Home/Daniel Larison/‘Brexit’ and the Myopic EU Leadership

‘Brexit’ and the Myopic EU Leadership

This part of a report on Cameron’s last EU summit meeting stood out to me:

[European Commission President] Juncker reiterated his view that Cameron lost the referendum because he and his party have spent years dismissing the EU as anti-democratic and “too technocratic.” He said Cameron shouldn’t be “taken by surprise if voters believe you.”

Cameron bears significant responsibility for losing a referendum he assumed he would win, but he didn’t lose because he was too critical of the EU in the past. One problem was that his valid criticisms in the past didn’t square with his alarmism about what would befall the U.K. outside the EU. Another was that his earlier criticisms made it hard for people to take him seriously as a defender of Britain’s membership in the EU. He wasn’t quite enough of a Euroskeptic to have credibility with the people inclined to vote Leave, but he was too much of one to be credible as a Europhile advocate.

What Juncker naturally misses is that the EU is anti-democratic and too technocratic (and that’s the way that many EU leaders like it). As far as many voters across Europe are concerned, those are some of the EU’s major flaws. They aren’t seen that way by the EU’s top officials, and that’s a major cause of this latest rift. Cameron didn’t err by acknowledging those flaws earlier. The real failure here was the EU’s unwillingness to make any concessions that might address these entirely valid criticisms. That put Cameron and his allies in an impossible position of defending institutions that refused to be reformed with the promise that they still could be. That left British voters virtually no choice but to reject continued membership. In the end, that isn’t only Cameron’s fault. The fault also lies with the short-sighted Eurocrats that have assumed they can get their own way regardless of what voters in any member state think. They created the conditions that made “Brexit” possible, and ultimately they have no one to blame but themselves.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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