Brexit: Britain is sleepwalking to self-harm

The UK is undergoing its severest crisis since the Second World War. The country is rudderless. Its politicians are self-serving and at each others’ throats. The people are divided, angry and confused. The world looks on aghast at the mess created three years ago when Prime Minister David Cameron’s reckless bet to appease his Conservative rivals failed to pay off. There’s no other way of putting it. Great Britain has become a global laughing stock.

Quitting the European Union is far from being the walk in the park touted by populists Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage in the run-up to the referendum known for their liberal use of truth. On the contrary it is a tangled web with no positive outcome forcing Cameron and his successor Theresa May to fall on their swords.

The British newspapers are overwhelmingly blaming May. Front page banners are vitriolic towards the woman appointed by the Tories to seal the deal. With headlines such as A Crying Shame, The Crying Lady and Broken by Brexit her humiliation is complete.

Yes, she made dire errors of judgement. Restricting negotiations with the EU based on her own intractable red lines was one. Calling an unnecessary general election that frittered away her party’s parliamentary majority was another. Worse she failed to reach out to the leaders of other parties until the nth minute when positions were hardened.

She has been dubbed by commentators “the worst prime minister in living history”. She worked hard. She was unstoppable in her goal, but she ultimately failed because the odds were stacked against her. The EU signed up to the deal she wanted but which was rejected by a largely pro-remain Parliament three times. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with his eye firmly set on a general election would not give an inch.

Theresa May is a fierce patriot Unable to renegotiate the only deal on Europe’s table, her options were hamstrung by hardline Brexiteers in her cabinet, the architects of her downfall because against the wall she dared to give lawmakers the option of voting for a second referendum. Thatcher would have wielded her handbag as a weapon against such bullies; May caved.

Disgraced and bruised, she needs her famous British stiff upper lip as never before. She will remain prime minister until June 7 so that she can host Donald Trump’s controversial state visit. Afterwards she will stay on as caretaker prime minister until late July giving Conservatives a chance to vote for her replacement who will be the third unelected PM in 12 years. She will steel herself to endure the weeks ahead with a fixed smile because as those who know her personally assert, she is a fierce patriot for whom duty comes first.

Consumed by leaving the EU years have been wasted. Reforms necessary for the country have been neglected. Newly elected British MEPs will be sent to a Brussels most abhor, with some determined to cause havoc. With the deadline for leaving fixed at October 31, Tories will be tied-up with choosing a new leader and parliament goes into summer recess beginning September 13. Time is running out.

A No-Deal scenario looks likely. If the bookmakers are right, Boris Johnson and Larry the Cat will be house mates. He is clever, charismatic and crafty willing to stab friends in the back to promote himself as he did to Cameron. He will encounter the exact same divided parliament as May which may suit his dropping out without a deal agenda. Alternatively he might seal a coalition pact with Farage’s Brexit Party and call a general election.

Don’t blame May or anyone else, Blame Brexit! Politicians blind themselves to the writing on the wall. Some 225,000 jobs have already been lost even before leaving. Marks and Spencer and Top Shop are closing hundreds of stores. Banks are relocating headquarters to European capitals. The British pound is losing value. A fifth of the population is currently classed as poor. One-in-five children go to school hungry. There are 320,000 without a home; 24,000 are sleeping rough or in cars. A United Nations Special Rapporteur has accused the British government of being in denial. They are not. They are too busy with Brexit to care.

For goodness sake, when will lawmakers wake up before lemming-like they will drive the UK off the cliff in the name of democracy! Save the nation. Revoke Article 50 and be done with it.

Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.