by Brent Budowsky
If the citizens of Britain believe that Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are right, and that Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt were wrong, they need not revote the Brexit decision and can march backward together into the 1930s without an informed debate about the potentially devastating consequences of the British exit for Britain, Europe and America, as well as the fragile global economy.
What is striking about Johnson, the conservative member of Parliament who aspires to lead Britain by adopting the tactics of Trump and the politics of far-right extremist Nigel Farage of the U.K. Independence Party, is that after the Brexit vote, he has no idea how to govern a Britain that has exited the European Union.
While the leadership of the British Conservative and Labour parties are immobilized by chaos and confusion, the iron-willed certainty of most “leave” leaders has evaporated. Their grandiose promises to voters have been retracted as wrong or revealed as fraud. Many Britons yearn for a second chance to decide whether Britain is served by an EU that degenerates into warring factions dominated by right-wing extremists who seek to replace unity with hatred of foreigners.
The crisis of confidence plaguing democratic nations on both sides of the pond is dramatized by the inept and incoherent response to Brexit, with the invaluable exception of America’s secretary of State, John Kerry, a statesman who fully understands the situation’s economic and security dangers, and an even more aggressive Russia that will seize the advantage against a divided Europe.
Many European leaders have reacted with arrogance and ignorance, rushing to expedite Britain’s departure from the EU rather than put into place long overdue reforms that might still prevent it. They ignore the fact that their behavior virtually guarantees their continent will be ripped apart by Brexit-like votes in other nations, torn apart by separatist moves from Scotland to Catalonia that could well prevail if EU leaders don’t come to their senses soon.
There is justifiable anxiety, anger and rage from voters who feel disenfranchised by politicians who ignore their pleas and endangered by an unjust economy that threatens their financial well-being and way of life.
When tone-deaf politicians and fossilized institutions do not respond to powerful public sentiment, voters turn in anger and anguish to extreme actions such as Brexit and to extremist demagogues such as Johnson, Farage, Trump and Marine Le Pen of France — the next nation that Brexit-like fires could soon engulf.
American and European leaders who submit to the notion that the Brexit is inevitable and “can’t happen here” should consider the German elections in 1932 and the carnage that followed over the next 13 years, after which wise men founded the united Europe that could be destroyed by small-minded politicians today.
The EU should immediately accelerate a program for dramatic reform to address concerns in Britain and throughout Europe. Britain should offer a revote on Brexit within six months, allowing voters time to assess what they have learned in recent days and to understand any reforms the EU is prepared to enact in order to prevent a contagion of Brexit-like votes that could wreak havoc on European unity.
Many British voters already regret their vote to leave the EU — a buyer’s remorse that will be quantified by new polls in the coming month that might well show Brexit would lose if voted on again.
A petition calling for a revote, first initiated by a supporter of Britain leaving the EU, has garnered some 4 million signatures.
High principle and common sense argue in favor of a revote. On a matter as history-changing and fraught with risk as Brexit, shouldn’t voters in Britain want to be more confident and informed before they cross this dangerous Rubicon?
Shouldn’t EU leaders have one last chance to enact far-reaching reforms to address the concerns of pro-Brexit voters in Britain and across Europe? Shouldn’t U.K. voters be given one last chance to consider the future of their nation if Scotland were to sever itself from Britain to remain in the EU? Shouldn’t there be one final chance to scrutinize the lack of information, outright lies, 1930s-style jingoism and appeals to racism that led to the vote, as well as pro-leave leaders’ repeated reneging on their pre-vote promises?
Considering the momentous impact of Brexit on transatlantic security, global economics and the future of a continent that was once engulfed in mass murder and war, which led to the creation of a unified Europe in the first place, a better-informed Brexit vote would be wise indeed.