"In recent months the world has been watching the spectacle of Britain's being the object of virtual humiliation at the hands of the EU."
The United Kingdom’s current troubles over Brexit (British exit) is unquestionably the worst thing that has happened to that proud nation since the Battle of Britain of 1942, when Adolf Hitler’s powerful air force (Luftwaffe) tried to pound the now-beleaguered UK into submission. No matter how hard the Fuehrer tried—bombs rained on Britain’s main population centers on a daily basis—Britain stood united, strong and defiant.
Today not one of those adjectives describes the land of William the Conqueror, the Duke of Wellington—Napoleon Bonaparte’s vanquisher—and Winston Churchill. The UK is neither united nor politically strong nor defiant. Its political system is undergoing unprecedented stress, it is being treated in humiliating fashion by the group from which it wants to exit—the European Union—and the once-famous stiff upper lip is currently not quite so stiff.
And all because of a colossal miscalculation in 2016 by the Conservative government under Prime Minister David Cameron. That miscalculation has turned the British people’s world virtually upside-down.
Not every Britisher—Englishman, Welshman, Scot or Northern Irishman—was pleased when the UK decided to join the EU in 1971. Acutely conscious of Britain’s role as Western Europe’s leader in post-Napoleonic era and fiercely proud of their country’s unique traditions and—especially the City of London, which the UK considers the world’s premier financial center—those unhappy Britishers, who came to be called Euroskeptics, criticized and opposed every British government move to integrate the UK into the EU. They fought for, and rejoiced over, the UK’s refusal to become part of the EU monetary union, the only major member to do so.
Continuously pressured by the Euroskeptics to terminate the UK’s European entanglement, David Cameron in a fit of chutzpah mixed with Conservative arrogance, came to a momentous decision: the government would leave it to the British people to decide in a referendum whether the UK should leave the UK or remain within it. The Leavers and the Remainers were now to decide the issue once and for all.
Cameron apparently proposed the referendum out of a firm belief that his normally sensible countrymen would disregard the hysterical Euroskeptic oratory and opt for Britain’s remaining with the EU. Cameron was very wrong: his countrymen voted to terminate Britain’s ties with the EU. The vote has proven to be one of the greater political miscalculations in the UK’s history. The Leavers have emerged triumphant.
But the Leavers’ majority was by no means overwhelming: only 52 percent of British voters voted in favor of leaving the EU. Stated differently, almost half of all Britishers voted to remain within the EU. Scotland, the second largest component of the UK, has since indicated unambiguously that it wants to remain part of the EU.
Given the narrowness of the Leavers’ victory and the humiliating treatment that the UK has been receiving during the course of the Brexit negotiations, it is hardly a cause for wonder that there currently is mounting pressure for the holding of a second referendum on the leave-or-remain issue.
Until it began to look that the EU would adopt a tough stance, things had been looking very good for the UK, which has the world’s fifth largest economy. The British economy was posting the highest economic growth rate in Western Europe, the pound sterling was strong, the City of London was doing enormous business and, most important the UK was a highly regarded leader of the First World. And all because of a miscalculation, a misjudgment, made in 2016 by a Prime Minister brimming with political and personal arrogance.
In recent months the world has been watching the spectacle of Britain’s being the object of virtual humiliation at the hands of the EU, the latest chapter in the story being told to accept a May 22—one day before the EU parliamentary election—deadline. That’s too sad. Britain does not deserve to be so treated.
At last count four million signatures have been placed on a petition seeking a second Brexit referendum. Those are signatures of British citizens who think that, in the light of the experience following the 2016 vote, a second look at the entire Brexit idea is needed. If a second referendum, is held, the Remainers could very well prevail.
That would put an end to a very sad train of events triggered by a collosal political miscalculation.