Sign Up

Brexit: The Worst of All Policy Ideas

Brexit is the UK equivalent of the United States launching the Iraq War: Noble intentions perhaps, but an utterly self-defeatist move.

October 18, 2016

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.


Brexit is the worst policy idea. It militates against longstanding notions of British pragmatism.

British sovereigntists’ intentions are like US neocons’ desire to “bring democracy to the Mideast.”

Nations have more important goals to pursue than discussing bilateral trade deals with the UK.