Brexit chaos should si­lence sep­a­ratists

The Peterborough Examiner - - OPINION -

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.

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