On June 23, 2016, Britons proudly decided to set off on their journey through history on a different path from their European colleagues. A big opportunity opened up in front of them. They could either face the growing bureaucratic supra-state monster largely known as European Union and its interventionist proposal or stay in the Union. After the resignation as prime minister of David Cameron, Theresa May was chosen by the Conservative Party as the leader who would lead the country to throw off the EU’s yoke and embrace liberty. If this unique opportunity be wasted, it will be thanks to a new nationalist and protectionist status quo.
We have seen a turn towards protectionism and a new economic postulate that is set to condemn the UK’s economy, should words turn into facts.
Since Brexit was chosen, uncertainty has been rising in the UK and its economy. The real economic effects of Brexit were unknown until May took charge.
The so-called Brexit could have been - despite not having occurred yet because the Parliament has the final word on it- an opportunity for the country to escape from all the restrictions the EU carries within. However, we have seen a turn towards protectionism and a new economic postulate that is set to condemn the UK’s economy, should words turn into facts. Severe restrictions and controls on Immigration and capital flow, executive salary limitations, and the introduction of employee representatives on businesses Boards were only some of May’s proposals. The effects of the novice Prime Minister’s rhetoric and the previous menace of Brexit did cause a 41% value loss of British businesses mergers and acquisitions negotiations in the first 9 months of 2016, not for facts, but just because of words.
Further, May seems to have abandoned some of the liberal ideas Thatcher promulgated and promoted, and under her direction and leadership the Conservative Party has seen a change in its message, becoming more similar to a centrist Labour Party or a pre-Thatcher Conservative platform. Abandoning the principles upon which Thatcherite conservatism stood means leaving behind some of the most important contributions that modern politics have made to history and even economic theory.
Many businessmen have declared themselves against the protectionist and mercantilist direction Downing Street’s new resident has taken, but the sentiment of Britons first - already common in Catalonia, my country’s region - will produce -or just the idea of it produces- substantial value losses in British society and the economy. This discriminatory idea, that favoring national people against the foreigner is something praiseworthy and that Theresa May seems to embrace so eagerly, is not new at all. In fact, it is the age-old prohibition of competition and free enterprise which ballasts and avoids societal progress and real development.
Luckily, not everything is lost for Britain. While this nationalistic message was being proclaimed, May also spoke in favour of a free market economy. These words have been caught optimistically by markets. For instance, on January 19th, 2017, May’s speech in Davos claimed for the wellness of globalisation, free markets, diversity and openness. Breaking away from the closed message that Brexit had until then, these new pro-liberty ideas have been received with joy by both investors and lovers of liberty. This is great news for the country that created the Industrial Revolution, theorized the market economy and defended and internationalized civil rights and liberties. One cannot but feel dubious, howeverm when May also speaks about “business needing to do even more to make the case” and the “development of a new industrial strategy (centralized by Government) that addresses the structural weaknesses of UK economy” to foster the benefits of free market and free trade as the country would wish. She also proclaimed that UK “can’t leave all of these to international market forces alone… Instead we (UK government) have to be practical and proactive. In other words, we (UK government) have to step up and take control to ensure that free trade and globalisation work for everyone”. And what could it mean?
There is a spanish well-known proverb that claims: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. And we all -including Theresa May- have good intentions. But are good intentions good enough?
I firmly believe that Brexit will be a historically successful event on the long term, but in the short to medium term I’m afraid not of May’s words but the real facts that will derive from those words. Afraid not only of the rhetoric that voices in Britain are popularizing, but of the actual policies that these voices could enact. The amazing opportunity that Brexit represents could turn into a nightmare for the world and for all of us in the global Liberty movement.
I firmly believe that Brexit will be a historically successful event on the long term, but in the short to medium term I’m afraid not of May’s words but the real facts that will derive from those words.
Thereby, the lost opportunity that May’s Brexit could turn out to be for her country due to nationalism and dirigisme is indeed something we should keep in mind when we refer to secessionist issues and new movements across Europe. We must, deontologically, respect an individuals free will and thought, but those who have to choose between different options while trying to keep themselves rational and consequentialist, shall take into account - feelings apart- that reality is not the fiction we desire or want; that facts are the facts, and they give us signs about future occurrences, and that we need to evaluate ourselves and our ideas profoundly.