This is a crucial weekend for Theresa May and for Britain itself. The final Brexit proposals are on the table (all 585 pages of them) and parliament has to vote to approve the “deal” that will determine the UK’s future.
It hasn’t been mentioned all week on network television in the United States, but the Brexit deal between the EU and the UK is in its climactic stage. By next week at this time, Britain’s future should be decided. At the same time, Theresa May’s future will be clear – if she cannot get the latest proposals through parliament, there will be a “vote of no confidence” and her government may be gone. The immediate future does not look good for Mrs. May or for Britain.
It’s been over two years since the British people voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, to once again be an independent nation as the United Kingdom was before 1973. Membership of the EU has not been good for the British people. After 46 years, it’s time to depart. But there are many, including the prime minister, who cannot see a future for Britain without the EU. Mrs. May voted to “Remain” in the referendum, but says she wants to honor the will of the people; however, she clearly wants Britain tied as closely as possible to Brussels and the 27-nation union. She is fearful of the country going it alone!
Following the referendum there was talk of Britain becoming a second Singapore, a low tax, free enterprise economy that would boost living standards for the British people. Singapore now has the highest per capita income in the world. The irony here is that the city-state was founded by a British entrepreneur less than two hundred years ago, at a time when Britain had the most successful economy in the world. The proposed revival has not gotten anywhere.
Note the following comment from yesterday’s Wall St Journal:
“Some Conservatives are nonetheless threatening another leadership challenge to Mrs May, and maybe this time they mean it. The Prime Minister’s withdrawal plan at least clarifies the choice. Mrs. May has reached this pass because she and much of her party have lacked the conviction to push for a Brexit that would require widespread economic reform at home and a Singapore-style free-trade policy abroad. If Britain won’t have that kind of Brexit, business groups are right that the country needs to preserve as many of the benefits of existing EU ties as possible to compensate for the disadvantages of Britain’s high-taxing, high-spending, hyper-regulated economy . . . Any Tory inclined to challenge Mrs. May will need a plan for persuading skeptical British voters to follow a reform path.” (“The Best Bad Brexit Deal,” Wall Street Journal, November 15th)
A famous proverb makes clear the problem here: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). The people were not given a clear vision that would have launched Britain on a new course. Instead, they cling to their generous welfare state and free medical system, fearful of change. They “need” a deal with the EU so as not to rock the welfare boat.
Perhaps a different leader would have made a difference? Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent Conservative, said only yesterday that: “Leaving the EU is the most fantastic opportunity for the UK.” If only Mrs. May felt that way. If only Margaret Thatcher were still prime minister. Or Winston Churchill. Alas, there are lots of “if only’s” . . . the reality is that the country and the ruling Conservative Party are very divided.
Surprisingly, the 27 members of the EU are not divided, not on Brexit anyway. They have all given their full support to the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, an uncompromising man whose inflexibility came up against the UK’s constant dithering. He took full advantage of London’s desperate pursuit of a “deal” that will ensure the UK’s future as a “vassal state” of the European Union (the words of former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson).
Mrs. May is quite a bit younger than myself, so I hesitate to describe her as an old woman; but, like many older people, she is showing timidity in this crisis, as her 27 immediate neighbors on the European bloc treat her badly. She wants peace at all costs (“peace in our time” as Neville Chamberlain said eighty years ago when confronted with other continental bullies). She is too nice to stand up to Messrs Barnier, Macron and Merkel. But somebody is urgently needed to stand up to them – and opt for the Singapore option.
It’s interesting to note the contrast between Mrs. May and Donald Trump – the former lacks confidence in standing up to the Europeans; the latter is overly-confident, which is just as bad in its own way. When President Macron announced that the new European Army will defend Europe against Russia, China and the US, Mr. Trump responded in a tweet accusing the French president of an “insult.” A clear head and a determined resolve are needed here by the two leaders of the two English speaking powers.
The present scenario brings to mind the following prophetic words about Ephraim:
“Aliens (strangers, foreigners) have devoured his strength,
But he does not know it;
Yes, gray hairs are here and there on him,
Yet he does not know it” (Hosea 7:9)