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Cotton Speaks on the Senate Floor About Britain’s EU Referendum

June 21, 2016

On September 2, 1939, the House of Commons convened to debate whether to declare war on Germany for having invaded Poland. Surprisingly to many, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain seemed ambivalent and didn't immediately call for a declaration. Clement Atlee, the Labor Party leader, was absent. When his deputy rose and declared he would "speak for Labor," Conservative MP Leo Amery famously yelled from across the floor, "Speak for England!"

I am here today to speak for England, for Great Britain, indeed for all of the United Kingdom. This Thursday, June 23, the British people will decide a momentous question: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

I have not stated, nor will I state today, a position on this question. The British people alone should decide their policy toward the Continent. What I will defend is their sovereign right as a people to decide the question free of external influences, foreign threats, and hysterical fear-mongering.

The Great and the Good, the Davoisie elite, are united in horror at the prospect of a British exit from the EU. And, according to these Eurocrats, if the British people choose to leave the EU, then the people must be punished. Some have called for immediate tax increases and budget cuts should the Leave campaign win. Business leaders threaten to move jobs out of Britain and to the Continent. Many economists speculate that recession is the best possible outcome, with depression being the more likely outcome.

Most disappointing of all, foreign governments have made egregious threats of retaliation in trade, financial, and other economic matters, both to punish the British people for exercising their sovereign right of self-government and to intimidate the other peoples of Europe from doing the same. I would say the only thing they aren't predicting is war and pestilence-but they are. Indeed, one leading Eurocrat said a British exit could mean "the end of Western civilization."

If the Davoisie elite were doing even a passable job of governing their own countries, perhaps their unsolicited advice might be heeded. But let's face it: Europe is beset by its own problems, not least caused by the democracy deficit in the European Union. With no coordination or democratic accountability, the Eurocrats last summer allowed migrants to overrun their continent. Most of these migrants lack the job skills and education to contribute meaningfully to European economies. Some migrants went on rampaging crime sprees. And terrorists infiltrated the migrant flows to enter France and commit the Paris attacks. Meanwhile, the migrant flow continues across the Mediterranean, with hundreds dying en route. What's the Eurocrats' policy? "If you survive the trip, you can stay." How is that moral? How is that wise?

The economies of Europe aren't much better. Many countries are trapped beneath unpayable mountains of debt, saddled with austerity plans merely to make the next repayment and to avoid default. Unemployment is high, and for young people it's rampant and chronic. Growth is negligible. In fact, the only continent with lower growth than Europe is Antarctica.

I'm amazed, even a little amused, that despite these and other manifest failures the Eurocrats presume to lecture the British people. Perhaps they hope Project Fear will sufficiently intimidate the Brits into voting for Remain. After all, if the EU loses Great Britain, Europe will lose 350 million pounds a week and it will lose a dumping ground for a quarter million migrants a year. The stakes are pretty high for Brussels.

But that doesn't justify their flagrant interference with Britain's domestic politics. And since the Davoisie elite are threatening to punish the Brits should they leave the EU, let me say in response that the American people will stand with our British cousins no matter what they decide. If the Continent dares to retaliate against Britain, I will do everything in my power to defend and strengthen the Anglo-American alliance that built so much of the modern world and on which it still depends.

The Eurocrats may want to pressure Britain, but perhaps they might recall that Britain is not the only land where pressure can be brought to bear. On my last trip to Europe, I heard from many political and business leaders who were eager-desperate even-to consummate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The Paris and Brussels attacks vividly reminded us that the small Continental countries depend heavily on American intelligence to support their counterterrorism efforts. And, of course, need anyone be reminded which NATO country underwrites the independence and security of Europe, particularly in the face of a revisionist Russia?

It would be regrettable if a Continental temper tantrum imperiled these important relationships with the United States. One would hope that cooler heads will prevail in the capitals of Continental Europe should the British people elect to leave the EU. One would hope that Brussels, Berlin, Paris, and others capitals will realize that Britain, in or out of the EU, is a NATO ally, a trading partner, and a friend in freedom. One would hope that a British exit, if that is Britain's choice, would be followed by the spirit of magnanimity, generosity, and continued friendship. But hopes aside, one should know this: the American people will stand with Britain, in or out of the EU, and will stand against punitive retaliation against the British people.

Of course, I must admit, unfortunately though not surprisingly, our own government is also sticking its nose where it doesn't belong. President Obama traveled to London last month to say a newly free Britain would go to "the back of the queue" in trade negotiations with the U.S. United States Trade Representative Michael Froman has cautioned, "We're not particularly in the market for [free trade agreements] with individual countries." This strange combination of arrogance and ignorance is all too typical of the Obama administration. The United States has a bilateral trade agreement with Oman, after all. But negotiate a new bilateral agreement to support the special relationship with Great Britain, our ancestral ally? No sir, we'll have none of that nonsense!

So, for the record, let it be noted that the American people will stand up to the Great and the Good not only on the Continent, but also here in Washington if this or any future administration tries to punish Britain should it leave the EU. And just as I'll do everything in my power to preserve our special relationship against Continental meddling, so I'll do the same with any administration who doesn't fully appreciate that relationship. I suspect many other senators feel the same.

Put simply, there will be a new bilateral trade agreement. NATO will survive. Our Five Eyes intelligence partnership will continue. And the special relationship will remain a bedrock for the prosperity and security of both our nations. The British people can cast their votes certain of those things.

The British people deserve nothing less. Were it not for them, Europe-indeed, the world over-might still be a mere plaything of kings and tyrants. Of all the peoples of the world, surely the Brits have earned the sovereign right to govern their own affairs, free of external influence or threats of retaliation. Like most Americans, I stand in admiration of Great Britain and I stand with the British people, in or out of the EU.

I also call on the Davoisie elite, the Great and the Good, to spend a little less time fulminating about British democracy in action and a little more time looking in the mirror at their own failures. Populist insurgencies are raging on both sides of the Atlantic, on both the Left and the Right. Rather than obsess about Great Britain, rather than keep the populists at bay one desperate election at a time, these leaders should consider why these insurgencies are gaining in every election: stagnant wages for the working class, uncontrolled migration without regard to economic need or cultural assimilation, Islamic terrorists massacring our citizens, and a loss of national honor around the world.

This record is not pretty. In politics, as in medicine, it's usually better to address the cause, than the symptom. If our leaders addressed these challenges more creatively, more forthrightly, more effectively, perhaps neither the British people nor so many other peoples would be disappointed in their leaders to begin with.

Let the British people manage their own affairs, whether right or wrong in your eyes. In the words of Scripture, whatever you may think of their mote, take care of your own beam first.