PREXIT?

BREXIT — Britain’s plan to exit the European Union and be its own separate nation again — won the vote narrowly. The people in favor of BREXIT thought they’d be able to negotiate with the other nations of Europe and get what they wanted.

Puerto Rico and Britain have some overlap

Britons who wanted to leave the EU didn’t like having to send money to Brussels to support group projects. That shared economic responsibility had other elements, though. All the 28 member countries of the EU could sell in a common market with shared favorable terms. Britain wants to keep those favorable terms, even if they leave. Puerto Rican nationalists also want to keep things like federal support and U.S. defense protection if they leave the United States.

People who favored BREXIT also had some bad feelings about immigration. All the members of the EU can travel and work freely in all the other member countries. Just as in the U.S. a person from Delaware or Puerto Rico can freely move to New Mexico or Arizona and get a job. Britons who wanted BREXIT felt that immigrants from other EU countries were taking their jobs and their health care benefits. Puerto Rican autonomists want to be able to travel and work freely in the U.S. and even to keep U.S. citizenship if they leave.

The English Leavers also feel strongly about what it means to be British, and didn’t like having to follow the EU’s strict environmental laws. Just as some in Puerto Rico feel strongly about fielding a team in the Olympics or have nationalistic feelings about the Island, some Brits don’t want to think of themselves as Europeans. And just as some Leavers want to pick and choose among EU regulations, some autonomists want to pick and choose among U.S. federal laws.

Are the leavers getting what they want?

Britain voted in favor of BREXIT, and they will leave the EU in March of 2019. The Leavers thought that Great Britain was powerful enough to get the deal they wanted.

They’re not. One expert says that the British plan for BREXIT “is just a reflection of fantasy or delusion running up against reality.”

The same has been said about Puerto Rican autonomists. The “fantasy island” plan includes things like this:

  • dual U.S./Puerto Rico citizenship with a choice between Puerto Rico and U.S. passports
  • free movement between Puerto Rico and the U.S.
  • use of U.S. currency, but freedom for Puerto Rico to set tariffs
  • economic support of Puerto Rico by the U.S. for 30 years
  • complete sovereignty but federal assistance with law enforcement regarding drug trafficking (under the supervision of a sovereign Puerto Rico)

It is not possible to give a clear outline of the deal the autonomists want, because they have never agreed on a definition. Just as Britain never came up with a practical plan for BREXIT, Puerto Rico’s alternative to statehood continues to be largely imaginary.

There is talk in England of another vote on BREXIT. Many Britons never wanted to leave the EU, and many more are alarmed to discover that they won’t get what they hoped for. There is fear that a “hard” BREXIT — if the European Union just says “goodbye” — will destroy Britain’s economy.

Will the EU allow the UK to stay if they take another vote and decide not to leave? It’s possible.

Will the United States go along with the “fantasy island” plan for Puerto Rico? In several status votes, this idea was the winner in Puerto Rico, and the United States just said no.

If that’s not a clear enough picture of how negotiations for a “non-colonial, non-territorial” relationship other than statehood would go, a look at how the UK is doing with their Brexit negotiations might be instructive.

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