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World watches in bemusement as UK self-immolates in Brexit row debacle

Sunday September 8 2019


Demonstrators remonstrate with police officers on Whitehall, during an anti-government protest calling for the Prime Minister's resignation, near Downing Street in central London on September 7, 2019. PHOTO | DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS | AFP 

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Where is the UK's political leadership?

Brits once ran an empire comprising 24 per cent of the earth and housed 412 million people, or 23 per cent of the world population.

Brits invented, innovated and discovered simple and complex things that powered the industrial revolution. Brits have been resilient, resourceful and redoubtable in many endeavours.

But, alas, as CNN's Fareed Zakaria says, Britain looks like a banana republic, bereft of its trademarks of prudence, propriety and punctuality.

On December 2, 2018, I wrote: "If you want to study and or paint politics as chaos and confusion, and the heads of government and the opposition as bumbling and trial and error, then, the UK offers a perfect...canvas."

On June 23, 2016, some 30 million Brits voted in a referendum to leave the European Union.


Three years, three premiers, three rejected prime ministerial deals and three postponements later, it is not known how, when, or even if, Brits will leave.


Their twin Houses of Parliament just voted to force their six-week-old government of PM Boris Johnson to go to Brussels to ask for an extension beyond the October 30 deadline.

But that is not the tragedy of this erratic, static and operatic rendering. The tragedy is that, one, MPs are not sending Johnson to Brussels with a proposal.

Two, Johnson does not have a proposal. He resigned from Theresa May's Cabinet and became increasingly critical of her leadership.

Three, despite lacking a proposal to juxtapose against Brussels', Johnson threatens to crash the UK out of the union unless he gets a deal from the EU.

It is futile because the 27-member EU maintains that London produces the alternative.

Four, three times Theresa May put her deal with EU before Parliament and thrice it was rejected. May asked, cajoled and pleaded with Parliament for an alternative and got nothing.

You know you have an MP worth his salt when there's a crisis. Parliaments exist to find solutions to challenges facing their people. MPs are not leading on Brexit.


Five. British governments are not leading. Instead of ministers crafting bills charting alternative exit routes from EU, they have resigned.

Six, when MPs seized control of the proceedings of Parliament in a cross party move in April, they put before themselves eight proposals and proceeded to reject them all.

Seven, unable to deliver on Brexit, May resigned, reviled as the worst premier the UK has ever had.

May had a point; Parliament failed to lead. But she missed the reason: the Commons is dominated by MPs opposed to Brexit.

Eight, Labour Party repeatedly asked May to resign and demanded a general election. But Labour has had a vaporous Brexit policy of "strategic ambiguity".

That is being either and neither at the same time. Now that Johnson wants an election and asked Parliament to sanction it, Labour will have none of it.

Nine, Johnson's slogan seven weeks ago was DUDE, an acronym for Deliver Brexit, Unite the country, Defeat Labour and Energise UK.


He dismissed 13 ministers immediately. Last week, he expelled 21 members of his Conservative Party.

The baker's dozen were the moderates that peopled May's Cabinet. The 21 are opposed to his kamikaze-style determination to crash out of EU without transitional trade arrangements.

With enemies everywhere he looks, Johnson can neither have peace nor unite the party or government.

And with Parliament set against him, with the help of the 21 expellees and Brussels staying put, the PM is cornered.

Ten, nobody is saying how an election will end the deadlock. May's 2017 snap poll wiped out, instead of increasing, her parliamentary majority. Brussels just wants alternatives. Period.

An election may break this deadlock only if it demands that every party presents a one agenda manifesto: Here's how to deliver Brexit. I say, fat chance! Watch as Britain self-immolates.