“Confusion now hath made his masterpiece” was first used by Shakespeare in Macbeth. I’m sure he won’t mind me borrowing it for a few minutes while rattling on about the great divorce between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
It was one of those marriages that started with loving intensity between nations that had spent centuries killing each other’s young and pillaging border towns at will. It was after the largest of blood baths – WW2 – that some of the more sensible leaders who survived that fracas decided if they could all get together as trading partners, they could proposer, live longer and enjoy more of the freedoms they always seemed to be talking about but never achieving.
So, it began with the big boys – Germany, France and England – leading the way and no shortage of other countries clamouring for a seat at the ever-richer table. Life was good, but not without problems.
There were minor issues when bureaucratic experts from the larger nations tried to exercise rules for the size of potatoes and the acceptable curve in bananas, but such irritants were either quietly deep-sixed or laughed to oblivion.
And there was one factor among the major concerns that seemed to be working but was causing major complaints: immigration. One of the most enjoyable benefits of belonging to the EU was the virtual disappearance of border checkpoints plus a new fact of life that “foreigners” from an economically deprived state could find work and live in other EU nations.
Great Britain became a favourite destination and Brits of what we call “the older generation” were not impressed when they found their favourite pubs and restaurants, parks and favoured seaside resorts, flooded with strangers having more trouble with English than a northern Scot.
The politicians listened and tried to assuage the rumbling concerns. But they couldn’t get rid of the fear that a lot of Britons were no longer feeling British.
In June 2016, then Prime Minister David Cameron decided to bring matters to a head via a referendum. It would ask a simple question, a “yes” or “no” to stay with the EU and sort out the problems. Or leave.
The decision was close – but clear: some 13,266,996 million voted to stay – 46.6 per cent of the vote. But, 15,188,406 million – 53.4 per cent – voted to say goodbye.
Prime Minister Cameron resigned as PM and leader of the Conservative Party to be replaced by Theresa May who had supported the “stay” side in the referendum.
She surprised parliament and the country by calling a snap general election. She said she was preparing for her first conference with EU leaders and needed a show of people strength behind her. She won the election but with a reduced majority and the need to ally herself with a rump party to stay alive in Parliament.
Three times she returned from Europe with what she thought was a progressive deal. But none of her proposals received EU or British parliamentary support, and she finally admitted defeat and said she would resign and clear the way for a new Tory leader and PM. And more divorce settlement proposals.
Those events are scheduled for next Tuesday, July 23, with Boris Johnson, expected to replace her. He is a flamboyant, high-ranked politician who is being described as a President Donald Trump clone. The experts are forecasting Johnson in No.10 Downing Street will spell the end for the Conservative government — and the historic Tory Party.
As I wrote when I started this piece — confusion now hath made his masterpiece.
(Anyone interested in detailed chaos in high government can find it described at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-49008826. A fascinating and frightening tale.)