Call it ‘The beginning of the end’ or ‘The end of the beginning’, the past one thousand days of Brexit debate in the United Kingdom (UK) has looked and sounded everything like a comedy turned tragic, a cacophony of blunders that’s featured just what Britons might have voted for in a referendum two years ago, resulting in a change of Conservative Party Leader and UK Prime Minister from David Cameron to Theresa May.
Trying to follow what’s been happening in Westminster from afar has so far been a lesson in the rudimentary and confusing elements of a monarchy with the history of a predatory republican empire that once ruled the world without a constitution.
But Britannia no longer rules the waves and many times the Brexit debates in Westminster looked and sounded like a flock of uncaged geese chasing a lone gander around a ring of roses, as the Euro-skeptics in her party joined with the opposition to each time defeat every proposal she made to deliver on what she (and her party) voted against in the first place.
The only time the opposing Tories support(ed) Mrs May is/was when their seats in parliament and their party in government is/are at stake — and they toed that line all along since the June 2016 referendum.
But with the Brexit date just one day away (March 29), Westminster’s MPs took over the debate – and its future — from Whitehall and Downing Street: The Speaker of the House pulled the brakes on the PM last week by telling her she could not get a third vote on a motion that had been rejected twice by large majorities.
Then, even after she claimed she’d got the EU czars in Brussels to budge on the outstanding Irish ‘backstop’ issue, MPs on both sides earlier this week decided they’d had enough and voted to take over the process by forcing a series of ‘indicative votes’ to choose from the many ‘alternative courses’ being advocated by the different factions of the major parties — and the new coalition of ‘Independents’ involving MPs who left both major parties.
The terminological exactitude of British parliamentary practices, as employed in the interminable Brexit debate, is as confusing as the elasticity of the politics involved, with at least one commentator describing the major difference between the ‘Brexiters’ and the ‘Remainers’ being: ‘An interpretation of the interpretation of the back-stop to the Backstop.
Confusing? Well, try to understand why Britain, a country without a written Constitution, imposed nearly irreversible constitutions on former colonies at independence that require two-thirds (66%) majority support for passage – as in the case of the Caribbean and other British Commonwealth countries – and yet has no such requirement for similar referenda in Britain.
No former British colony in the Caribbean today can easily get the required 66% to alter the constitution bequeathed by Britain, but Mrs May feels obliged to implement, in full, a Brexit proposal that was very narrowly voted for.
Published polls indicate there has been a sizeable and growing shift in public opinion about Brexit in Britain, but Mrs May is just as headstrong in her insistence that she will not allow a second referendum to see where more informed Britons now stand two years later or call a new General Elections.
For two years and more, Mrs May has been battling the odds to deliver a Brexit she and her Conservative Party originally so firmly opposed that its government put the issue to the polls.
Many Tory MPs have helped stay her hands and delayed her dogged determination to deliver on her deal, but Mrs May has stubbornly insisted that she ‘will deliver on what the British voters voted for’ – and that it must be done in what her opponents insist on describing as ‘Her Way or No Way’ or ‘ My Way or The Highway’.
Now her fellow MPs have pulled the parliamentary rug from under her feet, Mrs May is still stubbornly insisting on trying to walk out of politics on a red carpet, now begging the same parliament that gave her the distinguished record as the PM with the worst defeat of a parliamentary vote in Britain’s recorded history, to save her skin on her way out by being magnanimously sympathetic in their considerations of the final end to this long and sordid saga – and her political career.
Having earlier assured fellow MPs – after seeing the writing on the electoral and parliamentary walls – that she “will not lead” the Tory party into the next general elections (in 2021), she this week reportedly told a select parliamentary few that if they backed her Brexit plan in third vote she plans to summon before tomorrow’s March 29 deadline, she will thereafter immediately resign.
Having been bruised and battered for all of one thousand days, PM may understandably wish to end her chequered parliamentary and leadership career with the ‘honour’ of having eventually victoriously delivered Brexit – and her way.
But given that the EU has given Mrs May up to April 12 to present an acceptable deal, that the UK PM does not want Britain to participate in the European Parliament elections due on May 22, that things were not playing out well for her in the UK parliamentary debates and votes yesterday – and especially given the tight deadlines and scheduled dates involved — the two main questions being asked by media observers near and far today are: ‘Will Theresa see May?’ and/or ‘Will May see June?’
Meanwhile, however, the deadlock within the deadlock ends, the implications of a Brexit – deal or no deal – still remain as uncertain for Britons as it is for Europeans in Britain, Britons in Europe and the governments and people of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of former British and European colonies all over the world.