Brexit: Chronicle of a death foretold

Published 22.11.2018 23:18
Updated 24.11.2018 00:01
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May leave after a press briefing during a meeting at the EU Headquarters in Brussels, Nov. 21.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May leave after a press briefing during a meeting at the EU Headquarters in Brussels, Nov. 21.

With the Brexit process, the British society that discovered and successfully implemented parliamentary democracy for centuries has fallen into an incredible trap, due to the inward-looking nature of public opinion and a betrayal by its political elite

The British are only just discovering the real face and consequences of Brexit; understandably, with much awe and even more anger. I know that it sounds like an insult to the intelligence of the British public, but this is what has happened. While Brexit was portrayed as a nice exit by the Brexiteers, and the anti-Brexit politicians did not depict the catastrophe it would lead to.

Now it is time to face the ugly reality: The U.K. did not have an important advantage against the rest of the EU to negotiate a nice and cozy position for the U.K. in the single market. There is no choice "a la carte" for Great Britain and Northern Ireland regarding its positioning as a "non-member" of the EU. That was obvious from the very beginning. That was obvious when you heard the inanity of arguments by people like Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson, that exiting the EU would only be bringing back the ancient luster of the huge British Empire. The British public opinion wanted to see what it hoped to see, to become, once again an "insular great country," as Theresa May declared last week.

Denis MacShane has written an authoritative article in Social Europe, where he explained how public opinion in the U.K. has been fed: "A major problem in the Brexit debate since June 2016 is how 95 percent of reporting and discussion in the U.K. media has been about internal Westminster politics. Occasionally space is found for a brief interview with a minister or politician from an EU-27 government but only on condition that they speak perfect English."

Now, when the Brexit draft agreement, obtained by Prime Minister Theresa May under very difficult circumstances has been made public, it has created a huge outcry against it. Brexiteers find it "unacceptable," because it does not take into consideration Great Britain's interests, as they call them. And what are these interests? A conservative MP Nadine Dorries slammed the draft agreement because it meant that the U.K. would be left without any Members of the European Parliament. One may marvel at the degree of incompetence and ignorance of a member of the House of Commons, but this is how everything has happened.

People have been fed with a powder of "Perlimpinpin," as France's President Emmanuel Macron would say, to caricature Marine Le Pen's idiotic arguments about why France should leave the Euro and the EU. Well, what did not work in France, unfortunately, worked perfectly well in Great Britain and people voted for a total spoliation of their future.

Nevertheless, there is an important issue here, concerning the aspect and functioning of the EU. Despite all the effor

ts to make the EU understandable to average people, it remains a very distant, unknown and antipathetic structure. The image of "Eurocrats deciding behind closed doors in Brussels" has turned into an incredible weapon in the hands of all the populist, extreme-right jingoists.

The European Parliament remains an undervalued institution, and with each election participation decreases. The Commission is not heard, or only to remind member states how to behave, and the presidency of the EU, so much diluted in the Lisbon Treaty, has become non-functional.

Jacques Delors, the founding father of the "single market" once complained about this unloved, outcast aspect of the EU, by declaring, "You cannot fall in love with a single market." You may not fall in love, but thinking that your domestic market plays a more important role than the single market is a fatal error. This is the one committed by a part of the British political elite.

Now Theresa May is in Brussels to finalize the Brexit draft agreement. She may succeed in signing it; already her government has been badly divided over the issue. Once signed, if signed at all, the agreement has to be endorsed by the House of Commons. Nothing is less certain. There is a large majority against it.

Therefore, the situation of the U.K. is the following: The decision made by a directly democratic instrument (a referendum) might be repelled by another decision made by a representative democratic institution, the Parliament. The society that discovered and successfully implemented parliamentarian democracy for centuries has fallen into this incredible trap, thanks to the inward-looking nature of the U.K. public opinion and a betrayal by its political elite.

I have been asked many times whether the status of Turkey could be a good example for a post-Brexit U.K. My answer to that is plain: Either you become a member state with a right to vote or you remain a third country at the mercy of any blocking minority within the EU. The "political declaration" obtained by Theresa May should be thus evaluated at its real value: Nothing.

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