unionist mural irish border Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

The UK’s Suicidal Tendencies

Most politicians on the left and the right – including Prime Minister Theresa May, who before the Brexit referendum was in favor of Britain remaining in the EU – know that leaving the European Union without an exit agreement would be a national calamity. So why have almost all refused to do anything to halt the slide toward a catastrophic no-deal Brexit?

NEW YORK – Watching a sophisticated democratic society knowingly walk into a predictable and avoidable national disaster is a rare and alarming experience. Most British politicians are well aware that leaving the European Union with no agreement on the post-Brexit relationship will cause enormous damage to their country. They are not sleepwalking into the abyss; their eyes are wide open.

A minority of deluded ideologues doesn’t mind the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU with no deal. A few chauvinist dreamers on the right, egged on by sections of the press, believe that the bulldog spirit of Dunkirk will overcome early setbacks and Great Britain will soon rule the waves again as a great quasi-imperial power, albeit without an empire. Neo-Trotskyists on the left, including Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, seem to think that catastrophe will spur the British people to demand true socialism at last.

Most politicians on the left and the right – including Prime Minister Theresa May, who before the Brexit referendum was in favor of Britain remaining in the EU – know better. And yet almost all refuse to do anything to halt the slide toward a catastrophic no-deal exit. Proposals in Parliament to seek a delay or to consider alternatives to May’s unpopular exit strategy were voted down. Party politics, jingoistic media, and a weird obliviousness to anything outside the British Isles have apparently paralyzed the collective will of British politicians. Instead of acting to avoid the worst, they delude themselves that more talks and more concessions from Brussels will somehow bail Britain out at the last minute.

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