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“A group of people roughly the size of a decent football crowd”

Helmut Sorge | Posted : August 30, 2019

 

The bells of Big Ben are silent. No toll, no sound, for two years of restoration. Big Ben is a symbol of British parliament and democracy –the Palace of Westminster. The bells may not toll, but the clock is ticking, running forward above the heads of  Britain’s parliamentarians, who are facing history and turmoil and even the dispersing of their parties, in power for centuries. Time is running out. The no deal Brexit, possible on October 31, is creeping up on the United Kingdom like an alien monster with an insectoid head, reversed legs and floppy arms made in Hollywood. Brexit creates fear, because Brexit, particularly a no deal Brexit , will ,most likely, cause disruptions in Europe, the UK, and ,yes, in countries around the world.

The Prime minister Boris Johnson is adding to tension as if there was not yet enough uncertainty-he asked the Queen, the royal highness and highest, if not most esteemed power on the island kingdom, to prorogue parliament for five weeks, beginning just a few days after lawmakers return to the house of commons in early September after their summer break, again ready to deal with votes and opposition against the hard Brexit, the departure from Europe without a deal. Johnson’s plot, legal and confirmed by the monarch, will mean that parliament has just about two weeks after their imposed break, to introduce, debate and vote on any law concerning Brexit,  possibly not enough time to avoid the 31 october massaker ”An explosive announcement “confirmed Craig Oliver, former communications director of ExPM David Cameron, an attempted coup worth a Banana Republic but not the Kingdom, whose parliament was the model of all parliaments, enriched by tradition, debates of wit and tolerance, respect, fair play of British dimensions.The move by a new PM to suspend parliament before winning a single vote in the House of Commons is ‘highly unusual’(Foreign Policy) but hardly surprising in a time British politics are losing its countenance.

“THE IMPACT IS LIKELY TO BE COMPLEX”

Instead, a parody of politics, or rather worse, the corrupting spirit so well applied by Donald Trump, who, surprise, surprise, considers Johnson a soul mate and “perfect for the job. Good man. He’s tough, he’s smart. They call him Britain’s Trump and people say that’s a good thing.” A schemer like Trump, no stranger to lies or exaggerations and deceptive political maneuvers, who calculates that by the time parliament will return mid-October its members hardly have time to block the disastrous exit, with methods considered by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as a “threat to our democracy.”The digital “Foreign Policy” predicted (august 28) the decision by Johnson “will do violence to the countries democratic institutions” .Only time can tell whether parliament is united in its opposition to Johnson’s plot, ready to table a no confidence motion, which could force the government to resign a few days after the queen will give her speech in the House of Commons on October 14. Even some conservatives, publicly, opposed the suspension of parliament in this crucial time, not only for the United Kingdom, but Europe and a multitude of developing countries, which will suffer through a hard Brexit as well.” The impact of the divorce between the UK and EU”, predicted the “Journal of African trade” (December 2018) “is likely to be complex.” One lesson to draw: “African countries can no longer depend on external trading relations to help reach their development goals.”

October 31 is the day the world will witness history (unless London and Brussels decide on yet another extension of the departure date). Pessimists, like myself (who worked for five years in London as a foreign correspondent) predict demonstrations if the shelves of supermarkets dwindle to the essentials (since one third of Britain ‘s food supplies are imported from the EU), airline traffic is perturbed, drugs not reaching pharmacies or hospitals, trucks in Calais and Dover waiting for days to be cleared by customs, slowing any food delivery. From one day to the next a gap in reason and logic. Borders erected to excite nostalgic feelings of greatness, to reanimate ghosts of glorious centuries long gone by. From one day to the other, 3.5 million European citizens do not reside legally in Britain. 1.5 million British passport holders living and working in Europe, will be uncertain about their future .The pound is falling, investors shy away. UK companies will no longer be able to bid on public contracts in any EU country Airbus will not manufacture wings for their planes in the UK anymore, low cost airlines will need to renegotiate landing rights in Europe. Easy Jet, one of Britain‘s largest airlines, is transferring ownership  to non-British Europeans to safeguard access to the European market. 

THROW AWAY THE SHACKLES

Nevertheless Britain is ready to dare a hard Brexit, promises Boris Johnson, who has not been voted into Downing Street 10 by the British people, but 0.13 percent of the electorate, 92 135 members of the conservative party (and most of the 311 conservative members of parliament).”A group of people”, stated the left leaning “New Statesman”, “roughly the size “of a decent football crowd”, mostly men, a majority living in the more affluent south of the nation. They are overwhelming white”, noted the “Statesman” “and significantly more right wing than the average voters.” Johnson, years ago foreign correspondent for the conservative “Telegraph” in Brussels and former mayor of London, does have the majority of one vote, because the 10 Northern Irish Unionists are supporting the government, so far. Now the conservative leader is facing discontent and opposition. Even conservative MP’ s are publicly denouncing his manipulative move to avoid a Brexit vote threatening to block his strategy. ”I will certainly vote to bring down a conservative government that persists in a course of action which is unconstitutional”, promised Dominic Grieve, a former attorney general. His colleague, Lord Young of Cockham, government whip in the house of lords, resigned his position out of protest against the prorogation, which “risks undermining the fundamental role of parliament at a critical time of our history.”

