Brexit, the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, finally, got done on January 31, 2020. It has been Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s unwavering slogan since the day he assumed office. Last week it eventually happened as the House of Commons ratified the withdrawal agreement, a measure his predecessor, Mrs. Theresa May, attempted thrice but failed. Correspondingly, the European Union subsequently endorsed the agreement, thereby sealing the deal and granting the Brexiteers their long expected wish.
In the European Parliament, an emotional farewell in Brussels included a teary singing of the Ode to Joy, EU’s official anthem, a Beethoven classic adopted in 1972 as the Anthem of Europe. In contrast, Brexit fans had their song, a rude 17 million Fuck Offs by Dominic Frisby, which failed to make the top 40 in the download chart whereas Ode to Joy became last week the most downloaded track in Britain making No. 30 in the official hit chart list.
Brexit became a reality after it had ended the career of two prime ministers. It had paralysed British politics for more than three years, after an unprecedented division of the British populace. The referendum of 2016 in which Britons voted by a tiny minority to exit the European Union had become the rallying cry of the Brexiteers, but nearly half the population opposed to Brexit became even more convinced that Brexit was a bad idea. Both sides were irreconcilable, and it reflected on everything the British government did, until Mr. Boris Johnson replaced Mrs. Theresa May.
Boris Johnson was briefly Mrs. May’s Foreign Secretary and he arrived No. 10 Downing Street, knowing that only a fresh mandate would remove the political log-jam under which Britain was struggling. So, from his first day, Johnson began his political campaign. In his inaugural speech in front of No. 10 Downing Street, he spelled out his programme. He would make UK streets safe and introduce 20,000 additional policemen. He would take greater care of the old and the vulnerable. He would guarantee the nation a superb education, and answer the pleas of the forgotten and the left-behind. He would build fantastic new roads and rail and full fibre broadband, and pump up productivity and higher wages and unleash the productive power of the UK. Then he reminded the British of their glorious history, their flag, freedom, free speech and habeas corpus, the rule of law and democracy and why Britain must be out of EU on October 31. The new prime minister said he had a new deal, a better deal to deliver Brexit. Getting other parties to agree to a general election took some effort because none of the parties was in the mood, least of them, the Labour Party, which was irresolute and was struggling with accusations of anti-Semitism and a party leader who was so unpopular he couldn’t be trusted to be prime minister.
Boris Johnson led the Tories into the December 12 elections exuding so much optimism and promising to “get Brexit done,” a simple slogan he got every Briton to understand was the most immediate task facing the United Kingdom. Somehow, he convinced a great many Britons, and on Election Day he won a landslide. The Conservative Party won a total of 365 seats to Labour’s 202. Where the Tories added 48 new seats, Labour lost 60. Even on popular vote, the Conservatives won 13, 966,451 to Labour’s 10, 265,912. It was considered Labour’s worst defeat in 100 years.
Now with that victory, the Tories had more than enough majorities to “get Brexit done.” The electoral victory removed the apprehension of a disorderly Brexit, which most analysts feared would cause an economic calamity. Emboldened, Johnson tweaked the backstop to reassure Northern Island, which is unhappy. Scotland seems to be even unhappier and is threatening to hold a second referendum to leave the United Kingdom since an overwhelming number of Scots want to be in Europe. British position on Europe has been fatal to the political careers of most Conservative Party prime ministers for 40 years beginning with Edward Heath, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, and John Major, before Brexit was invented. Brexit has finally removed that issue, perhaps, for a long time, if not forever. Under the new deal, the EU and the UK agreed on a transition period, until the end of 2020 at least, during which the UK will continue to participate in the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market, and to apply EU law, even if it is no longer a Member State. During this period, the UK will also continue to abide by the international agreements of the EU.
Brexit enthusiasts say they celebrate the “independence” by which London would no longer have to take dictation from Brussels. The country can now manage its immigration, its laws and its sovereignty. Yet there are millions of Britons who think that the last word has not been written about the issue, who hope to reverse Brexit, who do not cherish the idea of Britain not being part of Europe, who think Britain is more secure in a united Europe