On a visit to London last week, I had the opportunity to meet with members of the British Cabinet and several members of Parliament to discuss the issue of “Brexit.” On June 23, the British people will vote in a referendum to decide whether to leave the European Union. For the first time in over four decades, British voters will finally be able to shape their own destiny.
This is history in the making and a momentous vote that may transform the future of America’s closest friend and ally.
My trip to the U.K., which also involved a meeting with the leadership of the Vote Leave campaign, including chief executive Matthew Elliott, further convinced me that a British exit from the European Union would be good for Britain and for the United States. It would also be good for Europe.
The Brexit battle is largely being fought between the political establishment in London, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, and grassroots-driven campaigns. Vote Leave, the biggest of the three major Brexit campaigns, has secured the support of five cabinet ministers, as well as the highly popular London mayor Boris Johnson. In addition, at least 140 Conservative parliament members have come out in favor of Brexit, and surveys suggest that a clear majority of Conservative Party activists wish to leave the EU.
It is hard not to be moved by the passion and enthusiasm of those supporting Brexit. They are, after all, fighting for Britain’s freedom, the right to self-determination, and the power to control Britain’s borders and decide their own laws, without interference from the European Commission in Brussels and the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. As Michael Gove, Britain’s justice secretary, has written, “I believe our country would be freer, fairer, and better off outside the E.U.”
The supporters of Brexit want what Americans take for granted: the right to be a sovereign nation. They also want the freedom to negotiate their own trade deals, with countries such as the United States, India, Canada, and Australia. Americans would never accept the supranationalism that is the hallmark of the European Union. And if the British people vote for Brexit, the United States should welcome their decision, and look forward to a stronger partnership with Great Britain as a truly free nation.
We are honored here at Heritage to be the home of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, established in 2005 with the support of our former patron, Lady Thatcher. The Iron Lady fought tirelessly for British sovereignty, and for strengthening the Anglo-American special relationship. Brexit would advance both. If Britain breaks free of the shackles of the EU, America and the free world stand to benefit as well.