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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 25-Sep-2019
25-Sep-19 World View -- The Brexit comedy continues as the UK Supreme Court repudiates Boris Johnson

Web Log - September, 2019

25-Sep-19 World View -- The Brexit comedy continues as the UK Supreme Court repudiates Boris Johnson

The default solution: No-deal Brexit

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

The Brexit comedy continues as the UK Supreme Court repudiates Boris Johnson

Placards demanding Brexit on October 31, as Boris Johnson has promised (Reuters)
Placards demanding Brexit on October 31, as Boris Johnson has promised (Reuters)

It's hard to know whether it's more accurate to describe the Brexit drama in Britain as a situation comedy or as a Greek tragedy. Actually it's both, since a well-written tragedy always contains some humor in the form of "comic relief," until finally the tragedy reaches its catastrophic conclusion.

What happened on Tuesday is pure comedy. The UK Supreme Court, which only came into existence in 2009, ruled that prime minister Boris Johnson's attempt to shut down Parliament for five weeks was illegal. Johnson has promised that the UK will exit the EU on October 31, and he used a parliamentary trick to suspend or "prorogate" the Parliament for five weeks, in order to give himself some breathing room to negotiate, or pretend to negotiate, a final "deal" with the EU on the terms of the Brexit, in order to avoid the hated "no deal Brexit." So the Parliament will start meeting again on Wednesday, and it should provide a lot of laughs.

The real zinger in the UK Supreme Court ruling is that the court said that when Boris Johnson went to the Queen earlier this month to ask her to prorogate the Parliament, he "misled" her about the reasons. So this means that Johnson lied to the Queen about the reasons, and that the Queen was too dumb and credulous to know the real reasons, which she and her staff could have quickly learned by reading the newspaper or turning on the TV. So the ten-year-old UK Supreme Court has firmly established itself by ruling that Johnson is a criminal and the Queen is an idiot. Somebody's going to pay for that opinion in the months to come.

The intractable Ireland land border

The Brexit referendum was passed in June 2016, and it was clear almost immediately that it was a disaster.

The major intractable problem has been that, after the UK leaves the EU, Northern Ireland will be in the UK, and Southern Ireland (the Republic of Ireland) will be in the EU. So there will have to be solid border crossings, and tariffs placed on goods crossing the border.

There have been centuries of violent history between Ireland's indigenous ethnic Gaelic people versus the descendants of the Scottish and English invaders. This violence continued in modern times until the "Good Friday Agreement" was signed in 1998. Many people say that they fear that new border crossings would result in renewed violence.

The solution that the EU wants is called the "Irish Backstop." In this case, the border would remain completely open, and then either Northern Ireland would become part of the EU and separate from the UK, or else Britain would have to follow all EU regulations and court decisions, but have no say in making them. This solution is so ridiculous that it serves as monument to the stupidity of this whole process.

The "Brexiteers," led by Boris Johnson, claim they don't want a "no deal Brexit," so they say they're going to tweak the Backstop as part of a deal, something that the EU refuses to allow. The "Remainers" don't want to admit they're remainers, since then they would be ignoring "the will of the people," as expressed in the the 2016 referendum, so they advocate the "deal" with the Irish Backstop, hoping that means that Brexit will be abandoned entirely.

The default solution: No-deal Brexit

Tuesday's court decision changes nothing, except the rhetoric. It's still the case that unless a new arrangement is negotiated, then the UK Brexit will take place with no deal on October 31.

I've been saying for a long time that I expect the final result to be a no-deal Brexit, simply because the Generation-X is now in charge in Britain and the EU.

Government leaders in the 1990s were in Silent generation that grew up during the horrors of World War II, including the Nazi bombing of London, and had the skills to negotiate and compromise. Today, the Gen-Xers are in charge, and Gen-Xers have no skills to negotiate and compromise. So there are different camps in the government, each dominated by a different group of Gen-Xers, and they're all in hardened positions opposed to each other.

My expectation for a long time is that a no-deal Brexit would occur because it's the default, and it's the only option that doesn't require anyone to negotiate and compromise with anyone else. So far, that expectation has proven to be correct.

In the last year, the Parliament has repeatedly voted NO every chance it could get -- no on remaining, no on a no-deal Brexit, and noes on various "deal" Brexits. There's always a major to reject any solution, but never a majority to say YES to any proposal.

The Parliament did vote in favor of a law forbidding Boris Johnson from taking the UK out of the EU in a no-deal Brexit, but I don't understand how that would work. A no-deal Brexit is the default, so if Johnson does nothing, then a no-deal Brexit would occur automatically on October 31.

Possible scenarios in the next few weeks include leaving the EU with a no-deal Brexit on October 31, asking the EU to postpone the October 31 date, or having a new British election. However, none of these scenarios would resolve any of the differences. There are also calls for a new referendum, but there's wide disagreement on what options should be on it, and so the disagreements on the text of the referendum could be as vitriolic as the disagreements about Brexit itself.

The Brexit issue has badly split the British people, as well as the two major British political parties, the Conservative Tories and Labor, although the smaller Liberal Democrat party says that it's united in wanting to Remain. It's possible that by the time this is over, there will be a major realignment of British politics. There's also talk of drawing up a constitution for the British government, since it currently plenty of traditions, but they are not written down.

And even though Britain voted in 2016 to leave the EU, today nobody can say for sure whether Britain will actually leave the EU, and how long it will be before a decision is reached. The comedy continues, and the tragic dénouement awaits.


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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Sep-2019) Permanent Link
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