I’ve got to hand it to our British friends across the sea: at a point where America seemingly couldn’t embarrass itself any more, the Brits decided to show everyone who the true crumbling empire is with a hilariously terrifying series of failed Brexit votes. The Brits are reaching the point of no return—the timetable set two years ago scheduled their Brexit for today, but as yet another vote failed, it’s clear the Brits have no actual plan to leave the European Union. Now we wait until April 12th, which is the next key date, when they have to tell the EU what the hell it is they’re doing.
It’s really quite something, watching the UK government try to design a parachute by committee while standing next to the open airplane door, determined to jump out either way— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) March 28, 2019
Brexit was a yes or no public referendum in 2016 on a wildly complicated trade agreement, and the ensuing infinity car pileup in British Parliament was the only logical conclusion of the attempt to distill complex policy matters into a binary option (and let's be real, like Trump's election here, Brexit won because it gave people the opportunity to bask in their racism under the guise of a false immigration panic). Trade deals are why we elect government officials in the first place. You and I have jobs to do and lives to live—we can't spend our days figuring out the optimal strategy to trade with Belgium. That complex stuff is why we elect officials who employ wonks to analyze it for them so officials can make informed, crucial decisions. Referendums like Brexit are literally anti-democratic in that they give democratic powers to the people that they really shouldn't have.
That's not to say that the UK should not have substantive reservations with the European Union. The EU is a complete and utter bureaucratic nightmare that doubles as the test case for why you cannot have a currency union without a political union to govern it. The problem England has with Brexit is that unless they stop trading with Europe altogether, they haven't gotten out from under the EU's kilometers of red tape, and all they have done in this mess is create another bureaucratic nightmare for themselves in order to deal with one of the globe's most frustrating bureaucracies—all without the collective bargaining power behind their trade deals that the EU provides (another demonstration of how there is power in unions).
Now we are left with a complete and utter catastrophe that British politicians, led by Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party, seem determined to turn into an even bigger calamity. This would be hysterical if the consequences of potentially devastating trade on the European continent weren't so horrifyingly life-threatening. Here's a good recap of the madness of the last 24 hours from Vox:
Members of Parliament (MPs) held “indicative votes” on Wednesday, casting ballots for eight different options on how the United Kingdom should break up with the European Union. The goal of the process was to reveal what kind of Brexit plan might win a majority in the House of Commons, after MPs twice rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal.
There's just one problem — no option won a clear majority.
A plan for a second referendum, in which any Brexit deal approved by Parliament would go back to the public for a vote, received the most “aye” votes. A customs union arrangement, where the UK would follow the same customs rules as the EU, came in second.
'This is a deal that a nation signs only after having been defeated at war'
Economist @yanisvaroufakis criticises Theresa May on Brexit. #bbcqtpic.twitter.com/5JZCoZ5krH— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) March 28, 2019
May’s Brexit plan has been overwhelmingly rejected twice (one of them stands as the largest defeat for a sitting government in history), and now we are left with a situation where leaving the EU and not leaving the EU have been voted down. What does Britain want to do? Katie Mack said it perfectly in the tweet at the top of this piece: the Brits don’t need to do this. The EU has demonstrated that they will let them basically forget this ever happened in order to avoid the massive headache British Parliament is planning for Europe. They can simply just ctrl alt delete Brexit and the EU would take them back, and yet here we are. Such is the nature of the pride of a crumbling empire. Americans should look at Brexit as a warning for 2020. Our own crumbling empire has already proven that we are not immune to this kind of abject stupidity.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.