Was Brexit About Racism or Tea Kettles?

Everyone on the Left is absolutely convinced that the Brexit vote was all about racism.  In part, this is because this is the only way the Progressives know how to argue, the only approach to logic they are taught in college for political argumentation.

Yes, as an immigration supporter, I am not thrilled with the immigration skepticism that dominates a lot of western politics.  I struggle to cry "racism" though, as I confess that even I would be given pause at immigration of millions of folks from Muslim countries who hold a lot of extremely anti-liberal beliefs.

Anyway, I would likely have voted for Brexit had I been in Britain.  I think the EU is a bad idea for Britain on numerous fronts completely unrelated to immigration.  The EU creates a near-dictatorship of unelected bureaucrats who seem to want to push the envelope on petty regulation.  And even if this regulation were just "harmonizing" between countries, Britain would still lose out because it tends to be freer and more open to markets and commerce than many other European countries.

By supporting Brexit, I suppose I would have been called a racist, but it would really have been about this:

The EU is poised to ban high-powered appliances such as kettles, toasters, hair-dryers within months of Britain’s referendum vote, despite senior officials admitting the plan has brought them “ridicule”.

The European Commission plans to unveil long-delayed ‘ecodesign’ restrictions on small household appliances in the autumn. They are expected to ban the most energy-inefficient devices from sale in order to cut carbon emissions.

The plans have been ready for many months, but were shelved for fear of undermining the referendum campaign if they were perceived as an assault on the British staples of tea and toast.

A sales ban on high-powered vacuum cleaners and inefficient electric ovens in 2014 sparked a public outcry in Britain.

EU officials have been instructed to immediately warn their senior managers of any issues in their portfolios that relate to the UK and could boost the Leave campaign were they to become public....

Internet routers, hand-dryers, mobile phones and patio jet-washers are also being examined by commission experts as candidates for new ecodesign rules.

As a free trade supporter, the downside would be the loss of a free trade zone with the rest of Europe, but I am not sure it can be called a "free trade zone" if they are banning toasters.  Britain will negotiate new tariff rates with the EU, just as Switzerland and Norway (much smaller and less important trading partners) have done.

The real crime from a US perspective is the actions of our President.  Mr. Obama has told the British that by voting for Brexit, they go to "the back of the line" for trade negotiations with the US.  This is, amongst a lot of stupid things politicians say, one of the stupidest I have ever heard.  My response as president would have been to move Britain to the front of the line, offering them a free trade treaty with the US the day after the Brexit vote.  Like most politicians, unfortunately, President Obama does not view trade as a vehicle for the enrichment of individuals but as a cudgel to enforce his whims in the foreign policy arena.  Why on Earth has President Obama threatened to undermine America's strong interest in trading with the UK merely to punish the UK for not staying in the EU, a transnational body this country would certainly never join?


  1. Titan28:

    Yes, why on earth?

  2. sean2829:

    Why would this president work against America's interest? Perhaps his interests are more global in nature. He's run his last 2 year as president as if he's prepping for his next position in the new world order. Brexit just exposed how the appeal of globalization is more a fantasy of bureaucrats than the desire of free citizens.

  3. Alan Simpson:

    Everything this president does is against America's interests. He asks himself and his advisors what is the absolute WORST I can do for America and that is what he does. And it has been that way since day one of the Obama administration.

  4. Z:

    I'm annoyed enough that idiots in the People's Republics of California and New York get voices in how much I pay in taxes, and how regulated my life is. I'd go batshit crazy if that power were extended to residents of Canada or Mexico, or God forbid, Venezuela or Bolivia. If I were British I too would want to get economically as far away as possible from the Greeks, Italians and Spanish.

  5. Bloke in North Dorset:

    Having been a reader of your bog for a few years, and your global warming one even longer, I suspect you would have been a Brexiteer.

    To give some background - Brexiteers fall in to two broad camps, although not mutually exclusive they tend to be different groups. The first are those like me who have a libertarian outlook and don't want to be micro managed by a Brussels based bureaucracy we can't fire. But its more than just regulations like toasters. These are the people who, against all the advice of the world's leading economists, brought us the Euro without the political union. When the inevitable happened they doubled down and blocked fiscal transfers, not that Germany would let them. I don't think I need to go in to what happened to the poor Greek people. We are in effect rejecting what is referred to as ever closer union and a United States of Europe, but without your excellent constitution, which is run by bureaucrats who can't be fired.

