‘Brexit dream’ turn­ing night­mar­ish for U.K.

The Beacon Herald - - OPINION - GWYNNE DYER

Even with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sched­uled to visit the United King­dom this week amid mas­sive protests, it’s still all Brexit, all of the time in the scep­tred isle — and the long strug­gle over the na­ture of the deal that will de­fine Bri­tain’s re­la­tion­ship with the Euro­pean

Union post-exit al­legedly reached a turn­ing point last week­end.

“They had noth­ing else to of­fer. They had no Plan B. She faced them down,” said a se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cial about the hard-line Brex­i­teers af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May got them to sign up to a so-called “soft Brexit” at a cri­sis meet­ing last Fri­day.

But the ar­mistice be­tween the

Leave and Re­main fac­tions in her frac­tious Con­ser­va­tive Party lasted less than 48 hours.

On Sun­day morn­ing hard-line Brex­i­teer David Davis, the lu­di­crously ti­tled sec­re­tary of state for ex­it­ing the Euro­pean Union, re­neged on his sup­port for May’s ne­go­ti­at­ing goals and re­signed in protest. For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son fol­lowed suit, claim­ing May’s plan meant “the (Brexit) dream is dy­ing, suf­fo­cated by need­less self-doubt.”

The sheer feck­less­ness of the “Brexit dream” is epit­o­mized by John­son, who first com­pared May’s ne­go­ti­at­ing plans to “pol­ish­ing a turd,” then came round to sup­port­ing them for about 36 hours, and fi­nally re­signed, say­ing they would re­duce the U.K. to a “vas­sal state” with the “sta­tus of a colony” of the EU.

At no point did ei­ther of them of­fer a co­her­ent counter-pro­posal.

And what is all this about? A ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion, de­vised by May with great dif­fi­culty two years af­ter the ref­er­en­dum that yielded 52 per cent sup­port for an un­de­fined Brexit, which could never be ac­cepted by the Euro­pean Union. Its sole virtue was that it seemed pos­si­ble to unite the Leave and Re­main fac­tions of the Con­ser­va­tive Party be­hind it. But the unity im­posed by May broke down be­fore the week­end was over.

All four of the great of­fices of state — prime min­is­ter, chan­cel­lor (fi­nance min­is­ter), for­eign sec­re­tary and home sec­re­tary (in­te­rior min­is­ter) — are now held by Con­ser­va­tive politi­cians who voted Re­main in the ref­er­en­dum. Yet they are un­able to per­suade their party to ac­cept even a soft Brexit that pre­serves Bri­tain’s ex­ist­ing ac­cess to its big­gest trad­ing part­ner, the EU.

The Brex­i­teers’ power lies in their im­plicit threat to stage a re­volt that over­throws May, fa­tally splits the Con­ser­va­tive Party, and pre­cip­i­tates an early elec­tion that brings the Labour Party to power. They may not re­ally have the num­bers to do that — it’s widely as­sumed that a ma­jor­ity of the Con­ser­va­tive mem­bers of par­lia­ment se­cretly want a very soft Brexit or no Brexit at all — but May dares not test that as­sump­tion.

Hor­ri­fied by the prospect of a Labour govern­ment led by Jeremy Cor­byn, the Con­ser­va­tives are doomed to cling des­per­ately to power even though they can prob­a­bly never de­liver a suc­cess­ful Brexit. And time is run­ning out.

The U.K. will be leav­ing the Euro­pean Union on March 29 of next year whether there is a deal that main­tains most of its trade with the EU or not. If there is no deal, the U.K. crashes out, and chaos en­sues.

This sit­u­a­tion is al­most en­tirely due to the civil war within the Con­ser­va­tive Party. The only rea­son there was a ref­er­en­dum was be­cause for­mer prime min­is­ter David Cameron thought that a de­ci­sive de­feat in a ref­er­en­dum would shut the Brex­i­teers up. He mis­cal­cu­lated.

They won the ref­er­en­dum with the help of a ra­bidly na­tion­al­ist rightwing press, spend­ing well be­yond the le­gal lim­its in the cam­paign — and, it now ap­pears, with con­sid­er­able sup­port from Rus­sia.

There’s still a chance that rea­son will pre­vail be­fore the U.K. crashes out of the EU. But the odds are no bet­ter than even.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book is

Grow­ing Pains: The Fu­ture of Democ­racy (and Work).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.