I was wrong.
I said on Friday that it would take a month or two for Britons to regret their vote to leave the European Union.
Actually it took a day or two.
Yesterday the Parliament’s website crashed briefly after three million signatures on a petition for another referendum. Call that first plebiscite a mulligan—like in golf—we all get another chance to hit the ball right. And this is really an apt comparison since golf began in the British Isles. Unfortunately one part of those isles is ready to mulligan the hell out of there: Scotland. Golf purists—no mulligans.
And Northern Ireland may follow. Wales? Not to worry. They’ll stay right where they are, and that should make all the people in Cwm happy. And we should be happy for them—they can go on as before living in their unpronounceable community—not far from Ebbw Vale.*
On a more serious note, England’s nuclear arsenal is housed in…yep, Scotland. That’s not going to be good. There’ll have to be treaties and agreements, etc.
As for the three million petitions, they don’t mean much. No petitions do. And the truth is that the British government, could, if it chooses, ignore last Thursday’s vote entirely. There are all kinds of arcane laws and bylaws that make it feasible, but that’s unlikely to occur.
First off, it would be unfair. A vote is a vote, but it’s also unfair that the majority of those who voted to leave are people 65 and older who have in many ways poisoned their country for the youth who will inherit the mess. If there is a mess—and that’s still debatable. But here are some things that aren’t:
- Europe will no longer present a unified force to Russia, to Islamic State, to any faction wishing to do it harm.
- England, standing alone, will be even weaker—and smaller should Scotland, et al. depart. When European problems exist, England will no longer have a seat at the table. And when England faces a problem, it’s theirs alone.
- Brexit London mayor Boris Johnson’s claim that Britain will remain a world power is almost certainly wrong, at least for the foreseeable future.
- Britain will struggle economically in the years to come with a downgraded credit rating, job losses, and higher interest rates. Friday offered a taste, but a recession is almost certain.
Great Britain? Little Britain, maybe.
There’s a humanitarian side to this too. Immigrants living and working in that country—those with homes and families and (until Thursday) a future are in limbo. One interviewee looked dazed as he spoke on camera, saying he didn’t know what would happen after Brexit took effect, if he would need work permits, visas or “we will have to go back to our own country, I don’t know.”
Nobody knows, and maybe the saving grace is that this transition will take months, years, and probably outlive the narrow-minded jingoism that caused it. If that’s true, then this early stage of buyer’s remorse will be a minor hiccup compared with what’s ahead…and the next referendum.
One Briton in his seventies who voted to leave the EU spoke glowingly of a return to empire, having perhaps forgotten that this empire was the same one that lost three-quarters of a million of its own in the trenches of World War I, then another half million two decades later.
Benjamin Franklin (who, coincidentally, liked France more than he did England) said “experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other.”
Welcome to semester one.
*For those planning trip to visit the Welsh, it’s Coom and Eboo Vail. Thanks, Internet.