    Then there is the immigration debate, please note this isn't about race, per se. To understand the nuances you need to understand that the Labour Party, which was set to to represent the working man, has been captured by a middle class, liberal (in the USA sense), metropolitan elite that not only doesn't understand the average working man they actively despise his conservative views.

    When the EU introduced the single market in goods and services, by and large a good thing, it allowed the free movement of people within the EU. At first this didn't really matter as all the countries had roughly equal wealth and welfare systems. As the EU has new countries who joined, notably the former USSR countries, were much poorer and it made sense for their citizens to seek opportunities elsewhere. As always with immigration its generally the people with a bit of get up go who moved. As English is the world's 2nd language most of them headed here. (Please note that these immigrants are mostly white which is why "racisim" is misleading at best)

    Whilst in aggregate UK has benefited from immigration it has been the same as exporting service jobs to poorer countries and its the working man who has seen the biggest impact without much of the benefits. This influx of immigrants has put a strain on things like education, healthcare, housing and welfare.

    Anyone who raise the issues was shouted down as racists, even though they were legitimate concerns and this was the Labour Party calling their own client base in the old working class area of the country racist. It was exemplified by Gordon Brown's infamous brush with reality and referring to a woman who had complained as "that woman and "bigoted".


    Inevitably it was referred to as "bigotgate" (see Wiki of that name).

    Whilst EU immigration could just about be managed politically and economically, the influx of refugees from Syria and North Africa and the EUs incompetent handling has broken the camels back and immigration has now become a big issue across all Europe not lease because of the large numbers of people from cultures that are not only different but who are actively anti- western culture.

    In short, our governing elite brought this on themselves.

  6. J_W_W:

    Why? The answer is because that is how President Petty Petulant operates!

  7. irandom419:

    If only California and New York could join the EU, that'd be entertaining.

  8. SamWah:

    "The EU creates a near-dictatorship of unelected bureaucrats who seem to want to push the envelope on petty regulation." As does our own government, as Mr. Coyote hisownself knows.

  9. Dave Boz:

    The thought of regulating every citizen's life, down to the output of his toaster, is enough to give any good prog an orgasm.

    Our Betters don't sit up nights reading porn, they want the latest deck of EU regulations, and they dream lustily of imposing them on the rubes and bitter clingers here.

  10. bloke in france:

    This business about underpowered toasters or vacuum cleaners is not just symptomatic of the EU, it's a threat to the West.
    Consider the history of the British Standards Institution. Originally conceived as an aid to industry, allowing swift repair and low stock holdings, it became an advantage to the consumer, who could, for instance, buy a bolt in one shop and a matching nut in another.
    The the BSI got subsumed into the Norme Europeen. And all the force of law prevented innovation, because all new products have to comply with existing legislation which might or (probably) might not have anticipated the new requirement that the product fulfilled.
    All business has to comply, at a cost of upwards of $100 plus the costs of printing out the drivel yourself, over more than 20,000 regulations, failure to conform risks civil proceedings at least and prison for manslaughter at worst.
    The result has, unsurprisingly, been a migration of innovation to sectors where BS/NE doesn't apply. Examples are social media (sales blogs), friendship (arsebook), sex (tindler), nepotism (linky), and the transfer of responsibility from company to employee (Uber).

  11. John Say:

    House and Senate Republicans should be rushing forward plans to do exactly that - move the UK to the front of the line.

    I strongly suspect most of the purported downside of brexit is fear mongering.
    Yes the markets hate uncertainty - and that is one real downside. But as Schumpeter noted a significant part of improving things involves destruction.

    Yes there are issues regarding London's status as the financial capitol of the world. But most of the reasons for companies to be there - remain true, There will likely be some small shifts to reflect the weaker relationship of the UK with the rest of the EU. But unlikely a mass exodus. No other EU location is better situated to be the financial capitol of the world, and if there were any movement, it would be back to NYC or less likely to Hong Kong Not to anywhere in Europe - the rest of the EU is to disconnected from the world.

    Those areas where the UK and EU mutually benefited - such as trade are unlikely to change - Why would the EU screw itself to screw the UK ?

    What has changed is that the UK is now free to re-establish its own sovereignity over its own people.
    And free to negotiate trade deals with whoever it pleases - independent of the sluggish protectionist approach of the EU.

