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Brexit and Three Rules of Politics

Jeff Myhre

Posted on November 28, 2018 10:29

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The British departure from the European Union illustrates three rules of politics that practitioners of the art of the possible must keep in mind.

The Conservative minority government of the UK is in the process of negotiating Brexit, the departure of the country from the European Union. It will make Britain what it once was – a largely irrelevant set of islands off the coast of Europe. For a political scientist, though, it offers a perfect illustration of three basic principles of the art of politics.

The first principle it illustrates is how relatively easy it is to put together a coalition of voters to oppose the status quo. Everyone hates something about how the world is. In the case of British membership in the UK, no one claimed the situation was perfect. The people who argued for staying in had to defend every flaw in the arrangement. The people who voted to leave in the referendum were able to point to the numerous flaws as proof membership was a bad thing.

There were conservatives (and Conservatives) who just didn't like all the bloody foreigners who are in the EU. Then, there are all the left-wing socialists (which isn't a dirty word in the UK) who view the EU as a club for capitalists. And of course, there are the people who are generally disappointed in how their lives are going, and when given a chance to burn things down, they take it. That was enough for Leave to win the referendum.

As the Brexiteers are learning, the second principle is that it is very hard to put together a coalition in favor of something. Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated an arrangement with the EU on how things are going to go after the UK leaves on March 29, 2019. She may not have the votes to get it approved in the House of Commons. Dozens of members of her own party are on record as saying they are against it because it doesn't go far enough in separating the UK from the EU.

In addition, the opposition parties are against it. The Scottish National Party represents a constituency that voted to Remain in the UK. The Liberal Democrats are the most pro-European party in the country. Labour may well decide that it can force an election and become the governing party if it votes against the deal.

The third rule is you can't beat somebody with nobody. Theresa May is a prime minister who doesn't have a majority in the House and who cannot get her most important piece of legislation through. She should be voted out of office under virtually any other scenario. But who would want to be PM now? Who would want to renegotiate the deal when the EU has said this is the only deal on the table and who would preside over a British economy in a tailspin stemming from leaving the EU without any deal at all on post-Brexit relations? Absent a challenger, Ms. May can be PM no matter how bad things get.

Jeff Myhre

Posted on November 28, 2018 10:29

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Source: CS Monitor
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Ineligible to vote in the June 23 Brexit referendum, the 3 million Europeans living in the United Kingdom could stand to...

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