It’s Sunday, 26 June 2016, and Great Britain has a hangover. Adele roars the perfect moody soundtrack from Glastonbury’s pyramid stage. The sky has fallen indeed. Now what, Britannia?
After a long night drunk with illusions, twisted truths and outright lies amid some sincere desire for a change towards something – anything! – better, daylight and sobriety have slowly returned. In the aftermath of this EU referendum, it’s becoming rapidly clear that Westminster and Downing Street are void of leadership. While up and down the country people are surprised to find out that their vote DID matter, the two main parties that populate the legislative and executive branches of government are in disarray. Party infighting and power struggles add to the general sense of confusion and lack of direction, as do voices from across the EU spectrum nagging to get on with leaving.
We’re one big happy family, Adele banters between songs. Stop that booing, she commands. We need to look after each other.
There’s much booing going on, especially among Labour and Conservative party members. The realisation sinks in that those most vocal in favour of Brexit might not be welcome as stewards of change. And noone seems to have a thought through plan on how to execute the people’s decision.
Some sense of responsibility comes from the German chancellor of all people: Calm and prudence is called for, she says (with obvious sadness). Let’s respect the UK’s choice but let’s not rush this. Let’s hear how Britain wishes to take its relationship with the EU forward. In any case we will remain close partners.
In other words, Britain is still a member of the EU and right now it’s in a mess. Instability in Britain means trouble for the whole union. Rather than adding to the mess, let’s step back, give Britain some space until there’s someone with a clear mandate. Most likely this is also the gist of backchannel talks underway between European capitals, Brussels and British diplomats. Never mind what you read on media front pages. No-one wants to make this worse. Not after $3 trillion were wiped off global markets last Friday.
As German journalist based in the Uk for the past 15 years, I’ve been inundated by messages from friends asking what could or should happen next. Most show limited enthusiasm about what sort of new Prime Minister the Conservative party is likely to come up with. Read here about possible contenders > http://uk.businessinsider.com/david-cameron-resigns-after-brexit-referendum-next-prime-minister-will-be-chosen-by-party-activists-2016-6
So how else could this mess be sorted out? 2 suggestions:
- The current government could engineer a no confidence motion in parliament to either insure continued support, prompt the forming of a new government or, failing to do so, new elections. This is somewhat tricky due to the restrictions imposed by the 2011 Fixed Term Parliaments Act. More about this in Robert Hazell’s piece: “Can David Cameron call a second election? How does that fit with the Fixed Term Parliaments Act?”
- There’s also the option of inviting a national unity conference with representatives from all regions and parties (who understand the concerns and issues of the electorate) and British EU officials (who understand the inner workings of the EU). This would allow to a) to gather intelligence and b) give room to vent. Both are vital to prepare the ground for workable solutions. The conference’s job would be threefold: to figure out what the country needs, which strategy to pursue for a new deal with Europe and to select the team to be sent to Brussel. (While they’re at it they might want to discuss a more proportionate election system – see my previous post)
- Finally, there’s also the option of not applying to leave the EU at all. Until the UK government officially notifies the European Council of its wish to withdraw by invoking Article 50, all laws apply as before and all remains as it was. Except for growing uncertainty that is likely to inhibit business, investment, etc. Of course this would add to the electorate’s unhappiness and decline in trust.
Read more on the mechanics of leaving the EU here: http://openeurope.org.uk/today/blog/the-mechanics-of-leaving-the-eu-explaining-article-50/
Hello from the other side, 160000 voices sing back at Adele. The star of British music exports bounces up and down the stage, squealing and swearing in sheer joy and delight. She loves every second of it and Glastonbury loves her right back. It’s impossible not to be affected by her zest for life.
I hope some of that joy and love filters through to the rest of the country. It’s much needed. Thank you Adele, you are amazing.