It looks like the US is not the only nation with a petulant, childish head of state. In the UK, prime minister Boris Johnson, already a fan of Donald Trump’s oligarchic-friendly policies and brash style, seems to also be an admirer of his practice of doubling down on wrong-headed actions and words when criticized for them, and trying dubious methods to circumvent what is required of him by the usual norms and even the law.
The UK parliament had passed a law that required the UK to ask the EU for an extension to the October 31 Brexit deadline if a deal was not passed by October 19. Johnson failed to meet that deadline. But Johnson had vowed never to ask for an extension, saying that he would rather “be dead in a ditch”. Since parliament blocked his deal, he was faced with defying the law and risk being taken to court or backing down. So what does he do? He sends a letter to the EU asking for an extension that was unsigned, accompanied by another letter signed by him saying that he did not want an extension. You can read the letters here and here.
This is ridiculous. Johnson is like a child who is forced to apologize for doing something and promise to make amends and doing so grudgingly while crossing his fingers behind his back. It is no wonder that he has been accused of acting like a “spoiled brat”.
The EU leaders have been far more sophisticated in their negotiations on Brexit than the bungling UK efforts and have shown a massive amount of patience with all the posturing in London. They seem to have a pretty good idea of UK politics and are likely to grant the extension, something that Johnson would prefer they not do since he could then crash out of the UK with no deal and blame any negative consequences on them, which is clearly what he wants to do. Johnson now says that he will bring his plan to a vote in parliament again on Monday, even though he has lost every vote so far.
More and more it seems like there is a need for a referendum on whatever deal the UK parliament and the EU agree upon, if they ever do, which is what the call for a People’s Vote is asking. I am mindful of the sentiment that the people have spoken once and that it is not right to have people vote repeatedly until the ‘right’ outcome is obtained. But on the other hand, it is clear that unlike with the first Brexit referendum, given the furious debates that have taken place within the last year, this time pretty much everyone in the UK would have a much better idea of what Brexit actually involves and thus would make a much more informed decision.
It may well be that the vote is again to leave, perhaps by an even larger margin than the previous one, since I am sure that many people are furious at the delay in implementing Brexit and others may simply be sick of the whole thing an want to end it all. If so, so be it. But at least the vote would be based on a specific plan that spelled out the implications rather than a vague sentiment in which each person could project their own ideas on to it.