    Britian is one of the worlds great trading nations. Freeing it from the protectionism of the EU is only likely to be significantly beneficial in the long run.

    Many aspects of Brexit seem to mirror those in the US with Trump - this is one that is weaker.
    While both the UK and US are seeking to restore control of their trade - the UK is seeking to escape protectionism, while Trump is seeking to restore it.

  12. Good Stuff:

    Promised Land of the Marxist Collectivist Ideological Project?

    The British have rejected the New World Order!

  13. John Moore:

    You routinely condemn anyone who wants sensible restrictions on immigration into the US, saying that you should be "free to hire anyone I want." Your newfound worry about folks from Muslim countries should give you pause. A lot of us are concerned about people from other, nearer countries. Not because their skin is brownish or they speak Espanol. It is because they also are coming from dysfunctional cultures, and their impact on the US is far from benign.

    Some of us believe that one of the critical things about the US is its culture. It is progressives who imagine that culture doesn't matter, only economics. You seem to be right there with them.

    If you look at Hispanic immigration into Phoenix, you can see a lot of folks who want to work hard and get the gold in the US. But, a shockingly high number of their children become gang bangers. I remember when one could drive W Phoenix without fear of bullets going through the windshield. I used to monitor Phoenix Police when a gunshot call anywhere in Phoenix was rare. With the influx of Hispanics far exceeding our ability to assimilate, and with our welfare system making that even worse, the rate of gunshot calls in Phoenix rose to one every 15 minutes in the evening, almost all in the Hispanic areas of W Phoenix and south central Phoenix.

    That is a result of uncontrolled immigration. It is a result of policies that are more restrictive than what Coyote desires.

    You really should rethink your free immigration stance. One cannot have a society that gets anywhere close to libertarianism, given the current state of our culture and government, and this immigration makes it far worse. That immigration is also one reason that the Democrats, statists all, now control Phoenix.

    So please, look beyond ideological purity and the consequences of your ideas. Free immigration is a disaster for the US, and it isn't the Muslims who are the problem. It is sad when a libertarian chooses policies that ultimate destroy the culture that freedom needs, and that are the favorites of the statists of the left.

  14. Kurt Droffe:

    "... though, as I confess that even I would be given pause at immigration of millions of folks from Muslim countries who hold a lot of extremely anti-liberal beliefs" - I am always glad to hear the concession from a US-american libertarian that free (im)migration could in fact be a problem. As a libertarian in Europe I normally agree with most of the libertarian positions, but I part company where the demand is for unrestricted immigration, which in Europe means mostly from (North) Africa or the Near East - it's simply undermining the foundations of liberal society itself.
    As for the Brexit, yes, such are the policies that make a mockery of the European Idea. Not to forget that if I want to light a cigarette I will have to buy a packet with offputting pictures on it, to remind me that smoking is bad for me - thanks, didn't know..

  15. Mercury:

    "Mr. Obama has told the British that by voting for Brexit, they go to "the back of the line" for trade negotiations with the US."

    That threat is emptier than Obama's suit.

    'Brexit' won't actually happen for at or at least three months, Obama will only be president for another six, at which point these two guys will be running the US and the UK:


  16. CC:

    When they ban inefficient appliances, they are banning the cheaper models in general, which is what the poor buy. This kind of thing goes on here (US) as well such as banning low quality housing or cars that fail safety ratings. So you essentially ban being poor.
    Of course, it is also true that energy sucking vacuums are the ones that actually work, and the high efficiency appliances (toasters, washing machines, dryers) often take longer and thus assume that your time is worth nothing.
    The crash of the Pound is due to fear, and it will rebound shortly when it is clear that nothing bad has happened.

  17. Dan Wendlick:

    Luke: "I don't believe it."
    Yoda: "That is why you fail."
    I believe that for many of the continental governments, and for the EU bureaucracy itself, the idea of Britain leaving was literally "unthinkable". They just could not conceive that a majority of the people of a country would not want to be ruled by an unelected technocracy. So they thought any changes to the structure that might have accommodated the euro-skeptical portions of the population were unnecessary or even harmful.
    Remember that the history of Britain is markedly different than the history of the continent. When the continental nations overthrew monarchies, they really just replaced them with a different centralized authority. The equivalent of the barons calling for the distribution of power a la the Magna Charta never happened.
    The idea that government can be anything other than distant, marginally accountable, but all-controlling just doesn't gain "brain-space".

