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  • Documents on Democracy

United Kingdom

On October 2, new British prime minister Theresa May delivered a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham. May spelled out her government’s understanding of the import of the U.K. vote to leave the European Union. (For analysis of the consequences of the referendum, see the articles on pp. 17–58 above.) Excerpts from Prime Minister May’s speech appear below:

Today, we’re going to talk about Global Britain, our ambitious vision for Britain after Brexit. Because 100 days ago, that is what the country voted for. We’re going to talk about a Britain in which we are close friends, allies and trading partners with our European neighbours. But a Britain in which we pass our own laws and govern ourselves. In which we look beyond our continent and to the opportunities in the wider world. In which we win trade agreements with old friends and new partners. In which Britain is always the most passionate, most consistent, most convincing advocate for free trade. In which we play our full part in promoting peace and prosperity around the world. And in which we—with our brilliant armed forces and intelligence services—protect our national interests, our national security, and the security of our allies.…

Because even now, some politicians—democratically-elected politicians—say that the referendum isn’t valid, that we need to have a second vote.

Others say they don’t like the result, and they’ll challenge any attempt to leave the European Union through the courts.

But come on. The referendum result was clear. It was legitimate. It was the biggest vote for change this country has ever known. Brexit means Brexit—and we’re going to make a success of it.…

The negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union are the responsibility of the Government and nobody else. I have already said that we will consult and work with the devolved administrations [End Page 184] for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, because we want Brexit to work in the interests of the whole country. And we will do the same with business and municipal leaders across the land.

But the job of negotiating our new relationship is the job of the Government. Because we voted in the referendum as one United Kingdom, we will negotiate as one United Kingdom, and we will leave the European Union as one United Kingdom. There is no opt-out from Brexit. And I will never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious Union between the four nations of our United Kingdom.…

Whether people like it or not, the country voted to leave the EU. And that means we are going to leave the EU. We are going to be a fully-independent, sovereign country, a country that is no longer part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts. And that means we are going, once more, to have the freedom to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters.

Czech Republic/United States

On October 5, NED’s International Forum honored the eightieth anniversary of the birth of Václav Havel (1936–2011) by convening a conference titled “The Legacy of Václav Havel and the Future of Democracy.” It featured panels on “The Challenge of Democratic Renwal” and “Defending the Liberal World Order,” with panelists including Ivan Krastev, Fred Hiatt, Robert Kagan, Leon Wieseltier, and Jackson Diehl. Former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright delivered opening remarks, which are excerpted below:

Even though he was very much a product of his country’s culture and history, what distinguished [Václav] Havel was that he thought, spoke, and acted on behalf of principles that will always matter everywhere.…

Not long after he became president, Havel traveled to Washington where he was scheduled to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress. … Instead of treating the Cold War’s end as a climactic victory; he emphasized the challenge that lay ahead—to create a world shaped by moral responsibility. Instead of focusing on ideology or politics, he stressed the obligations we each have to one another.