Columns

Britain, Brexit, and Boris

George
Garwood

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

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October 31, 2019, the Brexit exit, has come and gone without a whimper despite Boris Johnson's categorical declaration on September 5, 2019 that he would not delay Britain's exit from the European Union (EU), adding he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than do so.

One would probably be right to say that the EU would prefer Britain to stay in the EU than leave; but, if Britain wants to have its cake and eat it by accepting some EU rules and rejecting others, for example free movement of people, then the EU would rather accept the divorce separation.

Are the British people now realising the demonstrably high costs of leaving the EU with or without a deal? Yes! There is no doubt a substantial majority of 'Leavers' — those who voted to leave — who have now woken up to the fact that they were hoodwinked. They now have buyers' remorse and want to stay in the EU. On the other hand, many of those who voted 'Remain' are now seeking European passports, for they see themselves as Europeans with the benefits that come with it, for example the ability to cross borders relatively freely in search of better opportunities.

But there are the die-hard British nationalists, Euro-sceptics, xenophobes, and those with strong anti-immigrant sentiments who are dead set against Britain – well, at least England, remaining in the EU. Some of these diehards have even invoked the Churchillian mantra that we can go it alone as Britain did fighting Hitler. Others, even if they don't invite the bull-dog spirit of Churchill, feel that they can 'muck along' as England has always done.

This last group has a kind of Dad's Army mentality. Dad's Army was a BBC television sitcom that ran in the 60s and 70s about the British Home Guard that consisted of older men who were ineligible for military service. They volunteered during the Second World War to defend the homeland.

Election time

Will Boris Johnson win the next general election? Well, public opinion polls show his party (the Tories) are several percentage points ahead of Labour. Labour is fragmented and, from what I see, many people even among Labour supporters do not like Jeremy Corbyn. Why? They see him as weak, vacillating, and perhaps leaning too much to the political left. So the choice for the electorate is this: Who is the lesser of the two political weaklings — the populist and eccentric Johnson or the indecisive and lacklustre Corbyn?

It seems to me that people are often quite happy to 'cut off their nose to spite their face', so, as the American people did in choosing Donald Trump over the less flamboyant Hillary Clinton, the British people would rather choose the theatrical Johnson over the more working class and dour Corbyn. So, barring a last-minute epiphany on the part of the British people in coming to see Corbyn as the more pragmatic and caring candidate, they will opt for the Etonian and status quo Johnson.

A new Government won't necessarily solve the problems of Brexit. The complex and complicated issues will still remain as to what kind of relationships Britain will have with the EU. Decades of previous and current trade, economics, scientific, legal, and travel arrangements, plus a host of other very technical and mundane issues will not be solved overnight by a new Government.

Technocrats and bureaucrats from all sides will have very tricky and thorny issues to resolve. These will take several years of negotiations for them to be satisfactorily resolved. Remember that there are 27 other members in the EU.

Scotland going independent?

Well, Nicola Sturgeon and her allies would like that, but this won't happen any time soon. But Scottish independence depends on the deal that the UK can broker with the EU. If it's a good deal, and is in Scotland's interest, it will remain a part of the UK; but, if the deal is not good for Scotland, the stage will be set for Scotland eventually going on its own and working more closely with the EU.

Indeed, a lot of dynamics are in play as to how the UK and the EU navigate the post-Brexit world — if indeed Brexit finally happens.

Dr George Garwood is a Jamaican writer and professor of world religions. He resides in Florida, USA, but is a peripatetic observer of human affairs as he travels around trying to understand human behaviour. Send comments to the Observer or merleneg@yahoo.com.


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