Brexit Won’t Fix It

In case you haven’t noticed, the United Kingdom is going through a collective political meltdown.

The 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union proved to be the pulled thread that is unraveling the seemingly seamless garment of the British constitution. Now as the shrewd observer will know, unlike the U.S. Constitution, the British one is unwritten—so, worth the paper it’s not written on? Not quite, it seems, as we enter into a constitutional crisis.

And it really is becoming a crisis. Britain’s political stasis over the EU is not, however, something that will end on October 31st, even if Boris Johnson manages to exit the supra-political structure that Britain joined on January 1st, 1973. “When will the Brexit crisis end?” I was recently asked by an American radio host. “Not in my lifetime,” I replied to his puzzlement.

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Allow me to explain.

After the UK joined the then European Common Market in 1973, there was another couple of years of debate on whether to continue its European membership before a referendum was held. Sound familiar? Well, the UK’s 1975 referendum concluded in favor of remaining, and so we remained, though not happily.

Ever since, a debate has raged within the Conservative Party—and, to a lesser extent, in other parties such as Labour—about what came to be known simply as “Europe.” Over the years, the more right-of-center media developed a healthy skepticism towards (opponents might call it an unhealthy obsession with) EU membership. Meanwhile, stories of edicts from Brussels demanding “square bananas” and other headlines grabbed belly laughs.

Tory infighting on the subject, helped along by the electoral success of Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party, led to the 2016 referendum on the British membership in the EU. Then-prime minister David Cameron, a staunch Remainer, gambled that Britons would once again vote to stay in Europe. He had more than just precedence to give him confidence.

In 2010, Cameron had formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, promising a referendum on a change to the electoral system and a possibility of a proportional representational voting system—something much more congenial to smaller parties. He gambled that this referendum, too, would conclude in a vote of no change—not least because the inherent complexities of the new system would prove too daunting for a British public that had only known “first past the post” Westminster elections. He was right: the May 2011 referendum yielded a vote to retain the existing voting system for Westminster elections. Nothing changed.

Next up for Cameron the gambler was Scotland. The rise of the Scottish Nationalists meant that a referendum on independence was inevitable. Rightly, Cameron also saw it was necessary. If the Nationalists lost the referendum—and polls suggested they would—he reckoned they would be dealt a potentially fatal blow. Then the UK could put this issue to bed for a generation at least. So, in September of 2014, the Scottish people went to the polls. Again, Cameron won: the Scots elected to stay.

When it came to the Tory infighting on Europe and the rise of UKIP, Cameron decided to hold yet another referendum. The polls indicated that there was little appetite for secession from the UK’s 43-year membership in the EU. A whole generation—perhaps two—of British citizens had grown up in a world where directives from Brussels were purely routine. It looked like another safe bet. And yet, as everyone knows, even the best gambler’s luck runs out. Cameron’s did in the small hours of June 24th, 2016, when Britons voted to leave the EU.

Three years on, we haven’t left anything just yet, other than our collective senses. The British are also losing patience with politicians, with Parliament, with voting, and with each other. It’s not a happy place presently. So dire has the situation become that the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, has asked the Queen to suspend parliament. It’s a final, desperate attempt to break the deadlock and prevent pro-EU legislators from continuing to stymie the Conservative government’s efforts to execute the referendum results.

Will Brexit, if it does happen in October, bring about a new era of prosperity and happiness for all Her Majesty’s subjects? Speaking recently to a newly elected British member of the European Parliament, I asked her what was going to happen. She answered simply and sincerely: “Only God knows.” She’s right. No one, despite his or her political posturing, really knows what will happen next.

No one, however, except me.

Whether we leave or whether we stay in the EU, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will remain a place where the Culture of Death in all its manifestations and horrors will continue to hold sway in public and political discourse. In a parliament distracted with Brexit debates, there was still time recently to run a horse and carriage through the devolution settlement for Northern Ireland and force abortion upon its unwilling population.

Expect more of the same as abortion continues in its current liberal form, or else expand considerably. The various sexual and gender agendas with endless alphabet acronyms will continue to be perceived as the new normal and infiltrate all aspects of British life, even more than they have already. The specter of euthanasia is lurking once more in the corridors of parliament, with its supporters angling for yet another attempt to make legal the killing of the elderly and the disabled.

Add into the mix the crass materialism and lack of any traditional moral compass or leadership in British mainstream society and media, and you have a picture of the modern United Kingdom. It has very little to do with Europe, which is why the crisis will persist for years to come—in or out, Leave or Remain.

In short, for the myriad problems the nation faces, both spiritual and moral, Brexit alone won’t fix it.

Photo credit: Getty Images


  • K. V. Turley

    K.V. Turley is the National Catholic Register’s U.K. correspondent. He writes from London.

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