The title of this article is almost an oxymoron. The very term Brexit is a combination of the words “British” and “exit” implying the UK would exit the EU. Remarkably just one week after the fateful vote by the populous to exit it appears the exit could possibly never take place.
A week ago some 52% of the voters in the UK voted to leave the European Union. This was not a fluke produced by a very small turnout; indeed about 75% of eligible voters cast ballots. The nation and the world were shocked. By the next morning a buyers’ remorse of sorts had set in. Financial and currency markets reacted negatively. Every major rating agency downgraded British debt instruments. Millions petitioned the Parliament not to exit. Many average Brits felt they were dubbed into voting Leave.
The radical right wing politicians who were behind the move were shown to be “naked emperors”. They had been great on rhetoric but were now found without a plan on how to implement the exit or deal with its aftermath.
Leaders of other European Union countries instead of begging the UK to reconsider asked them to expedite the process of leaving. In other words, if you want to leave do it quickly. Right wing Leave leaders had been telling the people a fairy tale that only the “bad” parts of membership would disappear and all the benefits would remain in place. Well, it’s not working out that way!
Many analysts and pundit have likened this situation to a divorce. That is not a bad analogy. The attitude of the far right was like the guy who divorces his wife and still expects the sex to continue unabated, his supper to be on the table when he gets home from work along with fresh laundry in his closet and dresser in the morning – it doesn’t work that way. The “jilted partners” of the EU have said you can go, in fact go quickly; but don’t expect the same sweet trade and travel deals that came with membership.
The logistics of not exiting may well be as complicated as those of leaving. The morning after the vote Prime Minister David Cameron offered his resignation effective by October. That leaves the controlling Conservative Party in need of selecting a new leader. That leader could possibly be Boris Johnson who was one of the lead proponents of the Leave side and to a great degree the UK’s version of Donald Trump. For decades the main opposition Party to the Conservatives has been the Labour Party. This week their leader failed to garner the needed support in a no confidence vote. The UK has a parliamentary form of government which differs a bit from the American system. Their situation is roughly equal to the President, Vice President, and the leadership of both chambers of Congress all resigning or being removed simultaneously.
Understandably Cameron says he will not facilitate the exit on his remaining watch. He was the lead proponent of the Remain forces. It also appears he got outsmarted. He scheduled the referendum – certain he would win – to quiet forces in his own Conservative Party who wanted to leave. He lost, tendered his resignation and doesn’t support an exit so why would he facilitate it?
The UK is a representative democracy and not exiting would appear to defy the will of the people. It is true that the referendum is not binding and that Parliament must begin the formal process of exiting. However if they simply don’t or hold a new referendum with the hope of a different result the second time around how will that play? On the flip side, if the will of the people changed overnight doesn’t Parliament have an obligation to heed it? A solution that has been floated is to dissolve Parliament and hold entirely new elections letting the new Parliament decide final action on the issue. With the two major political parties in disarray who knows what that would produce. Assuming the Conservative can stay united, they currently hold an outright majority in Parliament; therefore they would have nothing to gain and everything to lose in a new election.
I am not guaranteeing that the UK will remain in the EU, but at this juncture that possibility certainly exists. The only constant I am finding in early 21st century politics is that it seems to get stranger with each passing day.
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Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is now reported to have withdrawn his name as a candidate to replace Cameron. Curiouser and curiouser.
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