By Paul Schmutz Schaller for The Saker Blog
In June 2016, Brexit was accepted by 51.9% against 48.1%. This was a political sensation and a huge blow against the arrogance and the omnipotence of money. Although the result was relatively clear (by Swiss standards), the losing side made every effort in order to undo it. In the general elections of December 12, the Brexit vote was however clearly confirmed. Under the slogan „get Brexit done“, the Conservative Party of Boris Johnson got a big victory. There is now a general agreement that Brexit will really happen. This is a capital change. Moreover, during these three and half years, the political landscape in the UK has been shaken. I shall try to describe some important items with respect to this period.
People should not be underestimated
The history of Brexit shows that the manipulation of the people has its limits. When the former prime minister David Cameron proposed the vote on Brexit, it was obviously a tactical maneuver; he was against Brexit and wanted to weaken his opponents (within his party). However, the people did not follow him and he was obliged to resign. His successor, Theresa May, also tried a tactical maneuver; she organized (unnecessary) snap elections in 2017 in order to reinforce her parliamentary majority. Again, the people did not like this maneuver and Theresa May lost her majority. On the other hand, when Boris Johnson proposed snap elections for December 2019, this was not considered as a tactical maneuver. It was understood as a consequent step, as the only possibility in order to deliver Brexit.
I agree that this kind of popular votes should not be overestimated; however, the experiences of the many popular votes in Switzerland also show that, yes, there is manipulation, but, no, people are not as stupid as some persons think. In this context, I would like to comment on a recent article of Moon of Alabama. He writes that the Republicans in the USA could use a prolongated debate – instead of a quick vote – on the impeachment (of Trump) in the Senate, in order to weaken the Democrats. However, this would be an obvious tactical maneuver and, from my point of view, it is not at all clear that this would benefit the Republicans. The same argument applies to the whole procedure of impeachment. Apparently, many in the USA regard this as a tactical maneuver (considering the fact that the Democrats have never accepted the election of Trump) and they do not appreciate it.
The traditional left wing in Western Europe is declining
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party in UK, is an unusual political personality. He is quite critical with respect to Israel and even to NATO. In the snap election in 2017, he was able to mobilize many young people for his party. Moreover, he is quite autonomous; for example, he went with his bicycle to the parliament. He was very much attacked by the Israel lobby of being „anti-semite“. All this has led quite some people to support him in the general election of December 2019.
However, as positive as he might be as a person, he remains the leader of a political party. It is a fact that his position is not supported by the majority of the party establishment. Namely, as a rule, the traditional left wing political parties in Western Europe tend to be even more enthusiastic about Western hegemony than traditional right wing political parties. Moreover, knowing that the party establishment is against Brexit, Corbyn did not really accept the people’s vote for Brexit in 2016. So, from my point of view, the victory of Johnson over Corbyn in these elections is clearly positive. The traditional left wing in Western Europe will continue declining since it is not at all prepared to break with Western hegemony.
The left-right schema is out-dated in Western Europe
The two main political parties in UK, namely the Conservatives and the Labour, correspond to the traditional left-right schema. However, none of them was prepared to the vote for Brexit in 2016. This vote clearly surpassed the left-right schema. As a consequence, both parties were profoundly divided after this vote. While Labour could not manage this division, Boris Johnson succeeded by consequently isolating the anti-Brexit forces in his party. On the other hand, Theresa May was not able (and probably not willing) to do so and this was the main reason for her failure.
The underlying problem is quite similar in all countries of Western Europe. The part of the population which more or less directly benefits from Western hegemony becomes significantly smaller. This strengthen nationalist tendencies. The consequences differ from country to country. In the UK, the Conservatives are now more nationalist as a whole party. This is similar as in the USA with the Republicans. In Germany and in France, the situation is quite different; the traditional parties try to discriminate the nationalist trends, calling them extremist, populist, and so on. On the left, a similar development is much less visible. At this stage, one cannot really say whether – and in what manner – this will happen.
The European Union (EU) and NATO are not dead
After the Brexit vote in 2016, the fear among the European establishment was considerable that other countries would try to follow the UK. This was however not the case. Nevertheless, the EU will be degraded without the UK. The aim of becoming a power which can compete with China and with USA, will be even more wishful thinking than it already was.
Much less discussed was the NATO. One should keep in mind that the EU is very much relied on NATO. Between 2004 and 2013, the EU was joined by 12 new countries, situated in central, east, or south-east Europe. All of them, with the exception of Cyprus, became at the same time – or even previously – a member of NATO. Of course, UK will remain in NATO, even if she is not longer member of EU. There are some other European countries which are member of NATO, but not of EU, namely Albania, Montenegro, Iceland, and Norway (recall that Switzerland is neither member of NATO, nor of EU); Turkey is in the same situation, but she is not considered as a European country.
There is the widespread idea that UK will be forced to be more subservient with respect to USA after the withdrawal from EU. Of course, this is a possibility, but, in my eyes, it is not at all an automatism. The balance of power in the world of today is quite unstable. This gives some countries the possibility of navigating between different forces. Turkey is a good example, also Vietnam may be mentioned. Since Brexit will strengthen the nationalist forces in the UK, this would provide a good basis for further independence.
Who is Boris Johnson?
Not only by his political role, also by his personality, Johnson has important similarities with Trump. Both are quite mysterious and difficult to judge. Both see politics as a theater stage. Both have showed that they are ready – to a certain extent – to oppose the establishment and to act in a nontraditional manner; I have described them as bulldogs. Both have been largely underestimated by the Western media.
When Johnson became prime minister in July 24 (2019), the media in Western Europe were convinced that he would not be able to change things fundamentally, compared to his predecessor Theresa May. But already after some weeks, it became evident that the media were wrong. Now, after his enormous success, European politicians are quite impressed by Johnson. This was never the case with Trump.
I have no clear idea what will be the politics of Johnson with respect to China, Russia, and Iran. One has to observe this carefully. Remember however that it was not Johnson who directed the piracy of the Iranian tanker on July 4, but his rival (concerning the leadership of the Conservative Party) Jeremy Hunt.
In 2016, I hoped, but did not expect that the people in the UK will have the courage to vote for Brexit. After the vote, there was a lot of empty talk, claiming that ordinary people are rather silly and cannot understand what are the consequences of Brexit. And that a second vote would give quite a different result. Now, after three and half years and a great deal of propaganda against Brexit, people have shown that their decision in 2016 was well-founded and not at all careless. Curiously enough, now, there is again the same empty talk, claiming that people have no idea of the consequences of the election results. Obviously, this kind of arrogance is ineradicable. As for me, I am happy with these election results, as I was happy with the vote for Brexit.