Brexit chaos should silence separatists
The sad, silly soap opera called Brexit should serve as a warning to would-be separatists in Canada and everywhere else. When you start busting things up, people get hurt by the flying pieces.
For two years, ever since a bare majority of voters in the United Kingdom marked ballots in favour of leaving the European Union, the country has repeatedly tried and failed to reach a deal both sides would accept. In that time, the British economy has suffered, urgent national issues have been sidelined and a humiliated British prime minister — Teresa May — resigned after failing to get the Brexit job done.
Last Friday, however, the EU approved an amended deal brought forward by the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, something many observers had declared was impossible. Johnson could claim a win, but it was minor and fleeting.
That’s because Johnson still has to get his Brexit package through Britain’s Parliament. On Tuesday, the British House of Commons gave second-reading approval to the new deal but rejected the three-day window Johnson had proposed to allow MPs to review the 110-page bill before a final vote. Understandably, most MPs wanted more time.
As a result, the MPs scrapped the Oct. 31 deadline that had been set for the finalized deal and one Johnson had insisted was set in stone. Once again, Brexit inched forward, then staggered back.
As this week ends, although many EU members are willing to extend the Brexit deadline to Jan. 31 to allow the U.K. to pass the legislation, French President Emmanuel Macron threatens to reject any date past Nov. 15. The EU could render its final verdict on the extension Friday.
Meanwhile, to blow more fog into everyone’s faces, Prime Minister Johnson is now pushing for a Dec. 12 general election with the goal of winning a majority, then passing Brexit. So that’s where the people of the U.K. stand today, two years after jumping off a cliff. On quicksand.
They have a partially approved deal that may or may not go forward. They may have a final say, not through the second referendum that would offer greatest clarity but in a general election when other issues will distract their attention. Or maybe not.
Now breathe deeply. Even if this lousy deal somehow becomes law, it will not solve all the myriad problems Brexit is creating.
A Brexited U.K. will still have to negotiate and sign new trade deals with dozens of countries around the world. That will take years. In addition, thanks to Brexit, an increasingly alienated Northern Ireland could leave the U.K. and become part of the Republic of Ireland, which is an EU member. Thousands of disgruntled Scots are also clamouring for a second independence referendum that could take them out of the U.K.
And so, rather than leaping across the Brexit finish line, the U.K. is limping toward it and showing every sign of collapsing in a heap on the other side.
Perhaps all this seems far away to many Canadians. It shouldn’t. This week, Canadians witnessed a federal election that made the reinvigorated, separatist Bloc Québécois the third largest party in our Parliament.
Out west, we’re hearing rash threats of separation from a small number of Albertans dissatisfied with the election outcome.
Brexit is suddenly relevant for those tempted to smash up a long-established order, whether it’s national or multinational. The thoughtless forces of division in Canada should remember it.
And before Albertans carelessly toss around the word “Wexit,” they should ponder the fate of the granddaddy of it all.