Our countries face common challenges but the UK is having a peculiar kind of meltdownby Christine Ockrent / February 26, 2019 / Leave a comment
Painful, tiresome and hopeless. That is how Brexit looks from France. First there was the shock of impending divorce after 46 years of a marriage which had been rocky at times, but altogether rewarding. Then, after two years of negotiations needed to write down the preamble of the eventual contract, the truth came out: the UK was not prepared at all, the divorce was a decision based on lies, and many of its own lawyers quit during the job.
The French may endlessly brag about “La République,” yet we have always envied Britain and its political system dating back to Magna Carta, with less beheadings than our own country and producing some remarkable figures, at least until the current generation. Westminster, No. 10, Whitehall and the Queen have long been looked upon with admiration and affection, albeit some amusement at your colourful traditions. Now, except for royal weddings, Brexit has somehow spoiled it all. We are bewildered by the spectacle of a prime minister going back to parliament so many times in a row, to ask for approval of an agreement she has herself stamped in the hope to rein in her own political party. We are just as shocked by an opposition leader whose support of the Venezuelan dictatorship is clearer than his position on Europe.
The Cooper amendment, the Malthouse compromise, the Kyle-Wilson amendment—we have long lost track of the parliamentary meanders of what was supposed to be the “take back control” process. We cannot recall the names, not even the number of those members of government who resigned in despair. We find it hard to believe that the Irish issue came as a complete surprise. The obsessive nature of the debate, the self-delusion entertained by many of its participants, the sheer ignorance about basic EU facts and practices seem to get worse as the calendar moves inexorably forward. The only relief is to see so many European flag-bearers camping every day in front of parliament. In one respect however, the British mess has been of considerable relief to most political leaders on the continent. Departing from the EU has proved to be more complex and painful than its champions ever pretended. No more fear of Brexit setting off a chain reaction—even Marine Le Pen doesn’t vouch for a “Frexit” anymore, she…