Theresa May has effectively resigned, putting an end to her long struggle to bring about Brexit. Finally, she has tried to compromise with fellow Tories and Labor. She even offered a second referendum. She wanted you to believe that she had taken the high ground and reached an ideal compromise, a compromise that made most British citizens incredibly unhappy.
In reality, instead of a political process, the people of the United Kingdom have tuned in to a non-stop soap opera. Defections here, historic defeats there; the government can’t seem to catch a break. The government’s last ditch effort to pass a deal through Parliament was destined to fail, leading to May’s resignation. Neither Tory brexiteers, nor the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), nor the Opposition see it as a plausible option, with good reason. Brexiteers don’t want a second referendum that could reveal that the illusion of a mandate for Brexit is just that: an illusion. The DUP and the Opposition simply don’t want the same deal, which was never close to gaining a parliamentary majority. Two years of May’s government and the UK is still where it started, with no idea how to reconcile policy with the result of the referendum. You might be asking yourself, “How will this all end then?”
Will Parliament attempt to make a new deal with the EU? This question is moot, since the EU won’t even contemplate discussing a new agreement, and Members of Parliament (MPs) know this.
Will Parliament decide to leave the EU without a deal? Maybe, if MPs were contemplating political suicide, considering the damage that would ensue from a no-deal Brexit. Sure hard-core brexiteers would to vote for such an option (160 MPs voted for this option), but for a Parliament where almost three-quarters of members prefer to remain in the EU, this almost certainly will not happen.
Will Parliament decide to revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU? Bingo! By process of elimination, Brexit is not going to happen. This was always the answer. There was never another valid option. It doesn’t matter who becomes the next PM after May. Everyone knows this. It became evident as soon as the Irish Question came up. How on earth was the UK going to uphold Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement? You have three options: Either you put a hard-border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, you put a hard-border between Northern Ireland and the UK, or you put no hard-border and the UK remains a member of the Customs Union. Those were always the only three options. Forget the talk about technology fixing this problem, that’s all fiction. These three options are simply unacceptable to the Republic of Ireland, the DUP, and Brexiteer Tories, respectively, and a deal can’t happen if either of these three players don’t agree to it.
So what was the point of all this? A game of political pandering. A bunch of politicians who recognized the rise of populist sentiment and did not want to stand too strongly in opposition to it, lest they lose votes and their jobs. So what do they do instead? Take the British public on a rollercoaster of drama, come back to them with nothing, and pretend as if they did their best. Basically, they were bullied by the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson to pretend that they support something that they abhor. They can’t go against the mandate of the referendum. Even though the referendum was non-binding. Even though the average person is nowhere near qualified to determine the implication of this vote.
This brings us to the illusion of the mandate for Brexit. The referendum was born because David Cameron wanted to win an election, and Theresa May kept promoting the Brexit dream so she could win an election. But in reality, that’s not how a representative democracy should work. The people do not get to decide policy; they get to choose representatives, and either hire them back or fire them by the next election. This incentivises representatives to do an adequate job. The people can’t get fired from their job of being citizens. They have little incentive to think about the public good or to deeply assess the impact of their vote. If things go poorly, they will not blame themselves, but the politicians. It was always the responsibility of the politicians. This Brexit debacle was nothing more than a staunch display of cowardice, the kind that ruins a nation.When New Zealand wanted to change its flag, they held two referenda to make sure the people get what they want—for a flag. That is the least of what the British public deserves. What they truly deserve is for this act to stop, for Article 50 to be revoked by the government, so that the government could do its job, instead of being distracted by this nonsense.
Jad Alexander Zeitouni is a graduate student at New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and is currently the Editor-in-Chief of JPI. He is working toward earning a masters in International Relations. His interests are security, grand strategy, and the Middle East. In 2016, he graduated from MIT with a Bachelors of Science in Physics and Economics.