The Queen Approves
On Thursday, March 16th, Queen Elizabeth II gave her Royal Assent to a bill that allows the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union. With the Crown’s approval, Brexit Secretary David Davis confirmed that “by the end of the month we will invoke Article 50, allowing us to start our negotiations to build a positive new partnership with our friends and neighbours in the European Union, as well as taking a step out into the world as a truly global Britain” (from BBC).
When I wrote about Brexit in September, I did so just after Prime Minister Theresa May proclaimed her post Brexit goal of making Great Britain “the global leader in free trade.” Now, following the go-ahead from Buckingham Palace, Mrs. May’s government has the opportunity to realize this goal and to redefine Great Britain’s role on the international stage. The two years of negotiations set to follow the triggering of Article 50 will rewrite history and determine what kind of a nation Great Britain will be in the years to come. During negotiations, the UK will struggle to maintain it’s identity while creating a new role for itself.
Retaining the British identity may be a bigger job than previously thought. Already, there have been cries from Scotland to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence following the Brexit vote—an outcome which Scotland was overwhelmingly against. The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, have urged Westminster to allow for a referendum in either the fall of 2018 or spring of 2019, before Britain’s ultimate divergence form the EU. The SNP claims that such a vote would protect Scotland from the effects they may feel in the wake of. The actual effect, however, would be to undermine the negotiating position of the UK. If European governments believe that the United Kingdom is not united in their search for a more prosperous life outside of the EU; if they see an unstable future for Great Britain, they will be inclined to take advantage of what they see as a crumbling state.
Mrs. May’s task is probably the most difficult of any world leader’s. She must hold her country united, while simultaneously breaking away from the European Union. Realizing the difficulty of such a task, the Prime Minister has told SNP leaders “this is not a moment to play politics and create uncertainty – it’s a moment to bring our country together, to honour the will of the will of the British people and shape for them better Britain” (BBC reports). Mrs. May is quite right in resisting the push for a second independence referendum. She has an entire nation to consider; there is no room for her to satisfy the petulance of the SNP, a group lashing out against the decision of the electorate. Sound familiar?
No matter your feelings on Brexit, you have to give Theresa May a lot of credit. She is fighting to realize her peoples’ dream for a Britain free of the European Union, a dream that she actively campaigned against. She is doing exactly what a good leader should do, putting the will of the people before her own. The approval of the Brexit bill and her push for it is, as May put it, “a defining moment for our whole country as we begin to forge a new relationship with Europe and a new role for ourselves in the world” (BBC). Her devotion to her country is already, even before triggering Article 50, a repudiation of European policies that act far beyond the consent of the people. Mrs. May is putting Great Britain first.
Back in September, when I wrote “the United Kingdom, post empire and now post Brexit, has the unique opportunity to be a shining example of the greatness of free trade and of what can be done once free of oppressive government,” I was only half right. In addition to that, the United Kingdom has the has the opportunity to be a shining example to the rest of Europe of what a good government looks like. They have the chance to demonstrate that a country free of the European Union can be more beholden to it’s people and better act in their best interest. It can show that a government free of European dictates can function in the way that good government should.
On March 29, when Brexit negotiations begin, British politicians must be proud and resolute; they must fight for the best interests of their country, regardless of pressures put upon them by the nations of Europe and by the United States. If Britain can remain strong and devoted to her principles, she will once again be envied the world over. She will find her place in the world as an example of what can be achieved through selfless leadership and responsible government.
Follow Frank on Twitter: @FrankJConnor
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
License: CC0 Public Domain