Monday, November 19, 2018


If America is stuck in a bad Bertolt Brecht remake of Arturo Ui, the United Kingdom is hostage to a Shakespeare drama. The Brexit deal that the British PM arrived at is dividing the Westminster Parliament and is "gerrymandering" party lines. To avoid the Irish problem, the PM decided to keep the whole United Kingdom in a customs union with the EU for now. Hence, the UK would be part of an EU mechanism without being able to exercise any form of  control since it is no longer a member.

Her dependence on the DUP (Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party) stood in the way of more clear-cut solutions. She returns yet again to Brussels, trying to pre-empt the bad vibes that already appear before the European Council later this week. In her absence, the gloomy atmosphere in London might get worse and the rumors of plots and rancor could further multiply.

Some suggest a second referendum. Probably a majority would reverse the chosen exit path. Nevertheless, the majority risks being again razor thin, creating another wave of discontent in the opposite direction. One way or another, London can expect difficult days ahead. If one considers all options, Theresa May's proposal, as unglamorous and precarious as it is, might be the only way out of a situation "full of sound and fury". If not, as the bookmakers predict, the PM might end up "dead as a doornail".

All this misery is the direct result of former PM David Cameron's reckless decision to submit the UK's membership in the EU to a referendum, which was both risky and frankly ill- conceived and managed (like many referendums in history). The "miscalculation" is of an historical importance. Nothing has been as politically devastating since the unglamorous loss of the Empire. Theresa May today is only the undertaker, not the villain in this Shakespearean tragedy.

The EU cannot fall prey to the very "domestic" worries which are currently stoked by the narrow-minded populist mindset. It would be tragic to look inward when the American administration acts clueless and when China is in sophisticated overdrive (watch the imperial Xi Jinping versus the hapeless Pence, who was even ignored for the traditional opening photo of APEC). The EU's recent economic inroads with China and Japan have to be complemented by a more political input so that the void left by the US is not underwritten by China alone. Maybe the EU should reconsider some form of steering committee for political/strategic initiatives. Some might fear a return to Gaullist thinking, but in retrospect de Gaulle was often prophetic.

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