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Three and a half years after the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom has left the European Union. As of Saturday, February 1, the isles are on their own. This major change prefigures, or may prefigure, withdrawal for certain parts of the United States. I am thinking of New England, which still thinks of itself, in certain respects, as a sister country to the Brits. Once you demonstrate a new possibility – think of Kitty Hawk – a new world takes shape.

Not everyone regards this event with unalloyed hope. When the European Parliament ratified the Withdrawal Agreement on Wednesday, January 29, many had regrets, some expressed stern reproval. Here is Manfred Weber, head of European People’s Party, on the occasion:

We only will grant them access to our market if they respect the European rules.

If one sentence exemplifies the European Union’s authoritarian, restrictive spirit of regulation for trade among independent business firms, as well as regulation of virtually all economic relationships, this sentence does it. One can say – from the outset – no wonder Britain wants out. Government’s job for economic relations is to punish fraud, after it happens, and to help enforce contracts, when parties to those contracts fall into dispute. That is it.

EU regulations went way, way beyond what one wants from a minimalist state. After all, the EU is a confederation that comprises sovereign states, not a single republic. Yet administrators in Brussels act as if citizens of member states are their subjects. Many British businesses, and citizens, became fed up with a European government that meddles in almost everything. Not everyone in Britain wants to say good riddance, but many have looked to this day for a long time.

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