as bad. Immigration was the number one issue for Brexit voters, according to the Ipsos MORI poll.
No matter what you might have heard from happy liberal Brexiteers, voters think that they voted to keep immigrants out and to protect local industry, and expect such policies now….
This is Trump, only in British English and full sentences.
Read the whole piece: Why Libertarians Should Be Wary of Brexit 'Victory'