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God Save the Queen

Theresa May, whose premiership has been a protracted death rattle for the stability of Britain’s democratic institutions, lost again yesterday.

Her clumsy Brexit deal with the European Union went down in flames for the second time.

This time, it was defeated by a margin of 149 Members of Parliament (MPs). In January, it was 230. For reference, there are 650 members of the House of Commons.

And now, with just over two weeks before the deadline by which the UK must leave the EU pursuant to Article 50 of the EU Treaty, no one knows what is going to happen.

Today, Theresa May has scheduled a vote for lawmakers to decide if Britain should leave without a deal with the EU. That vote will occur at 1900 GMT, or 3:00 p.m. EST.

It’s hard to see exactly what May’s end-game is, other than she doesn’t really have one. Her ascendency was lightning fast; one imagines that the post-Brexit pot of tea David Cameron left at 10 Downing Street’s drawing room was piping hot.

That was mid-2016. Brexit had just won its referendum to the shock of, well, everyone in the ruling class – but not average Britons. After all, they voted for it, having witnessed their liberties eroded under the European Union’s myriad regulations. Cameron was gone, and here came Theresa May – and she was going to get it done. Or, so she said.

In those early days, May talked a big game. For instance, not three months in, she said to the Conservative conference:

The referendum result was clear.  It was legitimate.  It was the biggest vote for change this country has ever known.  Brexit means Brexit – and we’re going to make a success of it.

And later:

Whether people like it or not, the country voted to leave the EU.  And that means we are going to leave the EU.  We are going to be a fully-independent, sovereign country, a country that is no longer part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts.  And that means we are going, once more, to have the freedom to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters, from how we label our food to the way in which we choose to control immigration.

It was a different time.

For while she spoke extensively at the same time – in fact, in that very speech – about crafting a deal with the European Union, there was no notion of delaying Brexit if a deal coult not be reached. Nor was there any notion that Brexit was in some way contingent upon a deal.

After a while, it became clear that Theresa May wasn’t sticking to a real Brexit, and was caving to the pressure of the Remainers (of which she had been one).

Thus in July 2018, as Brexiteers warned she was giving far too much to the EU in her negotiations, cracks began to appear in May’s government. In a 24-hour period, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary (and previous favorite to replace Cameron) Boris Johnson resigned.

Among other things, Johnson’s resignation letter stated:

We have postponed crucial decisions – including the preparations for no deal, as I argued in my letter to you of last November – with the result that we appear to be heading for a semi-Brexit, with large parts of the economy still locked in the EU system, but with no UK control over that system.


…we are truly headed for the status of colony – and many will struggle to see the economic or political advantages of that particular arrangement.

And then, the gut-check argument:

What is even more disturbing is that this is our opening bid. This is already how we see the end state for the UK – before the other side has made its counter-offer. It is as though we are sending our vanguard into battle with the white flags fluttering above them.

Johnson’s resignation would not be the last.

Last November, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigned, followed by several other members of the Cabinet, after May unveiled the draft of her EU deal.

For those of you keeping score, yes, that means that two separate Brexit secretaries resigned over May’s handling of Brexit in 2018.

And now her deal has been twice defeated. Nevertheless, May stubbornly insisted the other day:

Let me be clear. Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face.

As nice as that sounds, with 16 days to go before Article 50 kicks Britain out of the EU, and a deal that has been twice crushed in Parliament, this sort of rhetoric is meaningless.

For at this point it really comes down to two choices, stark, but simple nevertheless:

(1) Leave the European Union without a deal, which in trading terms means leaning back on the World Trade Organization rules for trade. The United Kingdom is a WTO member in its own right.

(2) Delay Brexit, perhaps hold a second referendum, and (most likely) end up with some sort of soft Brexit.

The problem with number two? The United Kingdom held a referendum on Brexit on June 23, 2016, in which a majority of UK citizens voted for Leave.

Imagine what could occur if they ignore it now?

Without getting into the details of the EU deal or the numerous challenges (some legitimate, some less so) raised by the opposition, as it would be too much for this single blog post, we must mention that democracy itself is at stake in the UK’s decision.

For without a written constitution, and leaning heavily on the precedents established by parliamentary action, the UK is dangerously close to approving the precedent that a national vote of some significance can be ignored if the House of Commons wishes.

Brexit’s successful referendum was proof that, for the UK to remain an independent nation with its own identity, it must lean upon its people and not the politicians.

Alas, the politicians have failed them. And if they fail again today to honor the Brexit the people voted for, the UK could well be doomed to complete irrelevance in its status as a free and independent nation.

And really, that’s bad for all of us who believe in more liberty and less government. Because Heaven knows, the European Union is not “less government.” Not by a long shot.

As the British sing in the second stanza of their national anthem, God Save the Queen:

O Lord, our God, arise / Scatter thine enemies, / And make them fall / Confound their politics, / Frustrate their knavish tricks, / On thee our hopes we fix: God save us all.

Who is not stirred by this:

My, what an extraordinary nation, and look at what has become of it in the shackles of the European Union. May Britain free herself from the continental crazies.

God save the Queen!


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