Britain will mark this weekend the second anniversary of its vote for Brexit, and it’s learned one thing for sure: It’s a lot easier to get into Europe than it is to get out.
British voters may have stunned the world by deciding to leave Europe. Ever since, though, their politicians have been quarreling with the Europeans — and among themselves.
And they’re still not out. The blokes at Ladbrokes betting parlor are posting odds of only 40 percent that Britain will manage to leave the EU by the April 2019 deadline.
One reason is that a pro-European faction is working to suborn the decision of the voters. It’s a version of what President Trump is up against in Washington.
What a nightmare. And a warning to other countries thinking of joining Europe — or, if you ask me, ceding even a particle of their sovereignty to any other of these multilateral treaties.
Britain made that mistake in 1973, when it formally joined what was then called the European Community. It was like stepping into a bog of socialistic quicksand.
By 1988, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was thoroughly alarmed. She went to Bruges, Belgium, where she delivered one of the most famous speeches in British history. “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain,” she warned, “only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.”
The United Kingdom Independence Party arose five years later. Eventually led by Nigel Farage, it pressed its case for a generation before its triumph two years ago.
When Britons went to the polls in June 2016, Britain’s prime minister at the time, David Cameron, actually campaigned against the independence of his own country — after initiating the referendum himself.
After the results came in, the hapless Cameron promptly resigned. “I was the future once,” he told Parliament.
The ruling Conservative Party proceeded to make yet another opponent of Brexit, Theresa May, prime minister. Caspar Milquetoast apparently wasn’t available.
No sooner had Brexit been voted than Farage resigned from UKIP, precipitating a collapse of the party. It would soon lose every seat it defended in local elections.
Theresa May dawdled on formally signing the exit letter to Europe. Britain’s supreme court jumped in to say she needed a parliamentary vote, even though the people had already spoken.
Her letter launching the exit process wasn’t finally delivered until March 2017. Then the negotiations began over what amounts to one of the biggest breakups in history.
Will Britain shrink from a “hard Brexit,” leaving the EU’s “single market” and abandoning the free movement of goods, services, trade and people? Or will it fudge, with a “soft Brexit”?
Will it be able to escape the European courts? What rights will Europeans living in Britain have — and Britons living in Europe? You could tear your hair out.
Theresa May thought she had the wind at her back. After she finally signed the letter quitting Europe, she called a snap election thinking she’d expand her majority in parliament.
Instead, the Conservatives lost their majority, forcing them to forge a governing coalition with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, amid concern over the border with the Irish republic, Europe’s British frontier.
Meantime Europe is trying to hit up Britain with a “divorce bill” that could easily top $100 billion. And if Scotland doesn’t like the Brexit deal, it may try to quit the United Kingdom all over again.
Brexit comes to a head as the European Union itself emerges on the verge of another crisis. That’s thanks to Italy, where the new rightist government is skeptical of the EU, and Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is in trouble over immigration.
Across Europe, traditional parties are sagging, as is political dominance by traditional elites. Even in France, President Emmanuel Macron leads an all-new party, albeit a centrist one with elite support.
British statesman William Pitt the Younger famously hoped that Britain would “save Europe by her example.” The best thing Britain could do would be to follow through on Brexit and declare it learned its lesson.
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