Theresa May has just resigned following pressure over her handling of the circus that is Brexit. So far, Boris Johnson seems the likely candidate to take over the UK’s Conservative Party, which is a rather scary thought with what could be a silver lining.
Brexit was an error that I am sure the British people will be reeling from the consequences of for years to come, whether they actually leave the EU or not. In 2016, when the UK shocked the world with a Leave vote, two things followed. The first was a spike in searches about what the EU even was and what it did – better late than never with these things I suppose. The second was the resignation of David Cameron, who instigated the whole affair, believing the polls that said Remain was certain. After Brexit, the 2016 US election, and the 2019 Australian election, I think it is pretty clear now that polls are no longer valid metrics of public opinion, unless they are incredibly well designed and implemented.
With Cameron’s resignation, it was clear that whoever took over him to lead the UK through the Brexit negotiations was bound for a political grave. Try as she might to make her term appear rosy, Theresa May was never going to deliver Brexit because it was an impossible job. It has all gone like clockwork since the beginning in terms of predictions made three years ago. This leaves the UK with almost no direction now, however, and it’s unknown how many will try and nominate for the position.
The most likely, from what I can tell, is Boris Johnson. His ascension would be a double-edged sword. On one hand, he is a heavy backer of Brexit and would no doubt be more ruthless and rasher with his decision making than May was. On the other, there is much speculation that he would divide the Conservative Party, which would lead to them losing their majority in government. To see the Conservative Party split would no doubt be splendid, but it leaves the British population in a dangerous position. If Johnson rams through a reckless deal, or the much-touted no-deal, then who knows where the UK will end up by the end.
Watching the Brexit scenario come crashing down reminds me of a previous piece I wrote in January – the fourth part of my What Is History?: A Reflection series. The author of that book, E. H. Carr, called focussing on British history as the centrepiece of world history an “unhappy distortion of perspective.” In that context, it was meant as a criticism of European historians who believed the world was in decline when in fact it was merely the fading years of Empire in the UK. In this context, I would like to use that as a criticism of those who look with naivety at that history, believing the delusion that they still hold such global power, or could again.
In the battle with the EU, the UK has no power. It is a single country with little to back it up and a dream left in history’s pages. The bargaining power of the EU is too strong, and the UK can only hope for mercy as their country bounces around without a set plan. While there may be many flaws or things one could change within the EU, they are best handled from within, not by alienating yourself from the conversation. The best the UK can hope for is the restoration of sanity in their government – that means electing someone to power who will not brute force a damaging Brexit agenda.
Liked this? Read the What Is History?: A Reflection series here
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