Acton Institute Powerblog

Daniel Hannan on the Conservative Case for Brexit

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In the hubbub surrounding Brexit, many conservatives have cheered the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, hailing it as a win for freedom, democracy, and local sovereignty.

Yet for those who disagree, support for Brexit is painted as necessarily driven by fear, xenophobia, and protectionism. Although fear of immigrants and narrow nationalism have surely played their part, such sentiments and attitudes aren’t the only drivers at play, and they mustn’t be heeded if Brexit is actually going to succeed.

Indeed, for conservatives in the vein of Edmund Burke, the reasons for supporting Brexit are necessarily different. Political withdrawal from the EU needn’t, nay, mustn’t mean isolation from outside markets or a freeze on the movement of labor.

As Hannan outlines in a marvelous speech given prior to the vote, this isn’t about protectionism, but about preserving a tradition of freedom and democracy. It isn’t about a fear of outsiders, but about a basic belief in the principle of subsidiarity.

Having outlined the dysfunction of the EU’s prevailing bureaucracy and the necessity of paving a path toward freer trade, Hannan concludes by channeling Burke:

Of the many things that I want for that child is the right to grow up in an independent country where we can hire and fire our own lawmakers. Edmund Burke said that a nation is a partnership between the people who have died, the people who are alive now, and the people who have yet to be born.

Being a nation means that we are not just a random set of individuals born to a different random set of random individuals. It imposes on us a duty to keep intact the freedoms that we were lucky enough to inherit from our parents and pass them on securely to the next generation. My late father, in 1944, volunteered to defend with force of arms our own laws and our own people in our own sovereign parliament. I don’t want his grandchildren to lose that portion of their inheritance.

So don’t let anyone scare you out of voting to do the democratic thing…We are a great country and our song is not yet sung. We still have more to give. Though much is taken, much abides. And though we are not now that strength, which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are.

The conservative case for supporting Brexit isn’t one of immigrant-fear and narrow nationalism. It’s one based in our core belief that public matters ought to be decided at the lowest and most local level possible, particularly when the Grand Pooh-Bahs of Enlightenment are unelected and unaccountable, proven time and again to be mired in despotic delusions of grandeur.

daniel-hannan-eu-debate-brexitIs there risk that renewed sovereignty will be wasted on short-term grievances or unduly punished by the ex-overlords? Yes. But is there also opportunity for Britain to right its ship as the rest of the continent continues to sink in its range of debilitating fantasies? Yes, indeed.

Joseph Sunde is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.

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