May’s Hard Brexit: A Case Study of the Growing Libertarian Divide
A Plea To Work Together
I often write about the European Union, and here I once again find myself doing so. It is hard to break away from analyzing an institution that offers up such a grand variety of political action, especially in the age of Brexit.
Today, the United Kingdom’s process of withdrawal from the continental union acts as a tangible case study of the ideological issues that create a rift in modern libertarianism: Sovereignty, borders, culture vs. globalism, free movement, and unfettered free trade.
Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, recently made clear that the nation is heading for a “Hard Brexit”. In other words, the government plans to negotiate a deal that sacrifices access to the common single market (a system that helps facilitate and integrate trade between the member nations) and free movement of its citizens (currently no visa is necessary for Europeans to enter Britain or British citizens to enter Europe) in an attempt to reclaim control over immigration and trade, two key components that define a sovereign nation.
Some libertarians see this “hard Brexit” as an assault on the principle of free trade, as well as on the fundamental right of the free movement of people through open borders. Others hail this move as a success because, by reclaiming sovereignty, Britain has halted hopes for European federalism: A philosophy with the final goal of a single, united Europe, under a megalithic government enshrined at Brussels.
The latter of these two factions has often been accused (by the former) of being closeted members of the “alt-right”; infiltrating, and ruining the libertarian movement by injecting nationalism and economic protectionism into the mix. While the former has, in turn, been branded as “globalists”; who wish to sacrifice (the already struggling) Western culture – which in its original form helped give rise to our civil liberties and freedoms – via economically destabilizing free trade agreements and immigration from non-Western nations.
Putting all insults and hyperbole (from both factions) aside; I think a legitimate point can be made that these two factions, who both strive for liberty, are very similar, but still ideologically different movements. The sooner we realize this, the better off we will all be in the long run.
The first of these two ideologies – who I’ll call the “global libertarians” – are those that see open borders and unfettered immigration, along with unregulated and maximized free international trade, as the ultimate expression of liberty.
To them, the sovereignty of states is not particularly important; as the only legitimate form of sovereignty they acknowledge are property rights, which only the individual can possess.
The second group – which I’ll call the “liberal nationalists” – like the “global libertarians” hold in high regard the civil liberties such as: free speech and expression, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, and free market principles (at least up to the national level). Yet, unlike the “global libertarians”, they also believe in the sovereignty of the nation state. Therefore, when addressing international free trade and immigration, they approve of restrictions (the degree of which varies by individual) because they believe the best way to uphold the liberal values of their societal culture, is through the protection of the nation from outside sources that might threaten to disrupt their liberal society.
In summary, “Nationalism” and “Liberalism” are complimentary to creating a free society, not contradictory to it as “global libertarians” see it.
While I, the author, personally identify as a “liberal nationalist”, it is not my intention to sway you to my camp through this article. Rather, it is (as I said previously) to acknowledge that there is a divide; and instead of demonizing those on the other side of the divide, we should remain friendly ideological brothers and work together towards the goals we have in common. For example, we have the common goal of the destruction of the European Union; the beginning of which we are seeing in Brexit.
We may very well have differing opinions on what to do if/when it falls; but in the mean time can we not focus on our common goals instead of that which divides us.
We still have far too much work to do in defeating extreme statism, let’s focus on that before we start to bicker between ourselves.