Date
19 November 2019
The flags of the European Union and the United Kingdom fly outside the Houses of Parliament in London. British lawmakers can't agree on how to proceed with Brexit. Photo: Bloomberg
The flags of the European Union and the United Kingdom fly outside the Houses of Parliament in London. British lawmakers can't agree on how to proceed with Brexit. Photo: Bloomberg

To leave or not to leave

The impasse in the British parliament over the country’s withdrawal from the European Union, along with the EU’s refusal to renegotiate another Brexit deal, is forcing Prime Minister Theresa May into a tight corner.

The plan that May negotiated with the EU has been rejected three times, and on Monday the MPs again turned down new proposals for the next steps in the Brexit process.

French President Emmanuel Macron has pointed out the real problem. He remarked: “Now it is finally up to the British political system to provide a clear answer.”

Before the Brexit referendum in June 2016, the United Kingdom was in better economic shape than most of the other EU members.

It was also relatively less affected by the refugee crisis that was gripping the entire European continent a few years ago.

As such, the Brexit call didn’t stem from economic or refugee issues.

I believe the push for Brexit gained momentum so rapidly largely because of the mounting grievances among the British grassroots, who felt strongly that they didn’t benefit from the economic globalization as the financial and service sectors did.

The situation was further compounded by the growing class and ethnic polarization in British society, as well as the social media hype that was fueling hate and confrontation among the public.

Together, they provided the rocket fuel for the surge in pro-Brexit sentiment.

According to some analyses by British media, politicians are to blame for the ongoing Brexit mayhem because many of them have dodged their responsibilities and done nothing but play to the crowd.

Their failure to take the long-term interests of their country into consideration was what brought Britain to its current plight.

For example, amid mounting pressure from the Eurosceptics, former British prime minister David Cameron chose to settle the issue once and for all with a referendum rather than make an all-out effort to defuse the situation, and ended up losing the entire gamble.

After May succeeded him as prime minister, she insisted on triggering the Brexit process without carefully balancing the pros and cons of the decision beforehand.

As Britain is caught in its Brexit woes, across the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump is also working aggressively to topple the global status quo.

It is indeed pretty ironic that both the US and the UK, which have once dominated the world order, have now become the subversive, deconstructive force against it.

A number of prominent political scientists in the West have all agreed that the entire world is now at the historical crossroads.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 1

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/CG

Former Secretary for Home Affairs