Oops! The Brits made a big mistake
The British people made a big mistake - not the week before last when they voted to leave the European Union (EU) but when they signed up in 1973. Originally designed as a common market, the organisation has since been transmogrified into something fundamentally different which threatens the very foundations of liberal democracy.
There are economic risks in the decision to call it quits, and it will take time for the consequences for Europe and for the United Kingdom (UK) to become clear. But the EU is a political project whose objective is the withering away of the nation-state and its replacement by a supranational leviathan headquartered in Brussels.
There is no secret about this vanguard-driven revolution from above by stealth. One of the French founding fathers of the enterprise, Jean Monnet, said back in 1952 that "Europe's nations should be led towards a super-state, without their people understanding what is happening." Since then the supporters of "ever closer union" have usually had their way.
Opposition has sometimes been ignored, sometimes cynically outmanoeuvred. When, in 2005, the Dutch and French rejected the European constitution drawn up by a former French president, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, he boasted that he would "hide and disguise" its provisions in a "new text". So he tweaked it a bit and rebranded it as the Lisbon Treaty in 2007. When the Irish voted against that treaty in a referendum in 2008, they were bullied into changing their minds a year later. The British have now declared "enough".
Various people have pleaded with them to stay in the EU and reform it from within. Over the years they have won concessions here and there, but they have now finally realised that the EU is incapable of fundamental reform. It cannot reform without abandoning its overriding objective of a political union.
At the moment the Eurozone is a half-baked project because it involves monetary union but not fiscal union. Either it abandons the former or it moves towards the latter. So much political capital has been invested in the euro, however, that abandoning it would entail one of the most humiliating climbdowns in European history, not least by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. It would be as big a political earthquake for Europe as is the "Brexit" decision.
Although the UK is not part of the Eurozone and has also secured formal exemption from the drive towards "ever closer union", it cannot stop the steady erosion of the powers of its own parliament through the never-ending stream of directives from Brussels. Nor the subjugation of its courts to the European court of justice in Luxembourg.
To remain in the EU would mean endless commuting by British leaders to Brussels to beg for opt-outs likely to be more and more grudgingly given and often simply refused. Better to opt out of the whole deceitful enterprise altogether.
Remaining in would have risked eventually reducing the British parliament to a kind of regional assembly. This is the fate that awaits the parliaments of the other 27 EU members. They will in due course see their powers over taxation siphoned off by Brussels, undermining the principle of "no taxation without representation". The European parliament, which usually meets in Strasbourg, wants more and more power, but it cannot achieve the legitimacy with electorates that national parliaments enjoy.
Whatever their deficiencies, the parliaments and governments of the nation-states making up the EU are accountable to voters. The political institutions in Brussels are accountable mainly to the politicians who sent them there. They regard voters as a nuisance. At a time when voters in so many countries are venting such anger at the remoteness of political elites, it is crazy for the European political vanguard to keep driving their centralised vision so relentlessly. The British are getting out not a moment too soon.
* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the South African Institute of Race Relations, a think-tank promoting political and economic freedom.