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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

英國脫歐協議遭國會大比數否決,文翠珊政府蒙受歷史性的挫敗。英國可以無痛脫歐享盡好處,是政客編造的謊言,文翠珊要將空想和謊言化為現實,一開始便是不可能的任務,失敗並不意外,英國實際只餘留歐和無協議脫歐兩條路。無序脫歐是一場災難,英國要走出活路,政客必須拿出政治勇氣,告訴國民撈不了水中月、摘不了鏡中花,無痛脫歐已到夢醒時。有道「政治是可能的藝術」,然而要化不可能為可能,必須以實事求是為前提,沉醉政治空想不會有出路,這亦是英國脫歐鬧劇對世人最大啟示。

過去兩年文翠珊在脫歐談判所做的,就是設法保留與歐洲經濟整合的好處,以及討回之前交予歐盟的一些國家主權,諸如出入境控制等。文翠珊所作的犧牲,是容許歐盟一些規例在英國繼續有效,無法貫徹英國境內規例全由國民話事的民主原則。可是脫歐支持者所欲的是主權、民主和經濟好處三者兼得,世上根本沒有這種「理想」方案,文翠珊再努力也撈不出水中月,只能拿出樣子相似的替代品。這種折衷方案,脫歐派永遠視為「假貨」,留歐派亦不會接受。

英國脫歐走到這一步,看不到文翠珊能交出全新方案,歐盟也不會再作重大讓步,讓英國盡攬好處,否則其他成員國必然有樣學樣,令歐盟陷入分崩危機。英國上下需要面對現實,在留歐和無協議脫歐之間抉擇。絕大多數經濟專家都警告,無序脫歐將是災難,可是部分英國人顯然仍然活在幻想中,有脫歐派仍揚言,無協議脫歐是英國「最好」出路,「經濟災難論」是危言聳聽,猶如上世紀末的「千年蟲危機」。

現時距離3月底脫歐死線不過70多天,英國與歐盟料將押後死線數月,然而如果英國朝野繼續浪費時間,大局恐怕難有改變。英國脫歐問題的社會根源,在於制度不公分配不均,部分人覺得歐洲經濟整合未為他們帶來好處,就算勉強以第二次公投蓋過脫歐決定,倘若英國朝野提不出任何改革路線圖,尋求化解深層次矛盾,社會撕裂只會進一步擴大,甚至每隔數年便有人提出要再來一次脫歐公投,墮入輸打贏要的永劫輪迴之中。

■Glossary

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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