Remember BREXIT? That was the time the United Kingdom left the European Union, thinking they’d be better off on their own. The Economist reports that “most people regret Brexit,” and polls agree.

Polls show that more than 60% of Britons now say it was a mistake to leave the EU. We think that their experience has some lessons for Puerto Rico.

Why the change of heart?

The Economist explains that “many Brexit supporters had no idea what would happen if they actually won.” Puerto Rico is in a similar situation. Statehood is a clear option — the U.S. Constitution is very specific about the rights and responsibilities of states and we already have 50 states as examples. But there is no real plan for independence, since only a tiny fraction of Puerto Rico voters want it and the Independence Party has never been able to elect a governor or a resident commissioner. What sort of government would be in place? What would the economy be based on? Undoubtedly Puerto Rico could survive as an independent nation, but it is not clear what independence would be like.

Sovereign free association is even more uncertain. Many of the supporters talk as though free association would be like the old “enhanced commonwealth” fantasy, but there is no reason to think that would be the case. In Great Britain, the rhetoric of those who fought for Britain to leave the UK focused on the idea of being British and being in charge of what happened in England, not on what would actually happen to the United Kingdom after Brexit.

Brexit Lessons for Puerto Rico

“The ‘sovereignty’ argument is no longer prevalent in the discussion and the reality of the cost of Brexit is starting to bite,” says Euronews.

They quote a British citizen saying,  “The debates that we had six years, seven years ago about all that sovereignty stuff of Britain standing on its own and all that sort of stuff. It’s just come face to face with the fact that there are more important things in life. Can you feed your kids right now? Half of low-income families in the UK are skipping meals to feed their kids. We cannot afford Brexit if we can’t afford food, we can’t afford Brexit.”

Now what?

There is talk in the UK about trying to return to the EU, but it is not certain that the EU would accept a return, and experts agree that — if the UK were accepted back into the EU — it would be on very different terms from what they had before.

Could Puerto Rico try out free association? The definition of “sovereign free association” in the Puerto Rico Status Act makes it clear that a compact of free association can be changed or ended at any time by either side of the treaty. But do supporters realize that Puerto Rico could not then return to territory status? They would be an independent nation, with no claims on the United States.

Texas declared itself an independent nation before choosing to become a star. Mexico didn’t agree — they still considered that they owned Texas and there was a war involved. But the United States agreed to accept Texas as a state. Could Puerto Rico, if she became independent and then regretted it, apply for statehood?

Just like the UK, Puerto Rico would have find it more difficult to return than to remain with the United States. As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico is in a position of inequality. As a state, the Island would have the full protection of the U.S, Constitution and be on an equal footing with all the other states. It makes more sense to go ahead and work toward statehood now than to try for PREXIT and chance the regrets the UK is experiencing now.



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