The United Kingdom Has Gone Mad
The problem with holding out for a perfect Brexit plan is that you can’t fix stupid.
By Thomas L. Friedman Opinion Columnist April 2, 2019
LONDON — Politico reported the other day that the French European affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, had named her cat “Brexit.” Loiseau told the Journal du Dimanche that she chose the name because “he wakes me up every morning meowing to death because he wants to go out, and then when I open the door he stays in the middle, undecided, and then gives me evil looks when I put him out.”
If you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have come to London right now, because there is political farce everywhere. In truth, though, it’s not very funny. It’s actually tragic. What we’re seeing is a country that’s determined to commit economic suicide but can’t even agree on how to kill itself. It is an epic failure of political leadership.
I say bring back the monarchy. Where have you gone, Queen Elizabeth II, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Seriously, the United Kingdom, the world’s fifth-largest economy — a country whose elites created modern parliamentary democracy, modern banking and finance, the Industrial Revolution and the whole concept of globalization — seems dead-set on quitting the European Union, the world’s largest market for the free movement of goods, capital, services and labor, without a well-conceived plan, or maybe without any plan at all.
Both Conservative and Labour members of Parliament keep voting down one plan after another, looking for the perfect fix, the pain-free exit from the E.U. But there is none, because you can’t fix stupid.
The entire Brexit choice was presented to the public in 2016 with utterly misleading simplicity. It was sold with a pack of lies about both the size of the benefits and the ease of implementation, and it continues to be pushed by Conservative hard-liners who used to care about business but are now obsessed with restoring Britain’s “sovereignty” over any economic considerations.
They don’t seem to be listening at all to people like Tom Enders, C.E.O. of the aerospace giant Airbus, which employs more than 14,000 people in the U.K., with around 110,000 more local jobs connected to its supply chains. Enders has warned the political leadership here that if the U.K. just crashes out of the E.U. in the coming weeks, Airbus may be forced to make some “potentially very harmful decisions” about its operations in Britain.
“Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness which asserts that ‘because we have huge plants here we will not move. …’ They are wrong,” he said. “And, make no mistake, there are plenty of countries out there who would love to build the wings for Airbus aircraft.”
I understand the grievances of many of those who voted to leave the E.U. For starters, they felt swamped by E.U. immigrants. (The E.U. should have protected the U.K. from that surge; that was German and French foolishness.) There are reportedly some 300,000 French citizens living in London, which would make it one of the biggest French cities in the world. I had a drink with a member of Parliament in the bar in the House of Commons on Tuesday, and as we sat down he whispered to me that “not a single person working in this whole building is British.”
This board requires you to be registered and logged-in to view hidden content.