  18. ErikTheRed:

    Immigration is tough for libertarians everywhere because of the whole mess of "tragedy of the commons" issues that would not exist in a libertarian society. Even so, what the EU is doing right now is less immigration than it is resettlement, which is a much uglier can of worms. You get a very different group of people with resettlement than you do with natural immigration.

  19. jdgalt:

    If I were a voter in Britain, the main issue would be avoiding having to pay into the next round of bailouts for Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland. Bailouts that were guaranteed not to happen (and in fact outlawed) in the agreement that created the Euro, and for which the British banks, along with others in Europe, have already taken a major hit.

  20. jdgalt:

    The clock won't actually start on Brexit until the UK gives its Article 50 notice to the EU. Which hasn't happened yet. So they'd better vote UKIP now if they want the exit to actually happen at all.

  21. ErikTheRed:

    Sadly, this is the usual sloppy conservative thinking that conflates the issues of immigration, prohibition, and now resettlement. Gangs thrive in the black markets that, frankly, were created and nurtured by conservative politicians ("See, if you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That's literally true." - Milton Friedman). *Somebody* is going to fulfill that role (economics 101), and the most competitive in that area will be people who are too poor to have much to lose in terms of freedom and physical assets, and people already wanted by the law for some reason or other. Illegal immigrants are sometimes the most natural fit, but there is a mountain of evidence both historical and contemporary that shows that there are plenty of natives eager and willing to take those jobs. Because conservatives are determined to pass policies that keep immigrants as unemployable and far outside the legal system as possible, this exacerbates the problem about as much as one could reasonably imagine. It's just as nonsensical as the progressive "war on guns" - exact same economics, exact same human behavior, exact same outcome. So if you're upset about the gangs and violence (none of us are thrilled about it) you're better off getting mad at the face in the mirror. But, like progressives, the conservatives answers to all of their failed policies is just to repeat them harder and more forcefully.

    As far as public welfare, schools, etc. go, most libertarians have a hard time imagining why they should be forced to pay for other people's "needs," regardless of which side of an arbitrary line on an a map drawn by some asshole sociopath politician they happened to be on when they came out of their mother's vagina. I mean, it's probably possible to find a sillier way to divvy up humanity, but nothing comes immediately to mind. I'd probably start anywhere other than "accidents of birth," but that's just me. Do I want to fund illegal kids in public schools? No. Guess what? Don't want to pay for your kids either, especially into a laughably antiquated and obscenely expensive and wasteful system that produces appalling results.

    Now where I do think that libertarians and conservatives can have more agreement is on Obama's (and the EU's) "refugee" program - this is resettlement. Resettlement brings in a very, very different group of people than natural immigration does. You get a far higher proportion of people who with violent tendencies on one side of the spectrum, and a far higher proportion of people who can't provide for themselves on the other.

  22. MJ:

    Well written, Warren. One of your best posts yet.

  23. marque2:

    Sad but true. And with the press going on about how many of the "losers" are signing petitions, and claiming that means the Brits really didn't want to go, they probably do need to give their politicians one more kick in the pants to get them out. Unfortunately UKIP may be on the decline. Nigel is retiring, and I don't see any other strong leader for the group - even as head of the party, Nigel couldn't win a district for himself.

  24. MJ:

    First of all, I doubt that Farage will retire until he's certain that Brexit will go through. A legal challenge to the vote or a call for another referendum will likely keep him busy at least a while longer. Secondly, in the event that he does step down, I hope that Daniel Hannan will consider replacing him. Daniel is one of the more forecful and articulate advocates of liberty in Europe than I've seen in quite a while.

  25. Rick Caird:

    Barack Obama loves to punish people who do not agree with him. Britain started out at the end of the line (remember the bust of Churchill) and will simply remain there until Obama is not in the line.

  26. obloodyhell:

    The UK had public debates on the issue:

    Here was one of the debaters, demonstrating that the UK has a hell of a lot more erudite politicians than the USA does.

    This guy would be PotUS if he came here, and magically became eligible, by, say, no one asking for his Birth Certificate.


  27. Matthew Slyfield:

    You are correct. For one thing, many people, especially here in the US seem to be unaware that the referendum on Brexit was non-binding. The vote means nothing until the UK parliament ratifies it.

