It is with great interest I watch Britain as it twists in the wind trying to deal with the Brexit vote. They are very much between a rock and a hard place.
You may remember that after the original Brexit vote I wrote in the Herald that I would believe they were actually leaving the EU only when they left. That hasn’t changed.
‘A Special Place in Hell’
Now at Westminster there is a parliamentary crisis. There was no support for Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiated deal with the EU for an exit. There is but a slim chance of getting a better deal from the EU. Neither of Britain’s two political parties; Conservative or Labour are going down the road of a call for a second referendum, although former Prime Minister Tony Blair says there should be a second vote.
To me, the whole thing finds explanation in a quote from the EU head Donald Tusk. He said that there is “a special place in Hell,” for the people who pushed Brexit without a plan.
How did all this happen? Well it is part of what is happening in the history of Britain and it didn’t take long. From Empire to here isn’t a long journey. I think Britain is trapped in the past. The glory days of World War II are gone now. In an odd way it was the “high water mark” for the Empire. I knew some English people who talked of sleeping in the London tubes during the blitz as if it was the good old days. Churchill and the brave British people alone against Hitler.
Well, as we know they weren’t really alone. The whole tide changed when the Japanese attacked the Americans at Pearl Harbour. Hitler couldn’t stand up to the Russians, the British AND the Americans. I had a friend in England who would argue that the British could have won the war without the United States. I would enrage him by saying that if it wasn’t for the Americans; he would probably be speaking German.
By the end of the war the world map of influence had shifted. It was the British who had held off Hitler but by 1945, the Americans were calling the shots.
‘Going it Alone’
After the war the British still thought of themselves as “going it alone”. They resisted a united Europe initially. They continued to resist the European currency, the Euro, opting instead to continue with the British pound. Even after joining the broader European Economic Community it was never really a good fit. Britain still dreamed of the good old days; Britain in defiance. Well they got their wish. In the full flood of a misplaced nationalism and fear of lost jobs and immigration the British decided by a narrow margin to leave the EU.
The clock is now ticking on the date of exit. This week it was revealed there is a contingency plan to move the Royal family in the event of violence in the streets. Imagine. It has been a long way down.
NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]