Here in the US, we like to think we’ve got quite an exciting political scene. Whatever you think of the man or his policies, there hasn’t been a dull moment at the White House since Donald Trump was elected President. Soon it will be election season once again, and we can expect even more entertainment, outrage, protests, and jaw-dropping moments as Trump seeks to hold onto his office against what we expect to see a spirited challenge from the Democrats – probably led by Joe Biden, although Elizabeth Warren is slowly creeping up on him in the polls.
However exciting US politics is right now, though, it’s tame and tepid compared to the unending firestorm that’s happening in the United Kingdom over the ongoing Brexit debacle. The ‘will they, won’t they’ drama has kept many political commentators glued to their seats ever since the country voted to leave the European Union back in mid-2016. It’s now approaching late 2019, and they’re still part of the Union. They were supposed to leave in late 2018. That became early 2019, and then got moved for what was supposed to be one final time to October 31st, 2019 – and now it may be moved again. Not only that, but they may have yet another Prime Minister by the time it happens.
Brexit- The Prime Minister Killer
When Britain decided to have a referendum on its membership of the European Union, the Prime Minister was David Cameron. It’s generally thought within the country that Cameron handled the campaign to stay in the Union badly, and may have been ill-advised to call for the referendum in the first place. Complacently, he believed that the country would vote by a significant majority to remain part of Europe. When it didn’t, he resigned the next day, and then walked away whistling like he didn’t have a care in the world.
His replacement, Theresa May, seemed like an odd choice from the start. She got the job largely by default after the majority of her opponents withdrew from the race, and then her final opponent had a change of heart about the role after making comments to the press that implied that May couldn’t be a good leader because she’d never been a mother. May wasn’t particularly beloved by her party, and also presented a different problem – like Cameron, she’d campaigned to stay in the European Union. She led the country for three years, during which Brexit was never out of the news, and her attempts to negotiate a future relationship with the EU attracted regular ridicule. Her best attempt at a deal was roundly voted down by Parliament several times, and she, unlike Cameron, resigned frustrated and in tears.
Boris Johnson, the new man in the job, was supposed to be the solution to all of the Government’s problems. Johnson is seen as one of the architects of Brexit – a man committed to leaving the EU, and beloved of Donald Trump. He’s a charismatic populist with a colorful private life, and highly thought of by the membership of his party. For the first few weeks of his time in office, everything appeared to be going well. He’d promised to get the UK out of the EU by October 31st, and (as we’ve covered on this website) gained permission from the Queen to shut down Parliament in an attempt to stop his opponents from frustrating his ambitions.
That permission to shut down Parliament arrived barely a week ago. Unfortunately for Johnson, a week is a long time in politics.
No Deal Drama
Johnson’s critics have acted out of concern that leaving the EU without an agreed trade deal and clarification of points of law could be disastrous for the economy, and the citizens of the country. There have been warnings from medical professionals and business leaders of job losses, drug shortages, food shortages, flights being grounded, and various other nightmare scenarios. Some of the claims may be exaggerated, but the general agreement is that it wouldn’t be good. Johnson himself admits that it wouldn’t be ideal, but also said he’d leave without a deal if one couldn’t be obtained. His issue is that – as a man with a reputation for occasionally playing fast and loose with the truth – nobody believed he’d be able to get a deal.
As a result, they went to work faster than he could have imagined. On Tuesday, September 3rd – the first day of the new Parliamentary session – they voted to wrest control of Parliamentary debate time away from him. On the following day, they used that time to propose and then vote on a bill that would prevent the UK from leaving without a deal in any circumstances. The bill passed. Johnson’s hands instantly became tied. He could no longer make good on his promise. He had one option left available to him, and now he’s trying to take it.
Yet Another General Election
In the US, Presidential terms last for four years. In the UK, terms in office are supposed to last for five. When David Cameron won the 2015 election, there shouldn’t have been another one until 2020. When his successor Theresa May called a snap election after badly misjudging her popularity with voters in 2017, she lost almost her entire Parliamentary majority. That should have been it until 2022. Now, Britain is heading for a third General Election in five years. If Johnson loses, he’ll go down as one of the shortest-serving Prime Ministers in British history.
Whether he will or not is another matter. The political scene in Britain is very different today even to how it was in 2017. Not even an expert betting strategist would be able to confidently tell you where to put your money if you want to place a stake on this. There are more possible outcomes than there are potential winning combinations when you open late casino. There will likely be more heads rolling than there are reels rolling in a game of mobile slots. In fact, the biggest difference is that eventually, a good mobile slots game will provide you with a result you’re likely to be happy with. There’s no sign that a General Election in Britain will do anything of the sort.
If Johnson pledges – as he’s seemingly now been forced to – to seek a deal with the European Union, he’ll hemorrhage support and votes to the Brexit Party, which has taken a harder line in its view of Europe and No Deal. If he pledges to leave without a deal, he’ll lose support from moderate voters. On the other side, voters who wish to remain within the European Union are faced with a choice between Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn – frequently accused in the British press of being a Communist – or the completely untested Liberal Democrat party and their leader Jo Swinson. The most likely outcome might be a hung Parliament, in which no party or leader has overall control.
Should that happen, Britain will be right back where it started – and Brexit will be renewed on our TV screens for another gripping season.