So we are approaching the end of April 2019, and from what I can see, there seems to be no end to the Brexit Saga. But is this really a surprise ? Probably not, and there are a number of underlying reasons for that. To start with, we still don’t have a clear common vision on what a Brexit should be.
There are still many competing ideas around Brexit, and that’s mainly because people who voted for Brexit didn’t necessarily agree with each other on why they want Britain to terminate its membership of the European Union. From what I can sense, the 17 million people who want Brexit, all probably have a range of different reasons for wanting Brexit. Which makes life quite difficult for anyone who has to negotiate the terms of UK’s exit from the EU, and I don’t envy them at all.
Also from the way UK parliament has voted so far on terms of a possible Brexit, it is becoming quite evident that, there isn’t a majority for any option among the parliamentarians, apart from a no deal Brexit that is. And although, a lot has been made about the lack of decision making by the politicians, I do have some sympathy for the lawmakers. They are faced with a very complex task and choice. On one hand, they have to implement the will of the majority, but on the other hand, they have to also manage the expectations of the 16 million people who voted to remain, knowing fully well that, while the 17 million UK citizens want Brexit. What a Brexit means to each of them does vary quite a bit. Also among those who voted for Brexit, there are many, who are not for a no deal Brexit, and therefore a no Brexit isn’t really an option for them. Which adds to the complexity.
The question then is, how do we break this logjam, some have suggested going back to the people, and asking people to provide a direction, as a possible way out of the current predicament. But I am not yet convinced if another referendum will provide any more clarity, or we may just find ourselves going around a roundabout.
My own assessment is that, the 17 million people will probably first need to fully agree on a consensus view of their own vision for Brexit. Ideally a clear direction, which a government could then implement while working with the parliament. And during that period all the Brexit negotiations could be frozen. This exercise will also allow the society to have a real unsolicited and un-politicised discussion on and around Brexit. Also, I personally see no harm in having EU representatives involved in those discussions, it might do both sides a load of good. As I see it, there is a real disconnect between the policy makers and the society at large, and this isn’t really good for any democracy.
Brexit is important, and the government along with the parliament should work together to implement the will of the majority, but at the same time, a country does have equally important priorities that cannot be sidelined. And quite clearly Brexit won’t solve all the problems facing the British society. A way through can only be conceived if people are pragmatic, and not blinded by their ideology that drives them to a make decision, whatever that decision or choice might be.
I did vote to keep the UK in the union of European states, but I would call myself a reluctant remainer. While I see the value of the EU project, I am also conflicted, because the policy makers have let themselves and the European project down. The EU project will need to evolve, and at present it’s clearly struggling, because there are people who have different aspirations for the EU project, and when one singular idea driven by an ideology get forced on everyone then, there will be push back from within. Personally, I do subscribe to most of the European values, and I do feel Europeans values are a good way forward. And although, I can understand the push for the idea of United States of Europe, I do believe the arrangement as union of nations works better, at least for now.
The financial crisis was a real test for the European project, and while the EU has managed to keep itself together, there are visible cracks with the current design. But the solution isn’t the creation of a European super state. The United States of Europe isn’t going to become competitive on its own, without real structural reforms. Also the core principles shaping the EU project can’t be ideology driven, because then the EU project risks becoming a very rigid bureaucracy disconnected with its citizens. European Union as a product isn’t working for everyone, and therefore, there is an urgent need for an upgrade, but that upgrade isn’t, converting the EU project into a United States of Europe.
I do find myself tempted to ask the policy makers in the EU, to be a bit more imaginative and creative, and obviously more flexible in shaping the EU project. The urge to punish UK for Brexit is understandable, but at the same time, it is also making the EU project a very rigid structure. In my mind, I am quite convinced that Brexit is a lose-lose event for both the UK and the EU, at least in the near term.
This is why I feel, it’s extremely important for people to apply pragmatism over ideological differences to navigate through the existing chaos, and find a way forward. I still remain conflicted, because I continue to see value of the EU project with or without the UK, but at the same time, I also feel a bit disappointed in the way EU has treated the UK, and not use Brexit as an opportunity to push through the essential structural reforms to make the project better. And quite possibly, by penning down my own thoughts, I am probably trying to find a way to navigate my own conflicts on issues related to the EU project and Brexit.