Like in U.S., 'Isolationist' Now Used As Lazy Slur in U.K.


Credit: World Economic Forum/wikimedia

British deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg has launched the pro-European Union party's campaign for next month's European elections saying, "For far, far too long, the isolationists have got away with peddling their myths, their fears, their falsehoods, without any challenge whatsoever, pretending that every problem in the world would somehow disappear, like the morning mist, if only we were to pull ourselves out of the EU."

Clegg recently debated Nigel Farage, the leader of the Euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), on two occasions. During his debates with Farage Clegg tried to characterize UKIP as close-minded and hesitant to engage with the world.

While I am not a fan of UKIP and am far from convinced that a British exit from the E.U. would prompt the British people to enjoy a more free-market economy, I do think that Clegg's characterization of Euroskeptics as "isolationist" is absurd.

Non-interventionist American libertarians will be familiar with the terms "isolationist" being mistakenly applied to lawmakers such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). To some, the term "isolationist" is an appropriate label for anyone who doesn't want our enormous military to stretch itself needlessly across the world.

In the U.K., the term "isolationist" is being used to describe Euroskeptics, who want the U.K. to leave the E.U. However, wanting a British exit from the E.U. does not necessarily entail a desire to become an isolated country. Indeed, Britain was trading with the rest of the world long before the establishment of the E.U.

In the second debate with Clegg, Farage said the following (referring to UKIP):

We want to trade with Europe, cooperate with Europe, get on well with our next door neighbours  but we don't want a part of political union.

Farage went on to say:

I want Britain to get up off its knees, let's govern ourselves again, stand tall and trade with the world.

These are not the words of an isolationist.

It's a shame that Clegg is using such obviously misleading language ahead of the European elections. Farage and the party he leads do have objectionable policies that should be highlighted by their opponents. But that can be done with accurate language.