WHY BREXIT MATTERS

Because an economic/political union that has protected Europe for 75 years from centuries of terrible bloodshed is coming apart.

For centuries, European nations fought  bloody wars massacring  each other by the hundreds of thousands, then millions and eventually tens of millions. When the US entered World War I in 1917, 46 million Protestants and 62 million Catholics on one side were trying to kill 45 million Protestants and 63 million Catholics on the other side. Millions died. Two decades later in World War II, at least 20 million died. Rampant nationalism that moved the British to hate and kill the French and then the Germans to hate and kill millions was a major cause of these centuries of bloodshed.

So after World War II, the Europeans with the support of the United States chose to nurture cooperative European structures that would discourage excessive nationalism and prevent war. First a cooperative economic arrangement and then the European Union (with a common parliament, European Court and common currency [the euro]) emerged. Goods and people can move freely from any country to another in the European Union. The result has been 75 years of peace in Europe after centuries of terrible bloodshed.

Now nationalistic forces are rising up in both Europe and United States. Radical, often anti-democratic nationalistic leaders in Hungary, Poland, Italy and elsewhere attack the European Union. In 2016, the British people voted by a narrow margin to leave the European Union. After the former Prime Minister Theresa May failed after two years of efforts to arrange a satisfactory deal to leave the European Union, a new hyper-nationalistic leader, Boris Johnson,  became Prime Minister of the UK in July of this year. He now claims he will take Britain out of the European Union even if there is no negotiated agreement––even though a majority of the British parliament oppose such a move  and the  result would be economically devastating for Great Britain and harmful for all of Europe.

Foolishly Donald Trump has praised the British nationalists who want to leave the European Union and now encourages Boris Johnson. It may be that Trump thinks he can negotiate more favorable trade deals for the US with individual European nations if the European Union breaks apart. But such a strategy grounded in a hyper-nationalistic “America first” approach is profoundly unwise. It ignores the success of  ever-closer common European structures that have produced 75 years of peace after centuries of war. Only an American president with no understanding of history would promote such a stupid, immoral and eventually counter-productive policy. Americans should support global economic and political structures that promote peace, justice, freedom and democracy.

 The central institutions of the  European Union have undoubtedly made some mistakes. They need to be corrected. There should be room for individual approaches and policies that reflect the  unique history of each country. And that can be done.

 But to blow up the highly successful European Union is a huge immoral mistake. 

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