Rabat – Since the popular referendum on Brexit, the impending withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the government of Theresa May has been entrusted with negotiating Britain’s pullout from EU. The task has been torturous and painful.
The long and bitter bickering with Europe has, somewhat, opened the eyes of the British people to the disastrous future outcome of such a divorce politically and economically. They have, as such, come to the bitter conclusion that they will, no doubt, lose so much in this undertaking for so little gain, if any, in the end.
Insularity, mon amour
Britain is a big island, an insular but mighty and civilized nation. Its empire ruled the world, like no other, to the extent that “the sun never set” on it. Its flag fluttered proudly in distant lands and its ships sailed all seas and oceans discovering new territories and colonizing known continents, but Britain, all the while, remained insular.
Even in its language, insularity is so strong and highly meaningful. For the British, people who come from overseas are known as aliens, even if they are next door neighbors, Europeans.
When I went to study in England in the 1970s, I was shocked to be called an alien when I registered at the police station. For me, rightly or wrongly, an alien was a hideous creature from outer space, brutal and shapeless like in the 1979 science fiction cult film “Alien.”
The word overseas has a strong connotation, too. If you are coming from another country, you are an overseas individual because Britain is surrounded by water. The word “ferry” and the word “ship” are both strong lexical items in this country; everything is ferried out or into the country.
If Britain became a big colonial power, it is mainly thanks to its navy. The British navy merchant or military has been everywhere over the globe, discovering them, trading with their people, or colonizing the land.
Actually the only time insularity lost some of its meaning, strength, and attraction was when the Britons joined the European Common Market on January 1, 1973. But since they have shown so much reticence towards the Brussels bureaucracy and held onto their strong concept of sovereignty with both hands.
They fought any transfer, no matter how small, of their sovereignty to the central European bureaucracy. They refused the 1985 Schengen Agreement establishing external European borders and abolishing internal borders which became effective on March 26, 1995. The United Kingdom also did not join the eurozone which became effective on January 1, 2002.
On June 23, 2016, the citizens of the UK and Gibraltar voted to leave the EU. The referendum counted in 51.9 percent of voters in favor of leaving the European community.
Although the referendum was not legally binding, the government had promised to implement the result. The following spring, the government initiated the official EU withdrawal process on March 29, 2017, which put the UK on course to leave the EU by March 30, 2019, after a period of Brexit negotiations.
The British change of heart
On January 15, 2019, the British Parliament rejected Theresa May’s negotiated deal with the EU for Brexit, and it seems that a growing number of ministers around the cabinet table are coming to the conclusion that a second referendum is now required, more than ever. However, the question is, is another plebiscite feasible now, and would it mean the political debacle of the Tories’ political domination?
In the speech she gave following the results of the parliamentary vote, May told the opposition that they could put forward a vote of no confidence. They did so, but it failed in the house.
Now May must come up with a Plan B for the nation. But will the plan be accepted by Brussels to start another around of lengthy and difficult negotiations?
Nevertheless, for the time being, there does not seem to be a Plan B. What there is is only the initial plan with a few amendments to please dissenting Tories and the opposition.
May announced that she will keep the House of Commons aware of any developments on Brexit and will initiate serious talks on the subject with economic actors, trade unions, and civil society. She also told the Labor party that she would safeguard the right of employment and protect the environment.
She further announced that European nationals residing in the UK would not have to pay the £65 pounds required to live in the country.
What will happen next?
May was banking on renegotiating the accord with the EU, but European officials dashed her hopes by declaring that such a thing was not possible.
On the question of the “safety net,” the European chief negotiator Michel Barnier has declared to the Irish television station RTE that the measure had been settled with the British government and the actual agreement is the last they will make for the time being. He wondered why Europe should renegotiate: Does the UK want the EU to be the bigger loser?
In the House of Commons, many MPs have announced their willingness to make amendments to delay Brexit to avoid a “no deal” agreement which May is contemplating, according to the BBC.
The Labor party, on the other hand, is considering putting forward an amendment on the Custom Union and is calling upon MPs to consider the possibility of a new referendum on a plan that must be devised, discussed and voted by the House of Commons. Other amendments, in the making, will ask May to delay the enactment of the Brexit accord.
It seems that many members of the government are threatening to quit if conservative MPs are not allowed the possibility to vote for a plan disallowing Brexit without an agreement and, as such, push the date forward.
In the light of this turmoil and cacophony, Queen Elizabeth II, aged 92, used the annual meeting of the West Newton chapter of the Women’s Institute last week to call on British MPs to find a middle ground and reach a compromise on Brexit.
The Queen coming out of her traditional political silence means that “something is rotten” in the Kingdom, as the great Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet.
Is a new referendum possible?
May has stated her opposition to a new referendum that will, according to her, threaten social cohesion. She emphasized that her duty as a prime minister is to see through the first referendum.
However, British public opinion seems to favor another referendum. According to a study YouGov undertook in January, 56 percent of surveyed Britons would choose to stay in the EU if they had a chance to vote again.
Even Nigel Farage, a leading political figure of the Brexit campaign in 2016, thinks that there could possibly be another referendum, and the “Remain” group are preparing for this possibility.
Over 170 personalities from the Business community have made a public call for a new referendum. They fear dire economic consequences in the case of a bad deal or a no-deal Brexit. For Tony Blair, a former prime minister, a second referendum is the only way possible to end the debate.
Will a second referendum ever take place? Only time will show.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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