  28. Zachriel:

    Coyote: Was Brexit About Racism or Tea Kettles?

    Brexit: Wave of hate crime and racial abuse reported following EU referendum

  29. mlhouse:

    While in theory I support "immigration" I think there are two significant problems :

    1. Immigration into the modern, Western welfare state creates significant costs and complications. It is one thing for an immigrant to move to where the labor is, find a job, and contribute. It is another when they come to the US, with their complete and extended families, and then live off the welfare system (and more) that is provided to them. Modern welfare benefits are not cheap to the tax payer. The average benefit, medicaid, section 8, food stamps, utilities, amounts to tens of thousands of dollars. Add in the $10,000 per kid cost of education and the cost of these immigrants can run to $50,000 or more per family per year.

    2. Assimilation is an issue that we need to really factor into our immigration equation. While I would argue that it is obvious that the US and other developed nations need the low end labor provided by immigrants, legal and otherwise, we don't need ALL of the immigrants/refugees. All of our labor needs can easily be provided by the influx of immigrants from Mexico and Latin America, with selective immigration from Asia and other nations. The Hispanic immigrants have been very succesful in basic assimilation, with their Catholic religious background. Asians too have been very successful. But I do not believe that the Muslim immigrants to the US have been as successful in assimilating into the Western social and political culture. FOr that reason, discrimination in immigration is very justified.

    Lastly, I think that a better Libertarian case can be made with respect to Syrian/Middle Eastern refugees that providing humanitarian aid in place is much more effective than moving them across the globe.

  30. chembot:

    Your point about resettlement vs, "natural immigration" is largely a distinction without a difference as far as the open immigration crowd is concerned since they base those views upon the natural rights to free movement and association inherent in people. Motivation and means don't really matter too much under this moral view.

    Something that holds even less sway is cultural arguments. People under this theory tend to get treated as fungible economic units with effectively no cultural baggage. (Certainly none worth keeping them out.) Governments are viewed as these purely external sources of oppression that arise out of the vacuum rather than as an expression of a community's ethos and practical application of that ethos. (Assuming a non-dictatorship of course) They didn't sign the social contract, didn't vote for all those politicians and rules, and don't believe in communal rights or privileges in even the loosest sense, so so how are they to tell me how I can deal with people on my property anyway? And if you don't believe that, you are xenophobic, racist, and/or statist.

    Its not just the conservatives that get this treatment, the ancaps are perfectly willing to train their fire on the minarchists as well. One of the reasons why libertarians don't get anywhere is because the various groups are more interested in "no true Scotsman" type arguments and ideological purity than in actually trying to bring about the society they want with the tools that are actually at hand

  31. jdgalt:

    That tells us that bigots (however many or few there may be) are pleased by Brexit. We don't know that the vote was "about" their issue.

  32. jdgalt:

    It's more than just cheap appliances and light bulbs. Smoking, fast food, and payday loans are also mostly consumed by the poor, and at least the latter make good sense for most of the people who use them. In my view all three do.

    But I'm not sure that laws restricting or taxing these things arise from hatred of the poor so much as from a lack of understanding of what choices the poor do and don't have available. They are "Let them eat cake" laws!

  33. CapitalistRoader:

    ...demonstrating that the UK has a hell of a lot more erudite politicians than the USA does.

    I think they get more practice. Like dispatching this Sky News twit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mD_-JKvSJrc

  34. Penkville:

    Good to see Warren acknowledge that, while immigration is generally a good thing, it's not credible to say it can never be challenged - not all immigration is equal. It's certainly outrageous to see the reasonable arguments and concerns presented by the Brexiteers characterized as nothing more than the rantings of bigots, or even worse, racists.

  35. Zachriel:

    jdgalt: And there were other good reasons to vote Leave.

    There may very well be, but xenophobia and a longing for a perceived mono-cultural past were certainly factors. Indeed, the Brexit campaign strongly emphasized fear of immigrants in the last few weeks of the campaign.

  36. antiquarian:

    Those black markets were not created by conservative politicians, they were created by authoritarian do-gooders with a grand vision to reform society, of which there have been many examples in history both on the Right and on the Left. But these days, most of the danger from that sort of people is from those on the Left, due to the Constitutional asymmetry between God-based moralizing and secular.