A WEEK ago tomorrow, Britain voted, by a narrow margin, to leave the European Union.
This decision was unexpected, no matter what even the most strident Brexit Boudica argues. The consequences were even more unexpected.
That the Leave campaign’s leaders are so utterly unprepared for the unenviable task of leading this unfortunate divorce — or having their dishonest arguments like having an extra £350m a week to spend when they quit the EU, exposed as malignant, mob-stirring Trumpisms — just confirms that.
The 48/52 revolt against today’s EU consensus — and its myriad faults — has thrown British politics into turmoil. Anything resembling economic, political or social stability seems remote.
Sterling took a battering, reaching a 30-year low against the dollar and though that slide may have turned, frozen-in-the-headlights uncertainty has set the mood.
Pension schemes ravaged over the last decade have been further weakened despite modest reversals in some markets.
Non-British businesses with interests in Britain are considering very difficult options.
Ryanair flies 40 million of its 100m-plus passengers a year to or from the UK but is reviewing investment plans. Ryanair shares have fallen 23% since Thursday.
The isolationist, regressive vote has ended political careers, David Cameron’s most spectacularly.
It has marginalised the Labour party in a most dangerous way, one that leaves its natural constituency without an effective voice.
It has split the Conservative party, and it is difficult to see how it can be remade.
If a general election is called, as seems increasingly likely, the result will probably make our ‘new politics’ look like an exemplary exercise in heartfelt fellowship and parliamentary cohesion.
By rejecting Europe, Britain has — irony of ironies — exposed itself to the kind of political musical chairs that has dogged too many European democracies, particularly ltaly, throughout the post-war era.
As instability spreads, the EU has asserted, again, its red-line positions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel disabused the Leave campaigners of one of their dearest delusions.
Britain cannot, she warned, cherry-pick elements of EU membership and, if they want access to the free market, they must accept free movement of people.
If the EU holds that line on that one issue, then the Brexit campaign must, like England’s Euro 2016 challenge, end in something like ignominy.
There is, however, an alternative. It may be very difficult to deliver but in this instance, the stakes are so high that it must be considered.
Several EU referendums have been re-run and, after the issue under consideration was revised, different results were achieved.
It is far too early to press for such an option.
But as the pincer movement — EU leaders are demanding an immediate triggering of Article 50, and David Cameron has decided to leave that privilege to his successor — tightens the noose on Boris’ buffoonery, the idea may offer a solution to a crisis imposed on Europe by a tiny proportion of its population.
After all, when you sign a credit deal to buy, say, a car, you have a ten-day cooling-off period during which you can change your mind.
Surely, and in the name of sanity, such a principle might apply at this critical juncture.
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