Why Hasn't Brexit Happened?
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A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communitarianism.

Of what? "Communitarianism" is the name being used in academic political-science circles for one side of the Great Divide that has opened up among voters in the West these past few years. For the other side of the divide, the poli-sci eggheads favor "cosmopolitanism."

My own designators, "provincialism" and "metropolitanism," seem to have found no favor. Everyday news outlets, to the degree they have noticed this new Great Divide, use "populist" and "globalist." For pejorative purposes, media polemicists use "far-right" as a synonym for "communitarianism." There is of course no media pejorative for "cosmopolitanism."

Communitarianism is facing its first great challenge in Britain this week. Britain's new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suffered a parliamentary setback to his Brexit plans—to his plans, that is, to implement the decision a majority of British voters made by referendum more than three years ago.

A great many non-Brits find the whole Brexit business massively confusing. The backstop, the Withdrawal Agreement, deal/no deal, endless parliamentary wrangling, wha?

For a guide to the perplexed, there is no better primer than Christopher Caldwell's essay "Why Hasn't Brexit Happened?" in the Summer 2019 Claremont Review of Books, now available on the internet. It's long—nearly 7,500 words, equal to about six average newspaper op-eds—but well worth your time.

One of the essay's sub-themes relates to the issue of kritarchy that has been giving so much trouble to us here at VDARE.com recently. Britain's original (that is, pre-EU) constitution was not kritarchic; the EU's is. (And so, according to Caldwell, is America's.)

There is much food for thought here. I had intended to include a few short teaser quotes in this post, but Caldwell's essay is so densely eloquent, well-nigh the whole thing is quote-worthy. The following samples — almost all from just the first half of the essay — give the flavor of the thing.

Yes, Britain will regain its independence on October 31, if Brexit’s adversaries do not find a way to block it. But those adversaries include almost the whole of Britain’s political, economic, and journalistic elite, and they have been ingenious in finding ways to block it thus far. The largest and highest-stakes exercise in democracy that the country ever engaged in—the culmination of decades of soul-searching, in which the country insisted on its independence, its national identity, and the primacy of its constitutional system — is at risk of simply being ignored
In Britain as elsewhere in the world, the struggle has been unleashed by innovations in administration that have arisen since the Cold War. These shift power from electorates and parliaments to managers of information, inside government and out. From thousand-year-old constitutional ideas to five-year-old ones. From habeas corpus to gender identity. Because it was Britain that did the most to construct the ideal of liberty which is now being challenged, Brexit clarifies the constitutional stakes for the world as nothing else …
The Brexiteers are the party of the unwritten British constitution as it existed from the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 until Britain’s accession to the E.U. in 1973. This is the tradition of "parliamentary supremacy," as John Locke called it, or "parliamentary sovereignty," as it more often came to be called ... Remainers are the party of the European Union's constitutional tradition, the tradition of human rights and judicial review ... Only once the process of Britain's secession got underway was it possible to understand fully the conflict between these two constitutional traditions. Federal Europe had penetrated British constitutional life much more thoroughly than Brexiteers could face or Remainers admit …
The E.U. destroyed the system of parliamentary sovereignty at the heart of Britain's constitution. For all its royalist trappings, Britain has traditionally been a much purer representative democracy than the United States, because it excludes courts from reviewing legislation on any grounds ... [T]hrough the back door, judicial review was being introduced into a constitutional culture that had never had it ... Quangos and foundations began designing cases — concerning migrants' rights, gay rights, search-and-seizure — that unraveled the centuries-old fabric woven from the rights and duties of British citizenship. A new fabric began to be woven, based (as are all such systems in Europe) on post-Civil Rights Act American law and on the litigative ethos of the American bar …
In 1998, Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair passed the Human Rights Act ... [I]t quickly became the "functional equivalent" of the due process clause of the American 14th Amendment — grounds for all kinds of judicial adventurism …
These shifts in Britain’s constitutional culture have become obvious during the rolling European migration crisis of recent decades. The more courts took control of immigration policy, the harder immigration was to stop ... Once the judiciary rules politics, all politicians are just talkers. Understand that, and you are most of the way to understanding Brexit …
The transfer of competences from legislatures to courts is a superb thing for the rich, because of the way the constitution interacts with occupational sociology. Where the judiciary is drawn from the legal profession, and where the legal profession is credentialed by expensive and elite professional schools, judicialization always means a transfer of power from the country at large to the richest sliver of it. This is true no matter what glorious-sounding pretext is found to justify the shift — racial harmony, European peace, a fair shake for women. In a global age, judicial review is a tool that powerful people expect to find in a constitution, in the same way one might expect to find a hair dryer in a hotel room …
In England, at least, the electoral map of Brexit looked like the electoral map of Donald Trump's presidential victory in America would look later that year. Remain was the choice of those who benefited from the global economy. It won overwhelmingly in a few compact islands of rich people, intellectuals, and minorities — London, Oxford, Cambridge. The ranks of Remain-aligned politicians were crowded with well-educated, tech-savvy, cosmopolitan people. Leave won everyplace else. It was the choice of yesterday's Britain, the Britain of losers …
There have been scares before for those who run the institutions of global "governance" — the rise of Syriza in Greece, with its attack on the common European currency, the election of Donald Trump, the nation-based immigration restrictions put forward by Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarian president Viktor Orbán. But it is Brexit that has hit bedrock.

Caldwell is really a treasure. If you have any reading energy left, his February piece on the Scramble for Europe at the Hoover Instituion website, "European Demographics and Migration," is another tour de force. (And a bit shorter; only 5,700 words.) 

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