The European Union has granted the United Kingdom a Brexit extension until Oct. 31. Although that’s Halloween, “Groundhog Day” — the movie — comes to mind. The latest delay in the U.K’s move to leave the E.U. seems like an endlessly repeating event.
Indeed, British political dysfunction has kept Parliament from passing Prime Minister Theresa May’s multiple Brexit proposals seeking to avoid a “hard Brexit,” or a chaotic crash out of European trade protocols that could be a jeopardizing jolt to the British, European and even global economies.
Despite — or perhaps because of — the extension, there’s no sense that British lawmakers have any newfound resolve to come to agreement anytime soon, even though May, a Conservative, has crossed party lines to try to forge an accord with Labour members of Parliament.
The delay may result in dissonance for some Brits, who despite voting in 2016 to leave the E.U. are set to vote in the European Parliament elections May 23-26. While normally a pretty placid plebiscite, the election could bring in a fresh wave of Eurosceptic or E.U.-supporting legislators, which may amplify the U.K.’s divide.
While the most likely scenario remains a Brexit tempered by a “backstop” — the term used by the E.U. to ensure that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a provision that is anathema to Brexit hard-liners — another referendum remains a possibility, either on May’s plan or on the entire endeavor itself. (The Irish issue was underscored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week, who said during a congressional delegation trip to Britain and Ireland that any deal that would threaten the “Good Friday” peace accord in Northern Ireland would negate congressional approval of an eventual U.S.-U.K. free-trade agreement Britain would seek in a post-Brexit era.)
Although some may argue that another referendum is an abrogation of democracy, there is no rule that a nation must follow through on a mistake.
And make no mistake, Brexit is a bad idea for the U.K., the E.U. and the U.S.
For Britain, there have been economic, political, civic, opportunity and reputational costs. Brexit has done “enormous damage” to the nation’s reputation, Mary Curtin, diplomat-in-residence at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School, told an editorial writer. “Imagine if all that energy had been put into addressing some of the societal issues that may have led people to vote for Brexit.” In fact, issues like funding Britain’s National Health Service and others that were promised to be solved by irresponsible Brexit backers have not been addressed, or threaten to grow worse by any resulting economic contraction in the U.K.
There are irresponsible Brexit backers on this side of theAtlantic, too. President Donald Trump, for example, called himself “Mr. Brexit” despite evidence that a disunited E.U. undermines U.S. security and economic interests.
The E.U. “has contributed significantly to bringing about peace and prosperity within Europe,” Curtin said. “The United States should be concerned about the potential for breakdown of the European Union because for all its faults, it’s accomplished a lot.”
The West is enduring an irresponsible era of destruction of institutions that have helped deliver decades of relative peace and prosperity.
That trend should be resisted by responsible politicians and the public.
“It’s easier to break something than construct it,” Bart Oosterveld, director of the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economic Program, told an editorial writer.
That’s a fact for politicians and voters on both sides of the pond to ponder — and to heed.