BREXITWhat time does the clock in Westminster ring on Thursday?

CORNEL CODIŢĂ (translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
Ziarul BURSA #English Section / 22 iunie 2016

What time does the clock in Westminster ring on Thursday?

In its over a hundred fifty years of its life, it has rung the time of history! The hour of the imperial greatness, spanning more than half of the Earth's surface, as well as the hour of the long sunset of Great Britain's global power. The sad and scary hours of the threat of a military invasion which, since the destruction of the invincible Armada (1587) seemed just a ghost forever stuck in the fog of history. It rang the long awaited hour of Victory, at the end of the first and second world war. It gave the time of NATO as well as the return of the UK to the post-war game in Europe. It has accurately marked the beginning and ending hour of the cold war. It has said almost everything about the rule of a Queen who watches, coldly, equal to herself and not at all moved by the ebb and flow of time, over the land where her authority is still the cornerstone of the most resilient and complex institutions of Democracy. Just like the clock which has been named the Queen of Elizabeth has counted without fail, monotonously, the hours of the politician of the day, the ephemeris that succeed each other through the imposing building of the Parliament, on Thames' Western Bank, or at Downing Street 10 and 11, who are allowed, for one second to think that they are the ones setting the course of power.

Today the clock in Westminster will ring the Hour of Referendum! A truly exceptional procedure in the British decision making process. Thus, rarely used. It has been put to work in 1975, to seal the UK's participation in the institutional system of the European Communities ("the return is the case of the decisions concerning Scotland's separation in 1997 and 2014, just like local referendums have preceded and reinforced important decisions concerning the powers delegated to the authorities in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Looked upon favorably by the "modernists", the referendum is viewed by the "purists", as more of a weakness of representative democracy. A kind of parasite fungus that it is better to avoid, the more attractive it looks. The main argument: "The overall opinion" is rarely the same as an informed opinion. A recent study shows that the Brits are wrong about almost every important thing they are asked about in the polls! That fact isn't limited to that area! As for the politicians of the older generations, some have not been shy in saying about the referendum that "it is an instrument that is completely foreign to our traditions (British)...which was most often used by Nazism and Fascism." (Clement Attlee).

The question on the voting bulletin is as blunt as the axe of the executioner that used to work in the Tower of London a long time ago used to be: "Should the United Kingdom stay a member of the European Union or leave it?" It is obvious to anybody that wants to see the weaknesses of the referendum that not even 10% of those who are going to vote have the necessary information, or the analysis-decision making algorithms to vote in an informed and coherently argued manner! People will vote based on their own experiences, of the loyalty to the party that they usually vote for, of propagandistic hubbub and of the events that marked the campaign, and under the influence of the momentary impulse, respectively. Is the result of the vote imperative? The question doesn't have a pre-formulated constitutional response, but absolutely all the essential data for the functioning of the British political system shows that, in the event of a pro Brexit vote, the government is required to take the necessary action, according to art. 50 of the Lisbon treaty. Lucky that the founding parents of the pseudo European constitution have provided a mechanism with a floodgate! Leaving the Union is not something that happens immediately, instead is done on the basis of an agreement negotiated and concluded between the state in question and the EU. How long can the negotiation last? Theoretically, forever, if the interested country and the representatives of the Union agree to extend the negotiation period! If not, at least two years before the notification of the decision to leave the Union. In other words, even if the Brits were to vote in favor of exiting the EU, it will be a long time before that becomes a fact. For instance, even though negotiated and agreed upon by the two parties, the agreement to leave the EU may not get the vote of the qualified majority on the European Council! So then what? The negotiations start over!!! Is it possible that the British government which began the negotiations to exit the EU is eventually removed from power, and the new government abandons the exit procedure? Yes, it is!!! And meanwhile, the general opinion may change! A referendum is not a decision for eternity, and the public opinion is more fluid than the water of the Thames river!

All of these "technicalities" are, however, secondary in relation to the real stake of this important political game. The supporters of the exit of the EU are not concerned with the balance between the benefits and costs of the EU membership, but a completely different objective: the reestablishment of the NATO charter in an updated version! It is increasingly obvious that the huge shadow of Russia's influence over Europe is growing from one day to the next, and the only weight available to offset it is the power of the United States. Neither Germany nor France seem willing to bear the political consequences of the huge geo-political changes that are occurring in Europe in the post-Cold-War period. Perhaps in Paris, Berlin and by extension Brussels, the illusion of a "peaceful and mutually beneficial" coexistence with Russia is "hot"! But in London, such an outlook isn't worth half a penny!

The supporters of the EU staying in the EU do not have geopolitical issues. They have concerns and those are perfectly justified. More than anything, the fear of the economic and social consequences of the isolation from the EU economic space. The consequences will be severe, not just for millions of people of the current generation, but also for their successors, at least a generation from now. It is not clear how much the UK exit could change the EU, but it is clear that the Brexit has the potential to radically change the internal policy of the United Kingdom. Other actors, other topics and almost certainly other institutions (other political parties for instance!) could replace the existing ones. From a possible separation of Scotland, which doesn't want at any cost to lose the benefits of the EU member state, to the complete dismantling of the state system currently called the United Kingdom, the future generated by the possible EU exit is definitely anything but "business as usual".

Who will win the day?

If I am reading the known and quantifiable data as well as the untouchable, uncertain one, of this given equation, (own experiences, loyalty towards the political affiliation, propaganda and Brexit campaign events, last minute impulse), then the supporters of staying in the EU will be successful. At the end of Thursday, the majestic strikes of Big Ben will sound boldly, with a tone of relief!

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