Brexit: A Tip of an Iceberg Crumbling Under the Tides of Globalisation

For those remembering how people in the former USSR in 1989 were clued to their TV sets watching heated debates in Gorbachev’s Peoples’ Congress that ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the stormy opening of the British Parliament thirty years later (3 September 2019) and the attention it received from the Brits may revive eerie sentiments. The newly anointed Prime Minister Boris Johnson was squarely defeated in the very first challenge he faced in Westminster. The House of Commons voted 328 to 301 to take from the Government the control of the agenda, allowing the MPs to bring a bill requesting a Brexit delay. Snap general elections are now also on the agenda.     

When people say that a multitude of avenues are open for the young and all depends only on their will and hard work, the people – both old and young – look forward with high expectations. However, when we today say that in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, since the summer of 2016 mired in the Brexit process, unprecedented variety of outcomes are possible (and it is true), most people in the Kingdom and also on the continent dread even to think about these options. None of them seems to be good and what may be acceptable for some looks awful for others.

Boris Johnson’s Exit Strategy from the European Union
David Lane
If the vote of no confidence in the Johnson government fails, then it is likely that Boris Johnson and the Parliamentary leadership will call an election but only after the exit of the UK from the EU. The Johnson campaign will adopt the strategy of pinning the Conservative Party to a ‘People versus Politicians’ platform.

I used on purpose the full name of the country what most people usually call Great Britain or England since one of the possible outcomes is that the end of the Brexit process may also mark the end this country. The Scots, who overwhelmingly voted in the 2016 referendum for remaining in the European Union (having two years earlier rejected the separation from the Kingdom – 55% against, 45% for) are now serious about having a new try if Britain leaves the EU. Brexit without a deal (so-called hard Brexit), threatened by Boris Johnson, may well lead to the separation of Northern Ireland and its unification with the Republic of Ireland, though a more immediate result may be a revival of terrorist activities that ended after, and due to, the conclusion in 1998 of the Good Friday Agreement. The latter had become possible not only due to the efforts and good will of the parties involved in the Northern Irish conflict, but also to the fact that both States – the UK and the Republic of Ireland – were EU members. Moreover, the cavalier politics of Boris Johnson may also mark the beginning of the end of the Conservative (Tory) party. He is hated and despised by those who are against Brexit and even those who have ever voted for him wouldn’t buy from him a used car. Johnson, who together with quite a few conservative MPs three times voted against the deal negotiated by Theresa May’s government with the EU, now threatens to expel from the same Party those MPs, who have voted against his Government policies. This is only one example of the amazing lack of principles; only undiluted desire to gain and retain power at all costs.

In, what one may call normal, circumstances such a mess within the governing party would be a godsend opportunity for the opposition Labour party. Not necessarily so this time. Not only those Tory rebels, who detest Boris and his policies (they have so far been only empty promises), but also Lib-Dems (the only unequivocally pro-European party) in the Parliament and their electorate, dread of having the current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the helm of the country. They consider him to be, rightly or wrongly, excessively leftist and too incompetent, and certainly unable of showing a firm stand at this crucial moment in country’s history. His lengthy sitting on the fence and wobbling on important issues related to Brexit demonstrated that he too is more concerned with coming to power than with saving the country.

The majority of MPs, complaining about Boris Johnson’s assault on democracy when he decided to suspend the Parliament for the unprecedented five weeks, leaving thereby little room for opposing his run towards a no-deal Brexit, seem to have forgotten that during the three years the legislators have been unable to decide on anything related to Brexit. Could they agree on something now being backed into a corner? Maybe yes, maybe not. As the prominent British constitutional lawyer Vernon Bogdanor said in the interview to the French Le Figaro: “The ‘remainers’, to whom I belong, have lost all sense of proportion. The liberal elites are poor losers and this feeds populism”. Boris Johnson’s promise to conclude trade agreements with other States, particularly with the United States, when liberated from the shackles of the European Union will predictably lead to London becoming even more dependent from Washington. Tony Blear became known for his support of the Iraqi 2003 invasion as “Bush’s poodle”; Boris Johnson, if he survives, may well deserve a similar canine title.  

How has the relatively stable and prosperous country come to that: the Government against the Parliament, and the people against the politicians of all sorts?

Brexit has, in my opinion, revealed two interrelated tendencies that have already for some time been simmering not only in Britain but also in other Western societies: the alienation between liberal, to a large extent cosmopolitan, elites (political, economic and intellectual) that have benefitted from globalisation and the so-called ordinary people, who have not seen their lives being improved. This is a conflict between those who can be everywhere and those who want to be somewhere.
Can Europe Remain Liberal and Democratic vis-à-vis the Migration Crisis?
Rein Müllerson
Globalisation and the current migration tide, as one of its manifestations, are exacerbating today’s crisis of the European Union where those who can be anywhere do not understand those who want to be somewhere.

The rising mass migration into Europe, including England, has not led to the blossoming of multiculturalism; instead it has caused a quest for identities being lost. Moreover, the end of communism (China, notwithstanding its name, is not a communist country) has also revealed that liberalism as well as Marxism (both being Western ideologies) have been equally mistaken in considering that humans are driven mainly or even exclusively by rational pursuit of their economic interests. They have ignored, in their own detriment, factors such as religion, culture and historical traditions; they have forgotten lessons of history showing that especially during revolutionary changes passions usually prevail over reason. Related to this is the second tendency: during the period of a relatively smooth evolution of Western societies, especially after the end of the bi-polar world and the seeming triumph of liberal democracy à la Francis Fukuyama, political leaders have become used to performing purely managerial roles. Visionaries have not been in demand; they were even considered to be dangerous for democracy. Today, on the wave of grievances expressed by masses, politicians like Boris Johnson are able to exploit for their own aims popular dissatisfactions. Hence, the choice of the electorate seems to be rather limited: between elites alienated from the people and so-called populists riding the wave of popular discontent.

How Britain will pass this revolutionary moment in its history will depend not only on British politicians and its electorate but also from the will and wisdom of European leaders. Meddling through as usual is not any more good enough. These are times for visionaries with will-power. Where are they? Where do they come from?     


Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.