Editorial : Britain must wake up from the Brexit dream

【明報專訊】THERESA May's government has suffered a historic defeat as her Brexit deal was rejected by parliament by a large margin. The idea that the UK can quit the EU painlessly and continue to enjoy all sorts of benefits is a lie told by politicians. The defeat is not unexpected since it has been an impossible mission for May to turn a pipe dream or a lie into reality. Now the UK is left with only two options: to remain in the EU or a no-deal exit. A disorderly Brexit will be a disaster. To find the way out, British politicians must have the political courage to tell the people that it is impossible to fish the moon from the water and it is time to wake up from the Brexit dream. There is a saying that politics is the art of the possible. However, to turn the impossible into the possible, the prerequisite is to be practical. One cannot find the way out by indulging oneself in political fantasies. This is the most important lesson the world has learnt from the Brexit farce.

In the Brexit negotiations over the last two years, what May has been doing is to try maintaining the benefits of economic integration with Europe while regaining some of its sovereignty from the EU, such as immigration control. The concession that Theresa May has made is to allow some EU regulations to continue to be in effect in the UK. In other words, she is not able to implement the democratic principle that all regulations in the UK should be decided by its own citizens. Brexit supporters want to have the cake and eat it. They want sovereignty, democracy and economic benefits, but such an "ideal" plan does not exist. No matter how hard May tries, she will not be able to fish the moon out of the water. Instead she can only offer a substitute that looks like it. The Brexiters will always see such a compromised plan as a "counterfeit" while the remainers will not accept it either.

Brexit has now got to the stage where May cannot possibly propose another plan that is brand new. Neither will the EU make any major concessions and allow the UK to enjoy all the benefits. Otherwise other member states would follow the UK's example and the EU would fall apart. British society at large must face the reality and choose between remaining in the EU or leaving the EU with no deal. Most economists have warned that a disorderly exit will be a disaster but some British people continue to live in their fantasy world. Some Brexiters still argue that leaving the EU with no deal is the "best" way out and that the warning about an economic disaster is alarmist just like the "Y2K scare" prior to the turn of the century.

The deadline for Britain to leave the EU is the end of March. There are only 70-odd days left. It is expected that the UK and the EU will postpone the deadline for a few months. However, if the British government and the opposition continue to waste their time, the general situation cannot be expected to change. The social cause of the Brexit issue lies with the unjust system and the unequal distribution of wealth. Some people think that economic integration with Europe has failed to bring them any benefits. Even if a second referendum may reverse the Brexit decision by a small margin, the social rift will only widen further if the British government and the opposition fail to propose a road map for reform to solve the deep-rooted conflicts. One may even expect to see someone proposing to have another Brexit referendum every few years and the UK will be forever caught in the cycle of being the bad loser.

明報社評2019.01.17:鏡花水月難兌現 脫歐已屆夢醒時






pipe dream : a hope or plan that is impossible to achieve or not practical

prerequisite : sth that must exist or happen before sth else can happen or be done

rift : a serious disagreement between people that stops their relationship from continuing

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