AP NEWS

Brexit Fail Shows Result of Deep Party Divisions

March 24, 2019

If you think the dysfunction in Washington serves as the definitive example of political deadlock, think again.

What’s unfolding in the United Kingdom makes the Democrat-Republican divide look more like a tempest in a teapot.

It all centers around the UK’s decision to leave the 28-nation European Union, an economic and quasi-governmental alliance. Commonly referred to as Brexit, it was a decision reached by a June 2016 referendum that carried by a 52-48 percent margin.

It would allow the UK to pursue its own economic path, independent of EU restraints.

Since that vote, the government, led by Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, has tried to forge a departure agreement acceptable to both the EU and members of her Parliament, who ultimately must approve that pact.

Here’s where parallels to our own political tribal warfare surface.

Like President Trump and his predecessor President Obama, May’s attempts to create policy -- a Brexit agreement -- have been undertaken on strictly partisan political lines. It’s been strictly a Conservative solution, with little or no input from the opposition Labor Party.

That ill-advised decision has created a national crisis. With less than a week before the March 29 exit date, the UK still hasn’t reached a Brexit agreement.

May’s two recent attempts to do so have been rejected by historically overwhelming numbers -- a clear rebuke from both Conservatives and Labor.

Faced with the dire prospect of leaving with no accords on trade, immigration, or the future of the open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in place, PM May asked the EU for a Brexit extension.

The EU agreed to postpone UK’s departure until May 22 -- but only if she can persuade Parliament to accept her exit plan.

If she can’t, May will get a shorter exit reprieve -- until April 12. But Britain could stay in the bloc longer if it decides it needs more time for a more fundamental review of the Brexit decision.

The only certain outcome of these 11th-hour machinations? Uncertainty.

Already, major international corporations have either moved operations or delayed business decisions due to this unresolved crisis.

Under the British government’s “Operation Yellow Hammer,” more than 5,000 personnel on Monday will begin to prepare for the chaos expected if Britain leaves with no agreement.

In a rare joint statement, two competing interests, the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress, reinforced the obvious: “Our country is facing a national emergency.”

PM May has said she intends to pursue what the results of that 2016 plebiscite demanded -- a Brexit agreement.

However, continued failure could put her Conservative Party leadership position in jeopardy, further eroding chances for a Brexit deal.

And of course, there’s still the possibility of no Brexit at all, since the European Court of Justice has ruled the UK can cancel Brexit without the permission of the other 27 EU members, presumably by holding another national referendum.

All the while, citizens of a United Kingdom watch the fabric of their country fray before their eyes -- all because of the unwillingness to reach out beyond party lines to form a consensus.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?” British punk rockers The Clash couldn’t have predicted the words to their 1982 hit song would still resonate in 2019.