In the early 1980s, Sri Lanka’s iconic musical group -‘The ‘Gypsies’- wrote and put to music one of their famous ditty ‘Uncle Jonsonge Jubilee Partiya’.
A take-off based on a wedding anniversary celebration which ends in a brawl and shambles. The ditty brings to mind the ongoing Brexit muddle in Britain. Brexit has already caused the downfall of two British Prime Ministers - David Cameron and Theresa May. Boris Johnson, the successor to May, is demanding the European Union (EU) leaders re-negotiate a ‘Brexit Deal’ signed between his predecessor in office and leaders of the EU. If they do not, Johnson warns, he will take Britain out of the EU without reaching an agreement with Britain’s EU partners.
In his first speech on assuming premiership, Johnson reiterated his promise to lead the country out of the EU saying “...we are going to fulfill the repeated promises of Parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31. No ‘ifs or buts’.”
The Washington Post likened Johnson’s actions as engaging in a game of brinkmanship, via his opposition to the “Irish backstop” -the agreement reached between the UK and the EU to preserve a ‘soft border’ between Ireland and N. Ireland. The Backstop theoretically keeps Britain within the EU’s ‘Customs Union’. Johnson’s insistence on refusing to meet with EU leaders until they reconsider their position on the Backstop, is only heightening tensions between the antagonists.
It is not unlikely, that Johnson knowing the mood in Parliament, to stop him from going through with a No Deal Brexit, intends creating an impasse at Westminster, leading to a snap general election which he hopes may yield a parliament more supportive of his agenda. But his domestic support is not good. In the aftermath of his assuming power, he was greeted with jeers during visits to Scotland and he ultimately had to leave through the back entrance of the residence of the Scottish first Minister to escape angry demonstrators.
“...The people of Scotland did not vote for a catastrophic No Deal Brexit, which Boris Johnson is now planning for...” said Scotland’s First Minister Sturgeon, adding, Brexit may speed calls for a new independence referendum in Scotland - a cause backed by Sturgeon’s Scottish Nationalist Party.
A day later in Wales, Johnson was greeted by booing crowds and its First Minister in an interview with the Guardian warned that a ‘No Deal Brexit’ would endanger Wales’s agricultural and manufacturing sectors. He added “...I think the union that is the United Kingdom is more at risk today than at any time in my political lifetime,” pointing to how both Scotland and Northern Ireland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the European Union.
Boris Johnson’s stated aims at strengthening ties between Britain’s/UK’s confederation of four home nations and leading the nation out of the UK at a gallop, fly in the face of ground realities. The dropping of the Irish Backstop - part of the Good Friday agreement of 1998, which saw an end to the 30-year-long civil war in Ireland, has the potential to once again stoke tensions which could in the end, lead to a breakup of the United Kingdom itself. Brexit will definitely weaken the bonds among the nations making up the British Isles or the United Kingdom. It could set in motion a train of events which end up in the the break-up of the union.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has hinted at the possibility of Northern Ireland severing its ties with the United Kingdom in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s remark at a London event last week that Johnson could be remembered “not as the 55th Prime Minister of the UK, but as the first Prime Minister of England” are indications that, as in the Gypsies’ ditty, Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit could easily end in a rumpus and shambles, with horrific consequences to the United Kingdom as we know it today.
The wheel would have turned full circle - the kingdom which stokes disunity and discord in its former colonies is itself, now facing breakup