ERADICATED BY DRAGON SLAYERS

A move, the daily “Foreign Policy” posted august 29, which seems” calculated to bulldoze a path for the UK’s exit from the EU, with or without a deal.” Finally, Britain can throw away the shackles, which it suffered since joining the then European community on January 1, 1973. 46 years of slavery. Freedom at last. The Monster EU eradicated by dragon slayers of the conservative party. No more diktat by Angela Merkel, no more dealings with unshaven Italians, and Spanish bullfight machoism, instead grandeur rising from the ashes of history, another Winston Churchill, who is THE hero for Johnson. Make Britain white again, give xenophia a chance,” stop the World-I want to get off”, performed for the first time as a musical in London 1961. For Boris Johnson Big Ben’s mechanism is not ticking fast enough…Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. He probably is right to go now, since for more than three years the British government has had time to contemplate, negotiate and offer proposals. The only vote, not binding ,which passed Parliament before a summer break, was to reject a no deal Brexit, a vote which could have been repeated in coming weeks, blocking Johnson’s determination and strategy-a general election on his terms and timing. The PM did not hesitate to draw the Queen into his play-on Wednesday morning three conservative members of the Queens Privy Council traveled to the monarch’s summer residence in Scotland, Balmoral, and delivered, on behalf of the Prime minister, the request to prorogation of parliament. The British people decided in June 2016 about their European membership. 17.4 million to leave, 15.1 to remain. In march 2017 Mrs. May, who turned from remainer to leaver, submitted the article 50 withdrawal notification to the EU. Deadline: march 2019. Extended to October 31, 2019. Then, parody in parliament, the birthplace of all parliaments, dignity, tradition, tolerance and great speeches, sliding towards comedy, a self destructive, lamentable show of ignorance and populism, driven by the banality of politics. The Queen, cruising towards one hundred, remained cool and dignified, seeming more in step with modern times then her self-righteous politicians who, in the debates on Brexit, regressed to unruly school children deprived of their daily dose of milk. They painted a cloud cuckoos land into space, their minds more fogged in than the sky above the British channel, soon to be a large enough border (for populist citizens). The truth is: even without Big Ben striking midnight on October 31, the shockwaves will grow into a tsunami, risking to reach far away shores of other nations, which are economically dependent and linked to Britain and Europe.

The United Kingdom’s market accounts for about 3.5 percent of world trade and represents an important trading partner for many developing countries. In 2018, the UK imported almost 680 billion US dollars worth of goods from the rest of the world, of which about 360 billion came from other European countries. From the African perspective, the UK is a strategically important nation, but still a relatively minor market, representing 3.2 total exports from Sub Saharan Africa in 2015, researched the online economic site “The balance”. A no deal Brexit, documented the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) research paper N 31 (“Brexit. Implications for developing countries”) would bring the largest losses to countries most integrated to the United Kingdom. The European Union is expected to lose about 35 billion worth of exports, a loss of about 10 percent from 2018 levels. Other countries expected to significantly lose out are nations of Central America, Caribbean Island nations, and some countries in Subsaharan Africa and Asia, as well as Turkey, the Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Iceland, Norway, Cambodia and Switzerland. The UK is also an important export market for Bangladesh, Belize, Cambodia, Mauritius, Pakistan, Seychelles, Saint Lucia and Turkey, exporting more than five percent of their commerce to the UK; Malawi sends cane sugar, Ghana Tuna, Senegal exports fruits, Cameroon bananas, Tunisia bicycles ,Namibia meat. 

“AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF UNCERTAINTY”

 In the event of a no deal Brexit, recalled the UN study, European preferential trade agreements with third countries will “abruptly cease to apply”. In such case UK market access conditions could take place on “most favorite nations“ terms and WTO principles. Nations which have not yet signed a continuity agreement with London are expected to significantly lose from a no deal Brexit. This is most evident, UNCTAD reported, in the case of Honduras, Ghana and Nicaragua, which are expected to lose about 40 percent of their exports to the UK. The 19 former African colonies of Britain, which represent nine percent of the international trade of the UK, could also suffer.

Ivory coast may suffer export losses of 29.7 million, Cameroon 17.1, Morocco, which exports eleven percent of its products to the UK, possibly 97.1 million dollars. Ethiopia is calculated to write off 20.5 million in export earnings after a hard Brexit, Egypt 41.3, Algeria 4.7, Zimbabve 4.6, Ghana 91, Kenya 21.6, Tunisia 48.8, the Democratic Republic of Congo O.5, and the Republic of Congo O.4. The UNCTAD paper noted: “The United Kingdom government is aware of the problem that Brexit poses to trading partners and has repeatedly stated that it will seek to bring into force bilateral United Kingdom –third country agreements from exit day, or as soon as possible thereafter. But: trade agreements are often not that easy to replicate, and negotiations can carry on for a very long time”, resulting as the “Journal of African Trade” confirmed, in an “enormous amount of uncertainty”. 

The monster, no deal Brexit, has advanced to a point of no return-almost. It is unlikely that Big Ben’s bells would be, exceptionally, activated for Britain’s’ liberation from the European Union, as for “New Years eve” or the “remembrance day” commemorating the gallant soldiers, who lost their lives to free Europe. Some populists will certainly celebrate with fireworks and foamless Lager beer, or Champagne, soon to be highly taxed. October 31 will be a sad day for the admirers of Shakespeare and Gin Tonic, football and tennis, James Bond and Agatha Christie, Whiskey and racing at Ascot. Europe is about to lose a unique member, a fascinating nation, mystic and mysterious, subtle humor and strong winds, eternal traditions and ghosts unwilling to die, a nation which represents culture and garden shows, and, yes, Big Ben, possibly silent forever, ashamed that Britain is deserting Europe, and unwilling to pay its debts- 51 billion dollars.

Read also from the same author : The Thirsty Planet, and No End in Sight (II)

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