Britain on the scrapheap of history.
I haven’t written about Brexit for a while, but with an endgame in progress it’s worth stating yet again that the UK is on the brink of plunging itself into a nightmare from which there will be no easy awakening.
The American actor Georgie Jessel was a great friend of the comedian Groucho Marx and persuaded him to join the Beverley Hills chapter of New York’s Friars Club. Groucho disliked club life and, after a few months, dropped out. The Friars, which included actors Bing Crosby, Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante, and Robert Taylor, were disappointed at losing him and wanted to know why he was resigning.
Dissatisfied with his first explanation – that he just didn’t have time to participate in the club’s activities – they pressed him for a better reason. “I do have another reason,” Groucho wrote back. “I didn’t want to tell you, but since you’ve forced the issue, I just don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”
One can imagine a similar scene between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Lacking any rational, plausible, well thought out reason for leaving, Boris is forced to play his last remaining card: “I didn’t want to tell you, but since you’ve forced the issue, I just don’t want to belong to any Union that would have me as a member.” And they would believe him!
Yet surprisingly, despite all the political shenanigans of the past three years, in the face of all the prevarications and distortions and lies, the EU would still prefer the UK to be in rather than out. And the reasons are explained in Rafael Behr’s article “Any Johnson Brexit deal sows seeds of future confrontation with the EU” (The Guardian, 15 October 2019) where he comments:
“Brexit was conceived and supported by people who want the EU to fail, yet any UK government that is committed to the rule of law and democracy should want the EU to thrive. That is the irreducible dilemma Britain faces. Those have been the options since 2016, obscured by technical jargon, shrouded in dishonest rhetoric, bedevilled with detail. One way emboldens forces of division and nationalism; the other way strengthens the project that was founded to resist those forces. Johnson chose his path and the stupid tragedy of it all is that he doesn’t understand where it leads but is dragging the country there anyway.”
The UK is a cog in the wheel of Europe. If the UK wants to have a say in decisions taken by the European Union on any matter whatsoever – cybersecurity, international taxation, reciprocal healthcare, the movement of household pets, or the Appelation d’origine contrôlée of Chaource cheese – it must do so from the inside. If it wants to have a say on EU-wide security issues, it must do so from the inside. A shared commitment to a common EU defence policy is vital to ensuring peace on the European continent and on its borders, as well as to defending human rights around the world (ignoring for the moment the two-faced sale of armaments to tyrannical regimes such as Saudi Arabia).
Brexit is the greatest political error of our times. It has wasted more than ₤76 billion pounds and three years of government time that could have been spent tackling national issues of social justice. It has divided the nation and shrivelled international respect for Great Britain. It is a national tragedy.